Can we beat corruption? -By Shafin Fattah
Will Bangladesh see an escalation in corruption? This question is worrying. I know corruption has become a widespread malady in Bangladesh. Yet, I keep hearing people talk about hope – a future Bangladesh under our generation – free of corruption. Sadly, the hope is utopian in nature but I fear I will not see any real reduction in corruption in the near future under our generation. It will only escalate or at least that is what I fear, and in this article I will justify my worries.
For a developing country with deep-rooted political turmoil, trends in corruption are set by the prevailing political powers. In other words, politicians and political parties primarily set the tone of corruption. So, the level of corruption under our generation will typically depend on mainstream politics as it has done over the last 42 years.
Who will be the mainstream politicians during our generation? History tells us that most of the present political leaders rose through the ranks of political parties via mainstream student and youth politics. Hence, it is very likely that the student leaders of today will be our MPs and ministers of tomorrow. If that turns out to be the case, the future looks bleaker than ever; our present student leaders do not even know how to respect education, let alone the sanctity of educational institutions. Articles of them feuding among themselves and with their opposition fill our newspapers almost every day. On top of that, to rise up the political hierarchy, these student leaders will have to please and be under the mentor-ship of present mainstream political leaders. They have to please these political leaders whose morality and ethical conducts are frequently questioned. Naturally, any honest person will be filtered and thrown out of the political system. After all, you are only as good as your mentors. Hence, there seems to be an inbuilt mechanism in the present political system to ensure the promotion of corruption, in which case I do not see how corruption will decrease in the years to come.
Secondly, inequality is rising in Bangladesh. The rich are becoming richer than ever before while the poor continue to become poorer. The bulk of corrupt activities helps the rich and harms the poor. Therefore, to get rid of corruption, the voice of the lower, lower-middle and middle class needs to be heard in the country and they are quieter than ever before. They have little freedom of speech, are powerless and almost entirely isolated from mainstream politics. Instead, the political system is increasingly being seized by rich, corrupt businessmen and politicians, who are making fortunes by “virtue” of their malpractices. The future, in this case, is bleaker because most of these corrupted businessmen and politicians are only passing the torch to their sons, daughters and other relatives. Needless to say, we cannot expect much better from this segment of the next generation, as it is very likely that one’s behavior will be very similar to the environment s/he was brought up in. Surely, one should not except the son of a corrupted businessmen to pay his taxes properly and not bribe political leaders for personal gain. The privileged young generation, who will take over most of the businesses and political positions, are ready to abuse their muscle-power to get their way – father’s “back-up” and uncle’s political clout. They have little respect for others and law and order in general. The majority of them are suffering from a national identity crisis. If that turns out to be the present state of our future business and political leaders, corruption is only likely to become enmeshed in the days to come. I am not saying all politicians and business leaders are corrupt. We do have exceptions and those exceptions need to become role models for others if we are to fight corruption any time soon.
What about the youth from the lower, lower-middle and middle class? Even if they are all honest, it will make little difference as there is hardly any scope for them to rise up to prominence. They do not have the money and connections to join politics. They do not have the political clout to rise up to important positions in public service and in the government. A good percentage of them struggle to even find a decent job. Drug abuse, eve-teasing, gang violence, petty crimes and other social maladies are fast rising among them. The future looks bleak.
Lastly, we are adapting really fast to corruption as a nation. Terms like “ghush” and “cha nastar taka” to get something done are becoming more common than ever before. Such terms, in fact, have stopped bothering us. Corruption has been escalating since independence and the past generations have simply adapted to the system for survival. What makes you think that our generation will suddenly become the saviours of the system?
The only way to rescue the nation is a drastic change in mentality, and a sharp reduction in inequality – which will not happen overnight. As children, we were taught to never lie, cheat, steal or hurt others. Sadly, the present system only inspires us to get rid of those childhood values. Extrapolation only suggests escalating corruption in the days to come. n