From Sagwad to Corruption

By Prabhakar Timble
01 April 2011 14:15 IST

“Sagwad” in the Goan parlance means a gift to acknowledge a favour. Usually it meant a string (ganthan) of various fishes interwoven together through the gills. Today, it is totally out of context in relation to speed money, kick-backs, facilitation payments, percentages for government contracts, extortion by police and the scams involving politicians, bureaucrats, judges, army generals,  yoga and ‘moksha’ swamis. We have thrown out our traditional art of living. Today, we can boast of a living art of corruption.

Our spicy stories are those that tell us of corrupt thoughts. The media today is filled with such stories. We hardly see the same focus for human interest stories and stories of achievement. The kick of stories of kick-backs is akin to the high of a few pegs of whisky or a shot of marijuana for socialites.

Those who talk against corruption outnumber the corrupt. Does it mean that they desire to reduce corruption? Or is it a social pastime or social party time? Is corruption the cause of all problems? Can the nation become rich and prosperous by becoming good? Or are we beating the wrong horse for an alibi on our failure to ameliorate poverty? Or is it that corruption has contributed to Goa’s and India’s development? A MRI scan of the educated and professionals is most likely to reveal a corrupt DNA. However, these groups tend to blame the landless, homeless and famished voters as responsible for political corruption.

Is corruption anti-national, anti-development and anti-poor? Or is it actually anti-rich? To some extent corruption is the pipeline which has provided basic amenities to the poor in villages and slums in urban areas.

Today, we speak of respectable corruption. This is giving and accepting bribes with the guarantee that the assigned work will be done. The receiver honourably returns the bribe if the job is not done. Corporate world creates the bad business environment by bribing politicians. The corporate and professionals are the springs which water the corrupt. The corrupt then channelize the same water to capture elections, democratic institutions and the pillars of our temples, churches and mosques including the Cross and the “ghumti” on street corners and public roads. Even God, if there is one, showers blessing on the corrupt and seats comfortably on the throne and palanquin decked with gold financed by the corrupt. The corrupt honourably flirt at places of worship and temples of learning.

There are areas where we can grow along with corruption. There are areas where corruption is detrimental to progress. The casualty is the quality of public works. The collapse of regulatory mechanism in labour welfare, policing and environment makes a mockery of rule of law and law enforcing agencies. The common man and the less privileged suffer at the hands of regulatory bodies and the police. The government treasury loses revenue due to corruption in Tax, Excise and Customs windows.

Transparency enabled with use of information technology can address the issue of corruption. The right to information has contributed towards an open government. However, it is still a negative right. It would become a positive right when all the government functionaries and instrumentalities would be required by law to keep all matters open to public gaze on a web portal and also provide IT enabled services to citizens. This is to be coupled with time bound disposal by bureaucrats and pulling up for delays. This should include a self-imposed code by judiciary because the criminal delays happen in this sphere of administration.

Economic reforms, liberalisation and opening up of our economy gave a death blow to the black market in a wide variety of areas. More control manufactures more opportunities of corruption. Reforms attack the foundations of corruption.

Nothing could be effective if not accompanied by confiscation of ill-accumulated wealth. Corruption is a low risk and high profit business. Convictions are as low as 4% due to judicial corruption and delays. Added to this, there is hardly any confiscation. This smashes the self-esteem of the people and bolsters the confidence of the corrupt.

A vote for a corruption free society needs to be cast everyday when we conduct our business and profession and not once in five years. Do not expect the poor, migrants, destitute and the victims of feudal social structure to fight against corruption. Their priority is the fight for survival and basic needs. If they vote for the corrupt en bloc, it is because they know what is best for them at the present moment. The talk by the educated that our politics and elections are dominated by money and muscle power irks me. This power is created in the hands of unworthy politicians by the educated themselves. Further, all round the year the money and muscle power protects the educated, corporate, landlords and professionals. The privileged use this power to exploit and grind the poor.

What keeps me insulated from developing ulcers in the mind due to widespread corruption at all levels are the couplets written by Janab Nidaf Azli and immortalised by the ghazal singer Jagjit Singh.

“Duniya jise kehete hain

Jadu ka khilona hai

Mil jaye toh mitti hai

Kho jaye toh sona hai”

(What we call as life is a toy of magic. If you own it, it is mud. If you  

sink in it, it is gold)

Read the vernacular again. You will find peace in this corrupt world. The English transformation is corrupted.

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Prabhakar Timble

Mr Prabhakar Timble is an educationist and a legal expert. He has served several educational institutions, especially as the Principal of Government College at Quepem, Kare College of Law in Madgao as well as couple of Management Institutes. He was also the State Election Commissioner of Goa.

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