The tsunami of ‘aam aadmi’ is gradually but surely catching the imagination of the people of Northeast. Many parts of the rest of the nation especially urban areas have already come under its grip, according to pre-poll surveys. While anti-corruption crusaders elsewhere joined the bandwagon by coming under the AAP banner, those in the Northeast are yet to make up their mind. It is for sure that once they identify themselves with India’s newest “hope”, their fans would swell in numbers. Then what is preventing them? They value the identity of their respective organisations more than the idea of fighting an uncertain battle.
The region has no dearth of RTI crusaders – Assam’s Akhil Gogoi and Meghalaya’s Michael Syiem and Agnes Kharshiing made headlines for unearthing scams. However, the battle against corruption has not gained much ground in the region plagued by issues of ethnic identity, demographic change, territorial integrity etc. There is hardly any clear solution to such issues, most of which are creation of the vested interests. The silence of influential student organisations on corruption issues, however, does not mean that the region is less affected by the virus (of corruption). Rather, their frequent outcry on identity issues provides a canopy over the rampant corruption, albeit unintentionally. Governments would prefer fighting sensitive issues concerning race and religion where there are always conflicting views rather than taking questions on governance. Once these organisations start taking on the ruling class on issues of corruption and poverty, there will be no escape route left for those in power. However, the question remains as to who will bell the cat? Many of the so-called civil society groups are financially backed by either the business or the political class. Their mentors remain untouched even if they hit the streets with demands such as inner line permit (ILP), fencing along Indo-Bangla border and ‘Nagalim’. These issues are disputed and there is no direct solution. On the other hand, the mentors would be hurt most if the groups divulge any corrupt practices involving them.
In absence of the backing of “influential” groups, it has been a difficult task for anti-corruption activists of the north-eastern region to take cases of irregularities to the logical end. Akhil Gogoi divulged the scam of farmers’ land being grabbed by industrialists at throwaway prices in the name of development. In Meghalaya, Michael Syiem’s MRTIM exposed scams related to supply of CGI sheets and subsidy doled out to industries while Agnes Kharshiing unearthed a scam in appointment of teachers involving the then education minister Ampareen Lyngdoh. All these cases have, however, have failed to reach any logical end. There have been actions against the direct “beneficiaries” of the scams, but no action could be taken against any politician without whose green signal such scams are unimaginable.
(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on January 11, 2014)