Shimla: Widespread corruption within the government machinery is nothing surprising, not even in a state like Himachal where it is believed that materialistic aspirations are still not well defined. So it comes as no surprise in a secret survey conducted by the Panchayati Raj department that ever pradhan in the state on an average is siphoning around Rs 15,000 from the developmental funds being provided to his or her panchayat every month.
There are 3,243 panchayats in the state and the total figure comes out to be Rs 4,86,45,000 in a month and around Rs 50 crore in a year. The survey, which has not been made public, also concludes that 80% of the pradhans are corrupt while the remaining 20% are still doing their work honestly. Most of this bungling happens in purchase of construction material like cement and also in disbursement of salaries to daily wagers.
It is clear that the pradhan does not work in isolation and there are panches, panchayat secretaries and other officials too involved in the loot. It proves beyond doubt that the assumption that not more than 10% of the funds allotted for poor people actually reach them is true. It also highlights how poor our system of checks and balances is to prevent corruption.
Expansion of democracy at the grassroots level was expected to empower people to use their vote to fight corruption, but it has not happened as desired. The reason being corruption in any developing society is a very complex phenomenon resulting due to policy distortion, faulty governance and also ill-devised institutional incentives. So it cannot be dealt with simply by enacting legislations. Fighting corruption is not just a matter of making laws, but is, in fact, dependent on the activities of the civil society.
Civil society here does not refer to organised activist community alone who are running non-governmental organisations in multi-dimensions. The need of the hour is that a common villager should take on the role of an activist and take active interest in activities taking place in his or her area. Though it can be said that corruption has found acceptance in our social psyche and behaviour and therefore corrupt people are somewhat even idealized, we should not forget the 20% people who are doing their work honestly.
It is this section that holds hope and therefore it is expected that the honest lot should organise themselves at the village level itself. Therefore, it is necessary that a parallel institution be built across all panchayats that acts as an effective opposition to the elected representatives. Be it an existing village youth club that rises to the occasion, but what matters is that it should be driven by honesty and integrity. Of course, it would be a fresh beginning, but it is never too late to make a beginning.