Corruption has become a nemesis in our State and it’s largely because the coal business has exceeded the bounds of physical corruption and has touched the ethical realm. That is what I’ll try to get at in this letter.
Is there something ugly, dubious and outrightly unethical going on in the coal business in Meghalaya? I would have to give a ‘Yes’ to the first part of this question for the simple reason that enormous trucks carrying these enormous loads are as incongruous in our landscape as a polar bear in Africa -the roads and everything else about these hills being petite and graceful. And the young, small built drivers of these monstrous looking trucks add to the incongruity.
To the second part viz “is there something dubious going on in the transportation of coal?” I have no other answer than a ‘Yes’ again. Dubious because if we take into consideration that the coal being transported is supposedly old stock auctioned material, how come it is a never ending stream of trucks plying night after night for hundreds of days. Surely the auctioned stock would have depleted long before now. Is anyone – Police Deptt, Minerals Deptt, Forest Deptt etc etc entering the details of the coal passing through their respective stations? Obviously not, bcoz if they did the records would damn the men in high places to such an extent that whatever gratification that maybe coming their way would be too painful a price to pay especially the contempt they would face from their fellow men whom they respect most. If some uncanny manipulation is going on we do not know but we do suspect that it is, therefore something dubious is dragging the stock on and on. To the different Departments that are connected with the maintenance of records and supervision of the coal transported from the State, and the workmen who serve as the monitors and data entry recorders of the consignments in transit from one gate to another, presuming that it does not appear to them altogether to be a shameful thing to be utilized as they are like the screws of a machine and the stopgaps as it were of the human spirit of morality, one can say nothing better than in poverty of spirit there is cheerfulness in collusion. And therefore on the question of dubious it is an unequivocal ‘Yes’…but away with all this speculation, I’ll get down to how it’s happening in the answer to the last question.
The last question is still left unanswered, namely is something outrightly unethical going on? What people say is much less important that what they are doing and so regardless of what is being said that this coal belongs to the auctioned old stock everyone knows it is something else altogether…something unethical because unethical impulses are about the only justification a sane individual can offer for this prolonged transportation of “old stock.” It is disgusting to admit that merely for the sake of extra income the bureaucracy are prepared for personal enslavement to the legislators as an essential part of their existence, and it is even more disgusting to think that by this corrupt means of increasing their wealth they have to carry the disgrace of being branded as corrupt ones the type that can be changed and manipulated into a ‘Yes Sir –No Sir’ grade that essentially is way below the Grade IV employees and most certainly the worst is that they declare that there can be a price at which a man can be bought and that there is nothing higher and purer than money. All are accomplices, and by all I mean the State Officers, the Central officers and those of the Government of Assam as well for the simple reason that the permissible quantity of old auctioned coal is well known to all of them yet they blindly allow the movement of one consignment after another through their gates regardless of whether the permissible stock has exceeded knowing fully well that if an audit of their records was done it would expose the whole damn rot from start to finish. It is unethical because in the present madness of a system which has checks and balances at many levels no one – not a single one – whose duty it is to present facts and figures to the people is doing anything about it and our State is being systematically plundered by two or three who hold the reins and history will bear me out when I say that in a plot to plunder and loot there always are two actors…Frank and Jesse James, Bonnie and Clyde, Black Beard and Charles Vane, and the list goes on. There are two pulling the strings in this case as well and they can only be from among the politicians and the bureaucracy? Where is the internal moral lesson that was grilled into them in their childhood at home and at school and in their religious places? Do they no longer know what it is like to breathe freely; to know what it feels like when one has total command of self, to be free from a guilty conscience that disgusts the soul when you read the newspaper and look enviously at your rich neighbour knowing that he and you are one of a kind made rich by the rapid rise of corruption and doing away with honesty in the pursuit of wealth? Everyone involved in this madness of exploiting the States’ resources for personal gains should on the contrary say to himself, “it would be better if I was in my fathers’ house serving among the upright – anything rather than continuing in this state of disgraceful slavery, this inner bitterness and malice towards self.” This would be the proper spirit that the workforce in Meghalaya, which is largely dominated by Christian ethics, ought to make clear to themselves and to their neighbours. Our position from 1970 to the mid 90s was that we are a category of workers above board and that our stance on knowingly submitting to the temptations of extra money is an impossibility not merely because we are required to maintain the ethics handed down to us but because if we do not the entire society of the Khasis the Jaintias and the Garos and posterity will migrate into this lawlessness that threatens to make us into a nation of slaves of corruption. Surely they are aware that if an enquiry is conducted the misuse of the Challan System will come out into the open.
May our State be freed from those leaders who are leading the entire race astray, and may we awaken to the fact that the opportunity is not far – barely two months hence when we can undertake to restore fairness, rationality, and virtue the kind that we were always known for and the kind that these hills incorporated in her children.