Google defines corruption as ‘dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery’. But is it only those people in power who make the system corrupt is something we should run our brains over. According to my understanding the answer is no. In my brief experience as state secretary of youth PDP I found myself in a strange situation. I was supposed to be the change against all evils in our society. I was supposed to play my bit in bringing Jammu and Kashmir out of the state of despondency and work for peace and prosperity of the state. I was supposed work according to the party principles honesty set by our great leader late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed who, for the whole of his life, worked for a corruption free system in the state. I was supposed to work according to the advices of honest leader NaeemAkhtersb who is hell bent towards eradicating corruption. But on ground I encountered a different face called reality.
What I understood is that corruption is not only due people in power but it was an outcome of a symbiotic alliance between those associated with political power in any capacity, government officials who aspire to utilize the political power in order to safeguard their own interests and people who want their personal concerns to be addressed irrespective of the genuineness of their concerns. Suppose you are a political leader representing a party X in power so you naturally have hundreds of people visiting you every single day. People would approach you with diverse issues ranging from electricity, roads, water, bridges to concerns like unemployment, IAY’s, Transfers , ration cards etc. Now for a politician representing any party here in Kashmir, no is not an acceptable answer even if you know the concern with which a person has approached you is not genuine. You can’t simply say no. And if you say no, you don’t fall in the ambits of the people’s definition of a leader. So if a person has approached you with the issue of timber even if he already has one sanction in his hand or doesn’t deserve it due to some other reasons and is not ready to leave you even if you try to tell him that his concern is not genuine, you call an SFC official or DFO and ask him to help the person. The concerned DFO or SFC official who can easily say no because there are hundreds others who haven’t even received a single sanction and genuinely deserve it doesn’t usually say no just because he knows he might need some political support in future, may be at the time of his transfer or promotion. So he accepts to help the person irrespective of weighing the genuineness of the issue brought to his notice by the politician. In other cases where anyone approaching the official for timber doesn’t have any political contacts, the concerned official usually doesn’t give any heed to his demand. He makes him run from one desk to another. As soon as the person approaching him understands that his demand is not being fulfilled, he takes the second path and offers him money (Chai as it is called here). The concerned SFC official now falls to the monetary motivation being offered to him and sanctions the timber. And this is where the whole mess starts. This process motivates others in the league and has been responsible for spreading the evil like the fire in the forest. Now in this situation, it becomes difficult to decide who to blame. Should it be the politician who called the SFC official on another person’s behalf to help him, should it be the SFC official who obeys the call and sanctions the timber even if the person didn’t deserve it, should it be the person approaching the politician or the SFC official for help becomes a serious question?
Though I had been advised by Naeem sahib to only take up genuine issues with the government officials, I found myself in a strange situation where I couldn’t understand what to do. I had people on one side who want their issues to be addressed at any cost and I had my carrier on the other side as an aspiring politician in Kashmir who is not supposed to say no to anyone approaching him. During my initial days, being very enthusiastic to bring a change I would wait for hours at my residence for people to approach me with genuine demands pertaining to their area, however that wait only remained a wait till its end. It would be once in a blue moon that I could see a person or a group of them touching me in that sense, otherwise they were only people with their personal issues flocking my house in Bandipora.
As of now I have understood the reality and know it’s not only the people in power who are corrupt but the whole society whose collective corrupt minds, thoughts and actions have polluted the system. The blame lies on us all and if we wish to see a change we have to change ourselves first as a society so that our reflections could change the system. We are not different from the system and the system is not different from us. Let’s all pledge to change ourselves in order to change the system. Let’s all work together for a corruption free Jammu and Kashmir. Let’s kill corruption before it kills us.
(The writer is former State Secretary (media) youth PDP currently pursuing my PhD in Journalism at Mumbai University)