MANIPUR RTI ?? – Information as Corruption Nemesis – [no RTI and more CORRUPTION in Manipur]
Posted by rtiact2005 on July 9, 2006
MANIPUR RTI ?? – Information as Corruption Nemesis – [RTI and CORRUPTION]
Source: IMPHAL FREE PRESS
We are in the midst of a nationwide anti-corruption fortnight. The question is, what can we do to make the best of it, considering Manipur must have to be amongst the states where corruption has not only become institutionalized in the officialdom, but also deeply entrenched in the society as such? Other states in the northeast, especially Meghalaya has taken a march ahead in the regard. In Shillong, various civil society bodies have set up a help desk to give assistance to the public in pursuing their cases against corrupt practices, as well as to raise the awareness against the scourge. The new Parliamentary legislation, Right to Information Act, RTI Act, has become a very potent tool in this regard, and Meghalaya was one of the first states in the northeast to constitute a State Information Commission under the Act. Unfortunately in Manipur, despite much hype by the government, such a commission is still to become reality. As a matter of fact, many other autonomous bodies that already exist have been effectively throttled and rendered either ineffective or else subservient to the executive, through guiles and force. The Manipur Human Rights Commission, MHRC, is just one example. It has today been reduced to a White Elephant, with no more use than its exhibition value, to be conveniently put up as a front for the government’s claim of respect of democracy and the rights it guarantees. The subversion of this valued institution, meant to check and balance the powers of the government so as to keep it from straying from the norms prescribed by democracy, cannot be anything less than criminal. Perhaps it is for the same reason that the State Information Commission is not being allowed to take birth.
Under the circumstance, perhaps the right course of action for the Manipur civil society during this anti-corruption fortnight is to discuss the need for the a State Information Commission under the RTI Act, and then after a consensus is reached, to press for the setting up of one. It must be remembered that the RTI Act is meant to deter the powers that be from hiding skeletons in the government closets precisely by making all such closets easily accessible to the public. For it is when information regarding the state’s affairs remains the monopoly of those who hold the handles to the state’s executive powers, that ambiguous spaces are created in which corruption thrives unhindered and without the fear of discovery. Just the human rights commission is meant to monitor the democratic guarantee of human rights, an information commission is meant to check official corruption. The sooner such a commission becomes a reality, the better it will be for the state.
But even before the commission is set up, the state’s civil society cannot drop its concerns about corruption in public life. The issue has become all the more urgent as the intent of the government to lift the dykes on its ban on job recruitment has become clear. In another month, the examination for the recruitment of the state’s most prestigious jobs in its civil services will be held. Not long after, the government also plans to fill up about 200 vacant posts of lecturers. This will be followed by recruitment of more instructors for the state’s various ITIs is. In the days ahead, it can be reasonably expected that more and more exceptions will be made to the existing job recruitment ban. Also to be remembered is that this is an election year. Those in power will naturally be looking for all means within their command to raise money or else enlist sycophants as supporters through extending official favours and gifts. These new government jobs can become reduced to these gifts. Needless to say it will be in the interest of the people and the state to prevent such an eventuality. We want the best candidates available to be selected for these jobs, not just for the sake of justice for the competitors, but also for the efficiency of the state administration in the long run. Let us then raise our voices against corruption during this fortnight, intelligibly and coherently, and begin the process of ensuring ourselves and the generation to follow, a good common future.