There is no denying that corruption is rampant in our society. It has become so deeply embedded in our society that we have almost forgotten a life without it. In spite of all the hue and cry over the years, we do not find any respite from it. We find its presence almost everywhere -- in every sphere of our daily activities.
Otherwise, why do we have to see the heinous designs of some officials of the health sector resorting to issuing false test reports and playing with the lives of hundreds of corona-suspect patients? How does a mere accountant of Health Directorate amass wealth in billion, not in lac taka?
Why do we have to hear about a candidate seeking the job of a Headmaster or an Assistant Headmaster in an MPO listed private school requiring to pay as high as 5 lac to 15 lac taka as bribe to the vested quarters? Even the public universities of the country, supposed to be the bastion of knowledge, wisdom and values, are not free from this vice. More often than not, we hear about corruption, abuse of power, irregularities and political influence in appointment and promotion of teachers in these universities.
How can the so-called e-commerce business platforms render millions of ordinary citizens totally helpless paupers overnight by giving them false hope of handsome return of their investment right in front of the nose of the government authorities? Why do we hear about the Panama, Paradise and Pandora papers with names of hundreds of top ranking businessmen, politicians, government officials, celebrities and mafia lords of different countries across the world siphoning off millions of dollars by unfair means and investing in the so called offshore companies to evade taxes despite there being so many government machineries in the name of watch-dogs to guard against financial scams?
As revealed by the leading Indian newspaper The Indian Express, investigation into the Pandora papers' leaked information finds names of more than 300 Indian business tycoons, corporate bodies, celebrities, politicians, influential people of the society. We don't know how many of Bangladeshi icons are there on the list of these tax havens.
Last but not the least, why is it that a file does not move in our government offices without bribe? They call it speed money. What an euphemism! The machinery of religion may move in the air (dharmer kal batashe nore) but the government machinery does not. It needs money in the name of grease.
Yes, we hear more often than not about government's intention of zero tolerance against corruption. We hear about stringent measures to deal with the situation but in reality, how far have we progressed? The anti-corruption drives of the government start with a bang and end with a whimper.
Corruption is multidimensional. A group of people are corrupt because they are poor. They cannot make both ends meet. They cannot afford milk for their children with the meagre legal income they earn. So, they find no other alternative than taking bribe or indulging in illegal means to earn money and maintain livelihood. Another group of people are rich but not as rich as their neighbours although they consider themselves more qualified and efficient than their neighbours. Their neighbours drive costly cars, live in posh houses. They cannot afford even a three wheeler auto or a two-bed flat. The neighbours' wives wear 30,000 taka silk saree. They have to keep their wives quiet with at best a 5000 taka Rajsahi silk. The neighbours make holidays in Bangkok, Singapore or Switzerland. They cannot afford even a Kuakata trip. They resort to illegal means to satisfy their desires.
Another group of people resort to corruption to advance themselves from rich to richer, millionaire to billionaire by any means and that also overnight. They are ready to go to any extent-- grab, cheat, or even kill anybody. The more they get, the more they want. With the money and wealth they earn out of the blue, they want luxury, lavishness and fantasy in life. The result is crime, violence, sexual abuse, extra-marital affairs and what not.
Where is the remedy? How do we put the bridle round the neck of the galloping horse of corruption and halt its maddening race? The economy of the country has been progressing rapidly in the recent years. The country's per capita income has risen to USD 2000 from USD 500 in less than a decade. GDP growth has moved around 6 to 7.5 per cent for quite some time. The country is poised to enter into a developing country from a least developed (LDC) country.
The 18-month-long corona pandemic has no doubt retarded the growth substantially. Millions of people have lost jobs. The steep rise of unemployment is threatening social harmony. It is time to redeem the whole aspect of governing the country at this critical juncture. Every attempt must be made from every section of the society to keep our younger generation free from this deadly virus of corruption.
The government of Prime Minister Sheik Hasina has reasons to be proud of its mega projects like Padma Shetu, Metro Rail, Elevated Express Way, Payra Deep Seaport, Matarbari 1200 MW coal fired power plant and so on. It has a great accomplishment to produce and reach electricity to more than ninety per cent households of the country. Incessant load-shedding, that was a common phenomenon only the other day, is now a matter of grand-ma's fairy tale.
Yet, corruption can be a matter of grave concern for the economy to sustain. It can eat the very vitals of society making the country unstable both economically and socially. Corruption breeds greed and lust. These elements in turn discard all basic human values and make people barbaric. No wonder, every day we hear in electronic, print and social media about so many cases of financial scam, plunder, violence, killings, and rape-- all for satisfying the greed and barbaric lust
There has to be a way to end the stigma of unbridled corruption. We have to see that corruption is dealt with by the government heavy handedly. People do not want to hear rhetoric from our politicians or policy makers in the government any more. They do not want to hear big talks anymore. They want business. They want to see exemplary punishment meted out to at least some of the godfathers, if not all, to start with.
Capt. Hussain Imam, Master Mariner (UK) is a retired Merchant Navy Officer.