JAMMU: Of course, the news about Bihar shedding the tag of being number one corrupt state of India must have elated Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in particular and the people of Bihar in general. But the ‘incredible’ news has a potential to sound alarm bells in Jammu and Kashmir which ranked second most alarmingly corrupt state after Bihar in the survey conducted by Transparency International.
Transparency International had categorized corruption in four categories-alarmingly corrupt, very highly corrupt, highly corrupt and moderately corrupt. Bihar and Jammu and Kashmir had got the honour of bagging first two slots of the first category. However, scenario has changed now.
Does Bihar’s departure from the list elevate the status of Jammu and Kashmir to number one slot? The answer is understood.
This has not been answered in a book on corruption written by eminent economists Bibek Debroy and Laveesh Bhandari. The indices that reflected the status of corruption showed that Nitish Kumar has roundly beaten his Gujarat counterpart Narendra Modi in this battle for the non-corrupt image.
The horrible revelation about J&K being the second most alarming state was received with shock and disbelief in Srinagar during autumn 2005 with all the National Conference legislators parading to Raj Bhavan to share their anguish with Governor S K Sinha. Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed was visibly upset particularly as the Congress had raised its pitch for change of guard as per the agreed upon arrangement. Coupled with some other developments, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed had to pave the way for Ghulam Nabi Azad to chip in only to get bowled by own ally, Peoples Democratic Party in the wake of Amarnath land row that left the state polarized.
Those who made corruption as major plank of their manifesto, however, failed to reverse the trend. The 2008 elections changed the equations and Congress preferred to sit in the lap of National Conference. A new era of coalition began with Omar Abdullah, instead of senior Abdullah, taking over the command. Hopes began brewing up only to get belied. There was no perceptible change in the level of corruption, however.
Mercy Corps, a US based NGO, report on widespread corruption in Kashmir (read Jammu and Kashmir) in its report painfully observes: “The corrupt are not looked down upon in Kashmiri society where monetary affluence is a major measure of success in life.” It adds: “Corruption has plagued every sphere of life and left the private sector desperately underdeveloped”.
The NGO quotes a young man saying: “You are confronted with corruption each time you enter a government office. Whether you want a licence or an electricity connection or you are competing for a major tender, you are either directly asked of indirectly expected to offer a bride”.
This speaks the state of affairs that prevailed as late as in 2010 and 2011 when the report got published. The situation has not changed for good but it has worsened.
Conflict and corruption have added to the cost of doing business or getting grievances redressed. The State Finance Commission has expressed similar views. Concerned over the critical state of affairs in the State, the Commission describes certain public offices as citadels of corruption and festering sores.
At a time when anti-graft crusade across the nation is at its zenith, the state of Jammu and Kashmir has preferred to be a fence watcher. Nobody is talking about corruption except a few odd activists, who are knocking every door to fight the menace. Had it not been for these crusaders, the much awaited cases against high profile corrupt officials would not have been presented in the courts. But the tainted and indicted politicians continue to remain at large. There seems to be an unprecedented unanimity among the political parties, separatists and secessionists. They may be hyper active over other issues but corruption seems to be the last priority; maybe because many in the washroom find themselves naked. Isn’t it a fact that about 245 cases are pending before the Accountability Commission against former and present ministers, legislators and politicians? Reportedly 449 gazetted officers besides 30 central services officers are also entangled in the cases of corruption. A former minister is openly leveling serious charges against two sitting ministers. Instead of taking cognizance, the government sanctions prosecution against the ‘whistle blower’. Are these the symptoms of treating the malady?
The corruption may not be running in lakhs of crores like the coalgate, 2G Spectrum or Commonwealth Games etcetera but it is widespread in Jammu and Kashmir. It is like termite which is making the entire system hollow.
Does Jammu and Kashmir enjoy special status in war against corruption too?