Thursday, July 18, 2024

Prabal Das- An example of rampant corruption in government offices

Robinson Bhuyan (Robin)

Corruption in government offices in India has become an all too familiar tale of frustration and disillusionment for all of us. Whether you want to obtain a simple certificate or you want access to your rightful pension, it seems to have become impossible to get anything done without greasing the wheels of bureaucracy with bribes. The pervasive influence of corruption seems insurmountable in India. Despite promises from the government to eradicate this scourge since 2014, the reality on the ground remains the same across the nation.

While some strides have been made in anti-corruption efforts, particularly in Assam under the leadership of the Himanta Biswa Sarma government since 2021, the road to transparency and accountability is still filled with numerous challenges. Here, I share a personal encounter that shows the persistent grip of corruption in government offices.

My struggle began when I sought to claim the dues owed to my late father, Ex BDO Jitendra Kr Bhuyan, his pending salary from the government. What should have been a straightforward process turned into a nightmare for more than 7 years, and things got worse when I encountered Mr. Prabal Das, a clerk at the Office of the Commissioner for Panchayat and Rural Development in Juripar, near Sixmile. Mr. Das, with brazen audacity, demanded several bribes from me, including a hefty bribe of over two lakhs in exchange for processing my file. His insatiable greed knew no bounds, as he shamelessly made the demand during a menacing phone call in late March 2021.

Prior to this, in Oct-Nov 2020, since at the time, I did not have much funds, Prabal Das even went to the height of taking a cheque from me worth 5 lakhs as an assurance that I would pay him the bribe upon receiving my amount. He even put 1500 Rs into my Bandhan Bank savings account in early 2021, in order to test and make sure that my account is running. I had no other option but to comply.

Faced with this blatant extortion, I found myself at a crossroads. Do I succumb to the corruption of individuals like Mr. Das, perpetuating a system filled with injustice? Or do I take a stand, which would even risk prolonging my rightful dues? Choosing the latter, I had to threaten Prabal Das to return my check, otherwise I would be taking legal action against him. And I got back the check and I resolved to pursue legal recourse for my matter in March 2022, determined to reclaim what was rightfully mine. To my surprise, justice prevailed in less than a year, and I received the pending dues sooner than anticipated. But despite this, in these years, I had to pay a hefty amount of Rs 50,000 to Mr Prabal Das alone over the years. So, the larger issue loomed large – the impudence with which such acts of corruption are perpetrated and later ignored under the guise of “petty crimes.”

This incident serves as a clarion call to the CM’s Vigilance branch and authorities at large to confront the scourge of corruption head-on. The fight against corruption is far from over, and it requires unwavering commitment and call to action to uproot this deeply rooted problem from the fabric of our society. It is imperative that individuals like Mr. Prabal Das, who abuse their positions for personal gain, are held accountable for their actions.

Beyond punitive measures, there is an urgent need for systematic reforms that promote transparency, accountability, and ethical conduct within government institutions. Strengthening oversight mechanisms and simplifying bureaucratic processes and fostering a culture of integrity are essential steps towards building a more equitable and just society.

As citizens, we must not only demand accountability from our elected representatives but also actively promote a culture of transparency and accountability. By raising our voices against corruption and advocating for systemic reforms, we can contribute to the collective effort towards a brighter, corruption-free future for generations to come.

(I possess concrete evidence and witness substantiating Mr. Das’s corrupt practices, which I am prepared to furnish upon request.)

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