Root of Corruption

In a dramatic move, state government has terminated the services of 63 officials. The dismissal followed after a high-level committee headed by Chief Secretary Muhammad Iqbal Khanday found them corrupt and incompetent. Among the terminated officials are five Kashmir Administrative Service officers, two Chief Engineers and three doctors. It also includes Managing Director SRTC and the Director General, Libraries and Research. But a large number of them are the lower rung employees, like clerks, Patwaris. ASIs and Head Constables. Government has left politicians and the senior police functionaries untouched. More so, when some of them have serious charges of corruption against them. In 2012 a similarly high powered committee headed by the then Chief Secretary Madhav Lal had ordered the pre-mature retirement of the thirteen officials for being directly involved in corruption. A majority of these officials were from the engineering department with one of them ironically being a lineman. Now PDP-BJP coalition has dismissed a far higher number of the officials. The government spokesman and the education minister Naeem Akhter has termed it a “warning shot” to the non-performing and corrupt employees. 

Though, one can’t but appreciate the move, it is difficult to disentangle it from the prevailing politics. From the looks of it, the move seems to have been less inspired by the zeal to rid the bureaucracy of corruption and more by the urgent need to tide over the government’s own under-performance and falling popularity in the state. Otherwise, there are far more ‘deserving’ candidates for the unceremonious exit from the government and the public fall from grace than those who have been shown the door. As rightly said by the independent legislator Engineer Rashid, PDP has accommodated within its ranks the people who are counted among the most corrupt people in the state. “Mufti regime has given political asylum to most corrupt bureaucrats including Asgar Ali, Khurshid Alam, Mahboob Iqbal and many others”, Rashid said.  Anyway, the attempt here is not to belittle the government move. It can certainly serve as a deterrent for the corrupt employees. But only to a point. For, the measures like these are not traditionally uniform.  It is mostly the lower-rung employees that face the stick while the sharks, more often than not, go scot-free. And there is a whole track-record to prove this. Any assembly document on corruption or for that matter the cases pending with the state’s investigating agencies will reveal that bureaucratic and political corruption is rife in the state. Some major cases of corruption, running in crores of rupees are pending with Accountability Commission. During Ghulam Nabi Azad’s term as Chief Minister, a Vigilance led massive drive against bureaucratic malfeasance had netted a rich harvest of the middle rung to senior officers ”with wealth disproportionate to their known sources of income”. But barring a few, against whom action followed – primarily for political reasons – most of them are now rehabilitated in their jobs. Termination of the services certainly can be one of the tools against corruption, but it is at best an adhocist measure used selectively, once or twice in a long time. The basic problem is that corruption in our state is structural in nature, inbuilt in the way our political culture has evolved over the years. This means even those who otherwise would want to be clean feel persuaded to act otherwise. And fighting this structure needs us to go much beyond the forcible retiring of the minor officials.

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