Stunning silence on corruption
Meghalaya’s critical human development indices have all gone south but its corruption levels have soared since 2018. Yet apart from the usual pressure groups that take up all issues from the Inner Line Permit to the extra-judicial killings the civil society is silent on most issues of corruption. There are no protests against the fact that a company from outside the state is walking away with several hundred crores disbursed by the Asian Development Bank – an international monetary agency as loan to Meghalaya with the purpose of strengthening the Power sector by modernizing the distribution network and improving the quality of power supplied to households, industries, and businesses here. That an amount granted as loan to a public sector undertaking which already has a loan burden of about Rs 3000 crore, is not judiciously utilized is going to have deleterious effects on the Power Corporation and might take it to the brink of disaster.
In a democracy, the media provides essential information so that the polity is kept informed about the manner in which they are governed and how public funds from the taxpayers’ money is being deployed. Democracy can only thrive if the public raises questions on poor governance. This public is what is termed as “civil society.” But if this civil society remains muted because of their vested interests then democracy is watered down. Like they say it exists only in name. In fact, in Meghalaya the ruling class are no better than an oligarch. They take offence when people raise questions on corruption and the poor state of development which is visible in our dilapidated roads and other infrastructure.
Corruption is corrosive and debilitating for the state and for the citizenry. In Meghalaya today there is a discernable lack of transparency in nearly every department. Attempts to seek information on various issues of public importance are met with a disdainful silence and an aversion to respond to queries. The Right to Information Act urges governments to make voluntary disclosures and put up all information in the departmental websites so that citizens can access information without running from pillar to post. But this is easier said than done. In fact, the RTI is sought to be watered down and every information is being treated as classified. In some cases bureaucrats have become compliant and dance to the tune of their political masters instead of bringing in checks and balances in governance by blowing the whistle when they see corruption happening upfront. In this respect Meghalaya is quickly turning into a poorly governed state as it reaches its 50th year.