Public response to corruption

Meghalaya comprises a largely reticent population that does not care enough to take up cudgels on its own behalf. Those who speak out against corruption and mal-governance are the usual suspects and are residents of Shillong city. Those in the periphery either don’t have a platform to voice their concerns or don’t want to be on the wrong side of the government. Most people want to keep those in government and politics in good humour in case they need to seek favours. And therein lies the rub. Democracy in this State has created a system of patronage where large sections of the population rely on public representatives for some basic needs such as paying for their medical bills, their children’s school fees etc., because they have been reduced to a state of penury. Government schools don’t deliver and are not supervised by the Education Department officials. Hence parents are compelled to send their kids to private schools where they have to pay for everything, from uniforms to school books to school fees. This cuts a neat hole in their pockets. Many are pushed to the point where they have to beg their MLA/MDC for money. The culture of dependency develops and public representatives cash in on this enslavement of the electorate.
The point that people miss is that it is the responsibility of public representatives to ensure that government schools work as well or better than private schools. That is a primary onus of governments in a country like India where a large section of the population is poor. It is also the duty of the Government to ensure that good healthcare facilities are provided in every village, Block and Sub-Division. This would make people self- reliant and not dependent on the MLA/MDC to pay for their hospital bills in the city. To access all these public services requires a vigilant citizenry that demands the services as a right and not as political favours. But illiteracy and ignorance of rights places our rural population at a great disadvantage. In such a situation expecting people to raise their voices against corruption is futile.
Add to the above the current inflation rate which is unprecedented. This has made life even more difficult with LPG cylinders touching an all-time high of Rs 1200. But in Meghalaya no matter how high the inflation and the cost of living there is no visible protest. People seem to have accepted everything as a norm. At one time Meghalaya had a people’s rally against corruption (PRAC) that brought down a government. Perhaps it is time to start a similar movement to tackle the relentless corruption in the State.

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