In the Year 2000, when World Bank initiated a study to look into the economic causes of conflict, among other things, its findings gave primacy to an interesting co-relation between the corruption and incidence of conflict. In fact besides the World Bank, countless other research works from varied sources including the United Nations, USIP, NATO, and scores of brilliant academics have highlighted how corruption exacerbates conflict. In fact former UN Secretary General Kofi Anan in 2003 called it an “insidious plague”.
Being a major obstacle to economic growth and to poverty alleviation, corruption is a “subterranean current that perniciously undercuts efforts at peace, reconciliation, at community rebuilding and in many cases it causes these efforts to collapse.” Corruption, almost every single study conducted on the subject has underlined, holds back economic development, undermines the provision of public services and stokes grievances and ultimately, conflict.
So in clear terms, if one is to put it plainly, corruption actually undercuts people’s loyalty and commitment to the governments, and ultimately to the systems of the state. Particularly in places where the state is not able to do much to contain and stem out corruption, people tend to see the state and its institutions as the tools that patronize and perpetuate their sufferings (due to corruption), which in turn they use to rationalize and justify their antagonism against the state.
The links between corruption and conflict are well established. In Jammu and Kashmir, for instance, the successive corrupt governments have generated grievances that have led to discontent and then to violence and then to conflict. Like in the Balkans, here too much of political tensions have been fuelled by leaders not living up to their responsibilities. UNODC studies in Iraq, Nigeria and Afghanistan show how once conflict begins, it creates even more opportunities for bribery and other corrupt practices. In turn, this undermines the rule of law and that fuels further conflict. Terrorist groups take advantage of corruption -- both to fund their operations but also to attract recruits and fund their ideology.
So besides other causal factors, high incidence of institutional corruption is definitely one of the major causes for the continuation of political turmoil in Jammu and Kashmir. That this state has for years together refused to come down from the Transparency International’s indexing as one of the most-corrupt state’s in India, is therefore, an important window providing a vantage view as to why this place is getting pushed deeper and deeper into the recesses of conflict.
But for some reasons the Indian state has thus far not given this important causal factor the kind of significance it deserves!
In this despondent atmosphere of absolute lack of probity in public life a gentleman by the name of Satya Pal Maik comes in to occupy the state’s Raj Bhawan. On the face of it, there was nothing unique in his appointment as J&K Governor – because his predecessor, who had been there for some ten years, had already completed his tenure. Unlike N N Vohra, a seasoned bureaucrat of impeccable record as a senior civil servant and a nuanced diplomat who would rarely step out of Governor’s rulebook, Malik made his intentions clear immediately after taking over.
Coming from a socialist background, and a politician to the core, it didn’t take him long to convince people here that he was not the one to continue with the status quo to bid his time at Raj Bhawan. Governor Satya Pal Malik immediately struck a chord here when he candidly shared his views on the issues of immediate concern. His move to open the gates of Raj Bhawan for everybody came as a pleasant surprise to the state’s youth, who were pressed between the proverbial devil and the deep sea because of the institutional corruption, including the machinations of crooked political leadership which had for ages exploited them on the back of emotive slogans.
Initially people were reluctant to visit the Raj Bhawan, as this place had all along been out of bounds for them owing to both convention and security reasons, but once a few enterprising ones shared their grievances with Malik and found prompt corrective measures and subsequent redressal, the experience enthused others also to come forward. After taking over on June 20 last year, Governor Malik has been there for little over six months, and in this time out of 41,716 grievances or complaints his Grievances Cell has received, 40,457 have already been dealt with, while the remaining 877 are “under process”.
This is by no standards a mean figure. For a place known for power and privilege including even the meager opportunities of progress and growth in terms of jobs going only to the high and mighty political elites and the immediate coterie of their kin and supporters, have-nots being greeted into the Raj Bhawan and the administrative rooks and pawns moving around to sort out their problems is something that Kashmir had not known previously.
That almost every single complaint and grievance put to Governor concerned corruption in one or the other manner and form must not be lost sight of. Whether by default of by design, it is for the first time that someone in the Government of India (Governor being its representative in the state) seems thinking seriously about Kashmir in terms of the relation between corruption and conflict. In continuation of the measures like this lies hope – the hope that Kashmir will someday be corruption-free, which will in some measure take away oxygen from the ongoing conflict here.