The Other ‘Chai’: Corruption and Why It Must End 

By Dr Tauseef Ahmad Parray and Danish Bashir

HAVE you ever talked to someone about a task at hand that involves some red tape? At any point, have you wanted access to a place which, at that point, seems inaccessible? When you ask someone for a way out, what do they suggest?

More often than not, they ask you to pay yourself out of the predicament. This process has an English word, ‘bribe’ but in this part of the world, a more creative alternative has been the word, ‘chai’. No, it’s not a cup of tea you have every morning but a few small or big bucks that you pay in day-to-day life to get things done.

Whether it is to bypass a long waiting time at the doctor’s clinic or to get away with an illegal construction in the middle of a residential area or to buy yourself out of a traffic fine; ‘chai’ is what might work here.

The word, its unremarkable and mundane usage, sums up how we’ve normalised it in our society — so much so that god forbid, if someone thinks they can follow due procedure, they’re thought naive and dumb.

If you talk to an elder in your family, they will definitely tell you that without ‘bribe’ (Chai) you can’t do anything. This mind-set has sanctioned the ‘acceptability’ and ‘legalization’ of this ‘illegal activity’—a menace and a cancer for the social fabric of our society.

Corruption has such deep roots in our society that we have taken it for-granted and have welcomed it as if it is a nice and acceptable act. This, however, does not mean that we can’t do anything against it. This too can be eradicated from our society. But there are certain parameters that are to be focused at the primary level. There is a fear of complaint that the person might be harmed as s/he has to disclose the identity. There are certain cases where the officials are themselves a part of these malpractices so one has to raise his/her voice against them as well. The public servants, of any level or grade, must reflect their morality, honesty, integrity, etc. during the service and in practice as there behavioral set-up is much more rigid. The most common form of corruption that is seen almost everywhere, is the giving and taking of bribes (‘Chai’ in common parlance).

This menace starts from an individual, as it’s an individual who gives or takes the bribe. So, starting from an individual is a much more fruitful process as far as the eradication of this menace is concerned .

A recently held one-day Awareness Program on “Corruption Free India for a Developed Nation” organized by Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) North Kashmir in collaboration with Debates and Seminar Committee of our College (3rd November, 2022) under the banner, and in continuation, of the activities organized under ‘Vigilance Awareness Week’ (31st October to 6th November) also tried to throw more light on this issue.

What’s it about the issue that makes it so urgent to address?

It is a universally acknowledged fact that corruption is the biggest impediment towards the development of a nation. It is equally true that corruption is not indigenous to any country or nation, but is a global phenomenon. It affects all the strata of a society. It is also worrying that corruption has not only hindered our country internally in terms of socio-political and economic development, but has undermined the democracy and democratic set up as well. Jennifer Lawrence (a hollywood actress) has rightly said, “We need to tell each other our stories. We need to show that everyone — our neighbors, our families, our community leaders — everyone we know is touched by corruption.”

There will hardly be anyone who would disagree with the fact that as far as the concept of a developed nation is concerned, the process of developing a nation is a collective process (collectivization). It is the collective effort of the people (citizens of a nation)—ranging from different age groups and professions—who play their selective role in each and every sector to evolve, harmonize and develop their nation. On the other hand, this process is not an easy one in the present era, because there are several menaces prevailing in our society that become major hindrances in the path of nation’s development; and one such menace is that of corruption.

Corruption creates an imbalance in the moral fabric of the society and diminishes the faith of common man in the legitimacy of the politico-administrative sector. Both trust and credibility are critical for a developed nation; for people’s trust helps in enhancing government’s self-confidence.

Corruption has raised the public interest deficit as no longer could a person believe that any civil/ public servant could do anything without being corrupted. Thus, the image that has been created against this backdrop must be reshaped to enhance more trust among the common people. We have to change the mind set-up in our society as well which has normalised the ‘chai’ culture.

In Jammu and Kashmir, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has been working efficiently on the same procedures and regulations (Anti-Corruption Act) to curb this menace. However, what is more important is people’s participation as there should be a strong bond and rapport between the two (parties) in order to drive campaigns against the same. These respective departments should be cardinal and much more interactive with the common masses in order to have a smooth and easier process.

The power/authority, socio-political or economic, should not be vested in these corrupted ones—whether it be a politician or any officer holding charge of any specific department or a lower grade public servant—as those who are in power use it illegally by indulging themselves in these malpractices.

We have to fully impart in ourselves the sense of morality, truthfulness, transparency, sincerity, etc. and try to disseminate these core values among all sections of the society. “Integrity, transparency and the fight against corruption”, as aptly articulated by Angel Gurría (General Secretary of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD]) “have to be part of the culture. They have to be taught as fundamental values.”

Individual awareness about rights and obligations is a must. The youth, especially, should walk the talk on being completely against corruption and discourage it around them as well as within their own lives.

Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer 

  • Dr Tauseef Ahmad Parray is Assistant Professor, Islamic Studies (and Convener, Debates & Seminar Committee) at Govt. Degree College Sogam (Kupwara).Danish Bashir is a BSc 6th Semester Student at GDC Sogam. Feedback at [email protected] or [email protected] 

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