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Do we want to uncorrupt ourselves?

It has been alleged, and the news was published on a campus-related news portal, that 20 teachers of the University of Dhaka, on September 20, 2021, riding on a university-owned mini-bus, had gone for a pleasure trip to a resort in Savar’s Diabari. They cited the reason for using the office vehicle as participating in an academic program on that day.
When contacted, one of the teachers, however, claimed that they first went to the workshop and later had gone for a swim. The news report, however, said the claim wasn’t true. They, the teachers, in fact, didn’t go for any workshop.
Now, this might sound like a pardonable crime; the sky doesn’t fall if we just take a small favour from our office; we may think that we’re entitled to get some of those favours. However, in this case, it was sheer cheating; saying one thing and doing another.
We wouldn’t be surprised if a bunch of government officials committed a similar action. The actions of DU teachers do surprise me a little. Teachers, to my mind, at any level, belong to a different league — a league that never compromises its own integrity at any cost. We expect them to be morally upright and to teach us how to be morally upright humans.
At the same time, we mustn’t condemn eternal damnation for them as they are also a part of a society that has all elements of corrupt practices like nobody’s business.
How many of us, with our hands on our hearts, would be able to claim that we’re not, for a moment, allured by greed and tempted to receive or take inappropriate favours? Almost none of us.
Take this situation, for example.
You’re in your workplace and you receive a phone call from your son who needs a printout as part of his school assignment. Since you don’t have a printer at home, the printout is to be obtained from a printing café in the market. But your son thought he would ask his father to get it from his workplace printer.
You also thought: “What the heck? This is a tiny favour; nothing would happen.” So you get the printout from your workplace. But the printer and the paper don’t belong to me; they belong to my office and I took them without paying anything.
When was the last time you attended a workshop or a seminar? Haven’t you seen some people pinching away markers, pens, etc, as if those were their own? Small thefts, eh? What the heck, we’d think.
In bad weather, the rickshaw-pullers would charge you Tk50 for a Tk20 fare. During a festival, the bus owner would charge Tk2,000 for a Tk1,000 fare. In a crisis, a medicine seller would charge an exorbitant price relative to the actual.
There are millions of such instances of taking small advantages. We take these for granted; we take our own misappropriations for granted as if this is the norm, for which we don’t become a sinner.
But at the end of the day, these acts of small advantages are in fact acts of corruption.
Let’s look at a recent piece of news. Transparency International, Bangladesh has claimed that people have to pay big bribes in order to get employment as teachers and principals at privately-run schools and colleges. The amounts are quite high: From Tk3 lakh to Tk15 lakh. The bribe money goes to the local political leader, and people in the school/college managing committee, as well as people in the governing bodies.
Well, this news should make us sad, but we don’t become sad these days. We know this has become the norm now, and we all should also jump onto the bandwagon. We accept the norm, prepare our psyches accordingly, and join the charade.
However, we forget that these acts have far-reaching consequences. These acts seal the avenues for us of returning to our senses. Do you think the teacher who paid Tk5 lakh to get his/her job, or a police official who paid Tk10 lakh for getting the job, would be faithful to their duties? Not in a million years! They would want to earn the money back, get their returns on investment.
Questions pop up in my mind: Do we need to uncorrupt ourselves? What benefit would that bring if we all become honest? Doesn’t the supply of money, no matter how, create an opportunity for us to live a better life?
The answers, perhaps, could be found in the wind. Some are corrupt because they can’t control their greed, some misappropriate because they cannot meet their ends, and some are corrupt just for corruption’s sake.
So, here’s a situation of collective corruption — an environment that can only change by a doomsday after which everything would start anew. But that also seems a distant possibility. It looks like we’d continue to grow corrupt for many years to come until the arrival of another messiah.
The cancer is too omnipresent to cure. But do we want the cure? Do we realize the ramifications when a society is allowed to progress in an atmosphere in which all of our integrity is at stake?
First published in Dhaka Tribune on 2nd October 2021.

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