Bhutan’s anti-corruption drive should begin from roots

Of late, our newspaper headlines and news stories are bombarded with news of corrupt officials being reprimanded by law enforcers.

From swindling government revenues to illegally encroaching state land and numerous instances of policy corruption and red-tapism, corruption is gradually beginning to pop its ugly head leaving behind a trail of afterthoughts and a hell lot of redeeming and soul-searching.

While our law enforcers and transparency stakeholders like the Royal Audit Authority and Anti-corruption Commission are on their toes to keep this fight going, it is apparent that instances of corruption and those getting behind the bars for dirtying their hands are only growing.

The alarming number of those opting to go abroad, despite having a sound job and profession back home, is apprehension enough that we do not have a decent platform or a level playing field in most of our institutions be it the government, corporate, or the private sectors. They are disgruntled with the so-called ‘system’ and hence seek a leeway by opting for alternative pastures abroad. 

Government engineers are seen working for private companies while availing of a perk called ‘EoL’ whatever that means. It is said that the tender committees at the ministry, dzongkhag, and gewog levels collude among themselves and unnecessarily harass contractors who are not willing to sacrifice a substantial amount under the table. Our spiritual gurus and rinpoches have become loan sharks while the caretakers of the prominent place of worship are dreaming of the next big SUV as the donations keep pouring.

Where has gone wrong then?

Like the proverbial assertion that demands a “bent and crooked finger to scoop out the butter,” most Bhutanese today is clouded by the misguided notion that being truthful and principled will lead one nowhere while licking your bosses’ boots will come with rewards of promotion, better perks and numerous paid trips abroad.

These unnerving developments reflect that this social malice called corruption and mistrust is deeply rooted in our psyche and our so-called ‘systems’. Therefore, if we are to see any visible fruits of our drive against uprooting this malady from our society, then we must look back to the fundamentals.

While the fundamentals of imbibing values begin in individual homes where parents play a huge role, equipping our education system where our children spend a mammoth 16-year of their lives from pre-primary till the day they graduate can be a vital tool to start sowing the seeds of this initiative. Our education system should start imbibing special lessons and subjects that can imbibe values in our children and teach them that ‘corruption’ is unforgivable.

The education ministry can kick-start the initiative by introducing special lessons on corruption and value education that is aimed at inculcating good moral values among our children. While this step seems too far-fetched to see any instant results, it will definitely become significant over the years as our children learn to cultivate these crucial ethical yardsticks in their lives.

Let us start implementing these values today.