It is not to imply that all government officials are corrupt, but one does not need to be extra cautious to say that majority of them who are in key position of making decisions or providing services to commoner are corrupt. The latest case of the Director-general and Director of Immigration department who were charged of taking bribes from a women (re-named Sita) who allegedly carried fake passport to go to work as domestic worker in the Gulf was robbed at the airport when she returned and raped on her way home by a police, indicates how deep the entire chain of bureaucratic hierarchy has sunk in corruption.
There are two reasons that the graph for such lawlessness has gone that high. First the commoner has become so weak in the last two decades that if one does not affiliate oneself with one or the other political party he/she does not get the protection that an ordinary citizen expects from the state. Sita is just an example. Every other one happens to be equally vulnerable. The second is the determination of those involved in corruption that has gradually been bolstered by the state machinery which has turned deaf and blind in the name of rules.
Here is an example: a retired Chief District Officer who was living solely on his pension wrote to the editor of a popular newspaper sometime back in which he complained that he could not survive with meagre pension due to uncontrolled market price. He also said that he was an honest CDO and did not take bribes and cuts during his tenure. In his response to this letter the sitting CDO, who is mandated by law to monitor market prices and control any malpractices said that no one had filed complaints about rising market price and therefore he had no knowledge of it. Unless some complaints are registered the office of the CDO has no way of finding if corruption is taking place.
The other shade of corruption is so well blended with the system that one cannot even detect it. Here is a story about a very smart lawyer who never lost his case in the court, but hardly won the game of playing cards while playing with the judges. The secret was very simple. The smart lawyer played cards with the judges that he would be pleading his case with and deliberately lose the game to pass good amount of money to the judge. This was his way of bribing a judge to win his case. It is a different matter that gambling is a crime and yet very popular social activity in Nepal.
The systemic flaw has been so well engrained within each layer of the societal system that even those who resent being corrupt while in job have regretted at the end. When asked if he regretted for being honest throughout his carrier in the government, a retired engineer, who had ample opportunity to make money, confessed that his answer has changed over time. He felt very good about his own decision of not getting involved in corruption when he was in the government. There were times when he felt very good about not being corrupt. He could walk with his head upright. He could look into the eyes of his colleagues who were better off but not so clean. But time changed so much against his ethics and so rapidly that his confidence began to shake from its foundation. Now he regrets the fact that he did not make money through corrupt means because at 60 he does not have a house of his own. His family still lives in a three-room apartment of his parent’s house. His children go to local schools. He cannot afford to send them abroad to get higher education on a self-financed scheme. With education at local schools they will not be unable to compete with foreign return graduates who come with better English and smart cards. How will his children see their childhood and bringing up? They will probably curse him because what parents of their peers could do he could not.
If the system continues to punish people like the retired CDO and the engineer, no movement can save other potential Sita from this menace in the days ahead.
Until next time