Irrespective of an election in hand, campaigning for the same has turned out to be an extravaganza involving money spending spree. While democracy entails election of a government, over the years the system in our country has openly come within vicious grip of money power.
The just concluded Panchayat poll in Assam is a pointer to this end. For the first time in the history of Panchayat polls, a few political heavyweights were seen to have resorted to the use of helicopters during electioneering. Use of money power was at its peak and it was difficult to make out if Panchayat polls campaigning or general election campaigning was in progress.
So far as the massive spending by some candidates and parties in the recent Panchayat polls electioneering is concerned, two former senior bureaucrats have opined that it was an ominous trend that may only lead to more corruption at the grass root level.
Former Additional Chief Secretary of Assam MGVK Bhanu has expressed the opinion that huge expenditure by candidates in the Panchayat polls could only usher more corruption at the grass root level in the coming days. Quoting the one-time powerful bureaucrat, a media report has stated that huge spending by the candidates in the polls to the rural bodies could result in massive corruption in the implementation of the rural development schemes.
While the Aam Admi, more particularly the rural folks, are fully aware of the morbid state of affairs ruling the roost at the Panchayat level, Bhanu needs to be complemented for having at least belatedly (after retirement from service) made a mention of the rotten state of affairs at the panchayat level.
Former Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) has also made exactly the same observation that unbridled spending by the candidates or the parties may only lead to increased corruption.
Although the Government is likely to project a rosy rural picture, the ground reality is that touts are having a field day in calling the shots while the corruption graph rises almost perpendicularly. More often than not, these touts belong to the party in power, be it today or ten years ago, and almost as a rule maintain a money-minting nexus with some Government officials.
In short it is an unholy quagmire of some Panchayat members, touts and some government officials that wield power at the grass root while to a significant extent real development suffers a long eclipse. Hence, the reference to corruption at the rural level by the former bureaucrats is not a new disclosure by any yardstick.
On the contrary, one feels that it is not mere corruption, but rather galloping corruption with accelerating momentum under the very nose of the district administration and high ups in Dispur, causing rural development to fall by the wayside to the utter misery of the rural folks.
While rural Assam, to an awful extent, is marked by lack of roads, bridges, healthcare, irrigation facilities or proper education infrastructure, to name just a few, it is high time that Dispur with its battery of powerful bureaucrats and ministers as well as all retired big wigs be told in unambiguous terms that the grotesque reality is that roaring corruption has percolated down to the grass root level from the top (and not the other way round), resulting in the rural sector remaining unbelievably backward even after seven decades of independence.
While former bureaucrat Bhanu has made reference to the issue of corruption at the grass root level, more than anybody else, he is perhaps aware of the bitter reality that corruption has burgeoned into number one agenda in the Government sector apparently with the blessings of Delhi and Dispur. Sending a few officials to jail on charges of corruption does not make a system, rotten to the core in the venomous clutch of the multi-headed monster of corruption, clean.
It is indeed bad and sad that corruption in the State has over the decades grown into a huge multi-headed hydra with the Government (past and present) having not initiated any measure to even effectively check the same, leave alone putting an end to it.
As has already been stated, it is the head that has been thoroughly afflicted by incurable cancer of corruption while other parts of the system are being hit by the killer disease with every passing day. Accordingly, there can be no question of checking corruption at the grass-root while the top rungs remain steeped in the venomous pool of corruption. Hence, the question arises as to who would clean up the system at the seat of power in Dispur before tackling the same at the grass root level.
The media report also refers to some serious drawbacks as pointed out by the former Additional Chief Secretary. On this count the retired bureaucrat has seemingly rendered an important service to the general people by projecting an inside picture of the Panchayat system, which otherwise remains hidden from the public view.
As per the media report, he has pointed out that although ‘substantial amount of money’ is being allotted for rural development, Assam has been failing to utilize the entire amount. Perhaps it might have been significantly fruitful if the former bureaucrat had cited the reasons behind such under-utilization of fund laced with suggestions of corrective measures.
Another violation of the rules as pointed out pertains to obtaining job cards on hire by contractors and sharing of the profits by the contractor with the card holder. Under this system the card holder does absolutely nothing and yet extracts his share by simply giving his job card on hire to the contractor. With such a system at work, it is anybody’s guess as to the quality of work likely to be rendered by the contractor.
The media report further states that as per the version of the former Additional Chief Secretary, a massive ‘mismatch’ exists between funds available for rural development and availability of ‘qualified manpower’ to implement the schemes. The report also refers to other drawbacks like lack of proper technical support towards implementation of schemes while questioning the functioning of the Directorate of Social Audit.
While some drawbacks are being pointed out, the need of the hour is to lay down an effective roadmap to plug the loopholes and check corruption for proper implementation of the schemes in order to realize the development envisaged for the rural sector. A mere statement on corruption in the rural bodies and the need to check the same by itself is nothing more than a pious homily. The stress should be on wiping out the evils afflicting the rural bodies.
Presently, with the Panchayat polls being over, the formation of the new self governing bodies is in process. But then that which is indeed a matter of serious concern pertains to what may be in store for the rural folks in the coming days. As apprehended by two former bureaucrats in view of the highly expensive electioneering, are we in to witness many-fold boom in corruption in the rural self governing bodies?
Going by the sky-rocketing of corruption at all levels in the Government sector, one only feels that the demon of corruption is likely to tighten its grip over the rural bodies, causing all development to be in a limbo, while a handful of people may be rollicking in ill-gotten wealth.
Over the decade several political observers have commented that the system that has overwhelmingly come to stay is kleptocracy (rule by theft). Accordingly, one may question if the extravagant spending by some candidates and parties in the recent Panchayat polls campaign could be considered as a prelude to wholesale and galloping corruption that may envelop the entire Panchayati Raj system in Assam in the coming days?