Rhetoric on Corruption

In a rare official action against graft, the Government of Nagaland recently penalized a village council chairman for corruption, misuse of village funds and has ‘disqualified’ him from selection as village council chairman for five years. For Nagaland, this is indeed a breakthrough in the fight against the menace of corruption. Rarely do we see the rule of law being followed. However in this case the government acted as per Section 16 (4) of the Nagaland Village and Area council Act, 1978. The said provision states that a member of the village council found guilty of corruption, disloyalty or breach of council laws would be disqualified from being selected as, and from being, a member of the village council. And as provided by Section 17, the State government took the final decision to disqualify the culprits i.e. the then chairman of the Phiro Village Council in Wokha district and the secretary of Village Development Board (VDB). Hopefully this will set a precedent for everyone and act as deterrence against corruption and misuse of public funds. The government should also ensure consistency by applying the same yardstick in bringing to book those who indulge in corrupt practices at the expense of public welfare.
Even as we welcome such action against the corrupt, the issue of justice and fair play also come into focus here. Here a former village council chairman has been punished for misusing Rs. 30, 000. One can very well imagine what will happen to the more serious cases of the high and mighty if the same yardstick is to be applied. Maybe the village chairman was not so lucky not to have the support of the powerful people in society. He paid the price for being corrupt no doubt but the magnitude of his crime pales into insignificance if we compare it to what our powerful people are indulging in under protection of their so called rights and privileges. There is no room for justice in our hierarchical system. Even in other places around the world we have those who are neck deep in rampant corruption but get away with it because of their proximity to the system. This needs correction and will require a thorough cleansing of the ills within the present system, which itself is highly corrupt and actually aids and abets corruption and legitimizing it as a way of life.
We need to visit success stories such as the Hong Kong Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).  Hong Kong has been transformed from a graft-ridden city into one of the cleanest places in the world, as recognised by international institutions such as the World Bank and the Transparency International. Some countries have looked up to the ICAC as an effective model of combating graft holistically through detection, prevention and education. The Hong Kong ICAC is popularly regarded as a successful model in fighting corruption, turning an old, very corrupt colony into one of the relatively corruption free places in the world. One of the success factors is its three-pronged strategy - fighting corruption through deterrence, prevention and education. Every year during the first week of November we in Nagaland also make pledges against corruption during the so called vigilance awareness week. We need to go beyond this. At a time when there is a people’s movement against corruption taking place in India under the leadership of Anna Hazare, our Christian State of Nagaland should be at the forefront contributing our own vision and ideas for a corrupt free society.