RTI in North-East
Intellectual Ennui and Corruption</B>
Source: IMPHAL FREE PRESS
The Rights to Information Act was implemented months ago in the state with a bit of a fanfare, but it has also been so successfully ensured that all voices seeking transparency remain silent. The Act which has been described arguably as the best anti-corruption legislation ever, remains largely unused in the entire country, except in pockets where conscientious and enlightened citizens have made the best of it to make government policies and the policy making processes as transparent as possible. It is quite a surprise that while there is a deluge of social organizations and NGOs in the state, pushing so many varied issues, none have found policy transparency, and corruption resulting out of the lack of it, important enough to reserve some focused attention. This probably also suits the government and its machineries well. It nervously constituted an Information Commission, made mandatory by the Parliamentary Act, and now must be heaving a sigh of relief that nobody is interested in it. It must be said the government contributed guilefully to making the State Information Commission redundant by default. As per the RTI Act, the government is called upon to publicize the Act’s application widely so that every citizen gets to learn it empowers him or her adequately, and very simply and inexpensively too, to single-handedly challenge corrupt acts of the powers that be. Today, hardly anybody knows the mechanics of this Act, and most remain overawed and desist from approaching the Information Commission, presuming understandably it is only another part of the same forbidding bureaucratic castle.
And so reasonable suspicions of official corruption still outrage the public, and yet, none of these issues ever come up before the Information Commission. It never seems to occur to even those many who know of the Act, that these doubts can be put to rest, or else if they are proven to be true, the corrupt acts behind them can be laid bare before the world. Except in the case of a few subjects, no government files can be withheld if sought through the prescribed procedure of this Act. This, would, in our opinion, be evidence to yet another resignation of sort of the elite of our society. Between their knowledge and their actualization, falls the infamous shadow described by TS Eliot in “The Wasteland”. Despite being the custodian of knowledge, they remain un-empowered and to that extent, cowardly, turning into incorrigible and often pedantic cynics, perpetually complaining and fretting, but never bold enough to come out of their intellectual ennui to take the bull by the horns, as they say. And so, even as the lone member of the Information Commission must be fighting boredom of having nothing to do, even those who complain of being direct victims of official corruption, only fume and curse, and nothing more. There have been plenty of these in the wake of DPC dam burst ahead of the February elections, and presumably there will be plenty more after the results for the MCS/MPS recruitment examinations are declared.
While the elite’s inaction in the matter of corruption is intriguing, to be honest, it must be admitted that there are certain powerful and understandable inhibiting factors that would make the government and its departments reluctant to part with certain classes of files. In the engineering departments for instance, it is common knowledge that a good percentage of fund leakages are on account of “underground taxes” or extortion if you prefer. The number of officials who get kidnapped on account of these demands is phenomenal, and it has now become routine. It is also now strongly rumoured that even in matters of government job recruitment, various underground groups have come to demand quotas for their candidates. Just how are these to be covered up in government files, obviously must be a cause for governmental migraine. But understandable difficulties as these may be for the government, they cannot be allowed to become an excuse. For once an exception has been made, so many more misdeed can be swept under the same exception. Corruption indeed is getting a lot more complex.
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