Rage against the system
The analysis on corruption and environment ( Down To Earth , Vol 7, No 11; October 31) correctly elaborates on the various systems that breed corruption in India. The role of the public in combating corruption is limited as people hardly have any access to information on such cases. Sometimes, reports in the media sensationalise the cases. And these press reports are so frequent that the old ones fade from public memory, making way for newer and more sordid tales of official greed. When some serious offences are reported in the press, the administration usually chooses to investigate how the information was leaked, rather than punishing the offenders.
The "official loot" by granting subsidies is generally done in the interest of the public but most often, these benefits do not reach the target group. Allotment of non-timber forest produce, including the diminishing wealth of medicinal plants to tribal co-operatives at concessional rates or free of cost, is an instance. The societies are ill-equipped and the strength of members in the collectors' group is insufficient to address the large volume of work. This encourages heavy pilferage resulting in losses for both the state and the tribals. Often, projects with huge outlay are launched, even as old projects are deserted for the want of maintenance funds.
Legislation on felling of trees are enacted with the object of greening the environment. But undue restrictions in these legislations act as disincentives to farmers in planting more trees. For appropriating the already-existing trees in their own land, they are even forced to encourage corruption, albeit hesitatingly.
Officials who want to remain honest find it difficult to grow. They are, therefore, forced to join the mainstream of corruption in the administration. What is needed to combat corruption is a transformation of the present system. Society should get easy access to information on all important developmental programmes. Investigations on serious issues must be completed as fast as possible, without allowing evidence to disappear. In departmental disciplinary proceedings, the inquiring authority must have sufficient knowledge of the procedure. Adequate precaution must be taken to ensure that the inquiring authority does not sympathise with the accused.
Many of these problems can be eliminated if concurrent monitoring and evaluation of the completed projects are done by the appropriate body. Though there is a provision for this in almost all project reports, it is not done in many cases.
It is difficult to eradicate corruption, but it can be minimised considerably. Environmental programmes can be made beneficial to society provided there is the will. There are ways to achieve this goal. But the question is: is there a WILL?...
I have a great deal of admiration for Down To Earth ( dte ) . But the magazine is only interested in lampooning the foresters for their failure in conserving forests. There are many people, including foresters, district forest officers ( dfo s) and rangers, who have given their lives for the cause of conservation. The success that I achieved in conservation against a thousand odds, has been a thrilling experience. But dte' s focus is only on the corrupt. The magazine appears to be more interested in itself than in saving forests....
The editor replies:
My heart, too, bleeds for that "rare" guard, forester, ranger and dfo who serves the country. But beyond that individual, is a rotten system. And I had hoped that a leader of the foresters' community like Shyam Sunder would have looked at that system and told us how to change it. We cannot be lulled into inaction by only looking at the little picture. The British, too, were not all rogues. Some were good. But we had to send the colonial system packing, even if there were some good people in it. dte is not interested in itself. As a magazine, it is trying its best to understand the problem bedeviling our forests....
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