Integrity is the Answer
The State of Nagaland in recent times is witness to discourses and subsequent condemnations on one specific issue in almost all the forums in the state. The burning topic at the moment at all levels of the society, from the simple village gathering to the speeches of elected representatives in various occasions is ‘Corruption’. Corruption by people in power to be precise. It has also entered the pulpits of the churches, the educational institutions and even the functionaries of the numerous Naga Political Groups have started to give their own versions of the ills of corruption. If a scientific study can be done, the word corruption will surely be the most used word in the state at present. There will not be a single forum or gathering where this word or topic was not discussed lately.
The Nagas have a community based society where the village and tribal allegiance runs strong and every Naga is a member of one such forum or the other; the majority of the churches in the state is also no exception and has a tribal nature to its constitution. Then comes the supposedly more informed lot; the students, the scholars and the civil servants. The point is that looking at the way the society in the state is structured only a small section of the society should be left out who have not been informed on the ills of corruption. To substantiate it further, Nagaland has only 396002 households according to the Census 2011 and as a result the chances finding of a large chunk of people living away from the mainstream Naga society is quite bleak.
However it just looks like a losing battle, because the ill effects whether real or perceived is just growing bigger and bigger. It can also be argued that the introduction of freedom of information laws like the RTI Act 2005 is being used to the maximum in the state to expose corruption and so the increase in the number of cases. However, on face value one does not require the RTI Act to know the happenings of wrong doings in a small state such as Nagaland, especially on matters of developmental projects and centrally aided schemes; it’s out in the open for all to see.
Therefore it raises doubts if the majority of the people have a notion that only a wrongdoing by another person can qualify as a matter of corruption. It can also mean that only when a case of fraudulence that affects their lives directly that the people start reacting and condemn it. A case in hand, that was covered in this column earlier can be the thousands of students who without any second thought are made to sign suspected false affidavits to avail scholarships who in turn will nonchalantly stage dharnas when their scholarships are delayed. Another case is the recent bandh call on National Highways by some civil societies initiated by ACAUT. If it was a few decades back, then the matter would have been so grave. However the current issue is two pronged, in that it first pertains to the issue of fuel adulteration and the to the siphoning of kerosene oil meant for public distribution. Out of the fortunate Nagas who can afford a vehicle only a handful would be so serious about the effects of adulterated fuel mostly the few who had a harrowing time when their vehicles really broke down due to it. On the other hand, the rural folks for whom the kerosene oil was supposed to be distributed should be up in arms by now but again the success of electrification along with communitisation in majority of the villages and the reach of LPG to the rural areas have greatly lessened the need for kerosene in most of the districts except in the far flung ones. The preference of the majority of Nagas for cooking is wood, LPG, electricity and kerosene exactly in that sequence.
Certain specific issues that crops up from time to time should not only be the time for a anti-corruption slogans. It is required to evoke the minds of the people but it should be utilised for a more holistic approach and driven to the hearth of every household in the Naga society. Corruption can be curbed only when integrity is a part of life for all or at least the majority. A change in perspective of what corruption is when ‘I am also part of the act’ might have a more lasting effect in our society than what corruption is when it is only others who are part of it.