Corruption: Can God Save Nagaland- Part I
During the UPA II rule, the Supreme Court once commented on the corruption in India that even god may not be able to save India. Soon after, waves of anti-corruption movements griped India especially in Delhi where apolitical face like Arvind Kitchriwal came to the scene introducing a new dynamics in the Indian politics. Nagaland being out of national media zone, it hardly makes news to the national media to sway public opinion against corruption or attract scrutiny from central agencies. In a 99% Christian yet not so holy land like Nagaland, it is an everyday longing of the laymen if God could save Nagaland in the throes of convulsive corruption.
Corruption affects the poorest the most in rich or poor nations, though all elements of society are affected in some way as corruption undermines development and progress. But it isn’t just in govt that corruption is found; it can permeate through society inter-related with other issues. Corruption is extremely inimical to economic growth and development leading to misallocation of resources, discourages investments, and alters income distribution and so on. Once bribes are introduced, bureaucracies redirect their attention from providing services to the public to maximizing illicit incomes. Corruption, which usually exists in an environment of poor overall governance, makes it difficult for entrepreneurs to invest by increasing the cost of starting a business venture. Society torn by conflict pay a huge toll in their capacity to govern with public institutions crippled while mercenary individuals help themselves to public resources, and corruption thrives.
Corruption has become a way of life eating into its very bones and marrows of the entire edifice of Naga society. It’s irony for a society like Nagas that pride itself so much in tradition of honesty, hospitality, simplicity, etc in the praxis of its culture, could become so corrupt in few decades of its experience with modern democracy. Naga traditional values mixed with Christian principle could have permeated a super honest culture but on the contrary, the opposite exist. No parents ever teaches its children to steal nor any schools teaches its pupil to rob or lie yet the culture of corruption has come to wrought every strata of Naga society. The question is, how? Certain historical forces beyond our control (like imposition of western democracy through statehood) and the mechanism permeated by the new system (loopholes with little checks) acted as drive factor in the evolution of corruption over a nascent society.
Traversing through history, the first mentioned of modern corruption may be when the last DC of Naga Hills Charles Pawsey in 1945 after the ravaging WW II in Naga Hills and battle of Kohima stated that in the rehabilitation effort while distributing compensation, some people took more than what was due, signifying first sign of corruption. Then statehood came but tradition was still intact then and corruption of high magnitude was absent. In the 1980s, corruption of massive scale came to wrought the Naga society and since then this hydra has only grown more ugly heads. Given the volatile political situation the GOI care least how funds were utilised, leave alone investigating, they were more interested in pampering the state actors to keep them satisfied so as to countermined the Naga national movement. With the onset of factionalism and the imminent threat perception gone when the hitherto resource and energy of the Nagas themselves was used to fight against itself, the GOI changed the funding pattern of Nagaland too from lumpsum to grant like any other states in 1991 so is the expectation for transparency and accountability.
With the presence of multiple players (state as well as non state actors), there is no seeming quick antidote to the corruption gangrene while the common people groans. Without addressing the issue wholesomely, any one sided effort is bound to fail. Given the changed nature of Naga national politics unlike in the past where the early NNC abhors Indian state election with maximum care not to burden the people with taxation, the multiple factions today involve one way or the other in elections abetting corruption where the NPGs underdogs make millions and unabashedly claim legitimacy to all conceivable taxes. As Sanjoy Hazarika would say unlike the early honourable Naga Guerrillas, who don’t crave for power or wealth nor ever outrage modesty of women folk, the present day guerrillas operates in posh-posh five star culture. Through networks of mechanism the NPGs have become a tax machine exacerbating corruption oblivious of the harm it is causing to the movement inter se. In 2011, the annual taxation of NPGs comes around Rs. 1300 crores (Tehelka, Wages of War, Issue 32, vol. 8) in which there is neither accountability nor an iota of development done or is there any war going on except fight with one’s own people. Rather than providing an alternative, it became part of the corrupt vicious system where setting up business syndicate in cohort with non-Nagas, scurrying for contract work, running mafia type business networks, and so forth which are all nothing but mechanism to secure its coffer behind the facade of dubious nationalism. In tacit nexus with state politicians/officials, “developmental funds are siphon off without doing any work” (Corruption and its Impact on Development, IJRS, Vol. 19, April 2012, p.2). Now and then new factions are created at the whim and fancies of some people or at the slightest quarrel, breakaway new ones formed, convulsing the already flabbergasted society with more taxes. Corruption can be tackled only if this aberration in Naga national politics is sobered up. As a matter of fact, Naga history is very clear that at no point of time, Nagas ever consented or gave mandate to form new factions and therefore let those who formed them alone pay them. Nationalism has been reduced into a morbid game of power, pelf and money. Given the general resentment of common people, it was only a matter of time before rapture occurs. One has to be grateful that it found its outlet in a peaceful way in the form of ACAUT.
Corruption at high places by the state actors is anybody guesses. Its akin to Absalom cohabiting with king David’s concubines infront of the whole Israelites in broad daylight. It is awfully wrong yet has no shame because it has become a norm. Whether it is gross underdevelopment, severe misappropriation of fund, impoverishment, massive illegal backdoor appointments, bribery, etc, the crass corruption of all conceivable sorts has infected the system. Its irony that we are ruled and governed by one of our own yet has stopped feeling the pulse of the people it represents. But in retrospection it is also pertinent to analyse the society in itself too. Individual is the by-product of the society, and by this notion, if that society is producing only corrupt mediocrities, something must be seriously wrong with that society in general. For instance in 2015 many images of MLAs/ministers cozying up with mysterious women appeared in the public domain but the amount of reaction from the general public including the church was astounding. In any other western countries or even in mainland India, it would have led to resignations and govt. may even fall. Yet far from resigning there was not even worth mentioning condemnation from any angle including the church. This then shows the general prevailing social mentality of the society as a whole which take it as nothing unusual over the incident. By simple principle of evil begets evil; adulterous men would have the least compunction to steal and rob as well given a chance. The astute silence of the churches could be the fruits of mostly sending high school drop outs, reformed alcoholics, drug abusers, etc to study theology rather than sending the best and unblemished ones. Nowonder, today our churches/fellowships are wrought with so called youth workers/activist who have the least qualm about moral values and for whom sexual purity is an outdated concept. Moral decadence and corruption are complementary and abets one another for obvious reason.