On Wednesday, the former chairman of the Board of Professional Entrance Examination (BOPEE) Mushtaq Ahmad Peer, was convicted by the anti-corruption court in the Common Entrance Test scam, 2012. He was sentenced to sixteen years in jail on four counts and fined whopping Rs one crore. The court also convicted and sentenced to varied jail terms 42 others including brokers, parents and beneficiary students. Seven were acquitted.
The order makes withering observations about Peer and blames him for the blatant abuse of his official position of the worst kind. The court termed the crime dastardly and by executing it Peer had shaken the confidence of the public at large into the fairness of the working of such statutory bodies which, it would take years of concerted efforts to restore.
The severe punishment for Peer has been generally welcomed, There is a sense of relief that at least this horrible scandal was taken to its logical conclusion. This is a case that despite our resigned acceptance of the endemic corruption in the state has revolted people. And for this reason alone, it served as symbol of the rot in Valley. The scam raised profound questions about the moral health of our system as also the society. It only proved once again how corruption has become the lubricant that works our system and how our society has learnt to live with it.
There is, no doubt, a sense of collective disgust with the state of affairs but this discomfort hardly finds a vent outside the confines of our houses or the everyday social talk. This is why it is all the more important that Peers sin and his consequent punishment becomes our moment of introspection. For, it gives a measure of the venality of the people who run our system and preside over our institutions.
Peer may be at the centre of the BOPEE scam but he is not alone. The case is not only about the individual corruption. It is about our state and its governing structure. For Peer could have hardly pulled the scandal off if our system wasnt structurally compromised and corrupt. Once you appoint a venal man like Peer to head a sacred institution like BOPEE, charged with selecting the deserving youth to become our doctors, it corrupts the institution. It squeezes the chances of any honest employee in its ranks to act as per his or her conscience. One can now ask questions about the wisdom of selecting Peer as BOPEE head. Why he was privileged over others? It is also possible that Peer was selected on merit because of his lifelong experience of being a teacher. And he betrayed the trust. Now, when the case has culminated into a long jail term for Peer and lesser punishments for others, these are the issues that need to be pondered. They are as much related to the case as Peer himself.
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