How Mizos fight corruption

This is how Mizos fight corruption in Mizoram
A citizens’ action group in Mizoram spearheading an anti-corruption campaign has devised a unique way of tracking down corrupt politicians and Government officials, unearth their wrong doings by using RTI and put them on trial through courts.
It’s a kind of secret public balloting process which they call eiru thlan bawm through which the corrupt individuals are identified. “It’s a pretty simple method,” explains Vanlalruata, president of a prominent civil society organisation, PRISM (Peoples’ Right to Information and Development Implementing Society of Mizoram).
“People are asked to write down on a plain paper the names of individuals who they think are corrupt along with some specific charges against them, and then drop it inside the eiru bawm (corruption ballot box) installed in certain designated places in the State capital,” he said.
After the expiry of the specified date, the boxes are opened in a public meeting. The allegations are scrutinised for their veracity and processed for filing of FIR against the accused individuals. Sometimes, RTI is also used to elicit more information about corrupt individuals accused by people.
In the past three months, PRISM received over 500 cases from public. Most of the allegations have been made against bureaucrats, Government contractors and politicians, who have acquired assets disproportionate to their known sources of income.
Out of the 100 odd cases so far scrutinised, at least 40 cases were found to be ‘fit for investigation’, PRISM president said. All of these cases are against officials who have amassed unaccounted assets, such as houses and farmlands in Mizoram.
PRISM along with other organisations have physically verified questionable assets mentioned in public letters and complaints, and the groups found some ‘basis’ for filing RTI and subsequently FIR against the corrupt officials.
“We will be proceeding against them soon,” Vanlalruata said, as more and more people are demanding action against corrupt politicians and officials.
“Corruption has become a real menace in our State,” said Vanlalruata and many organisations and people have been trying to find various ways to do something about it. He believes that the eiru bawm experiment — an idea which was drawn from the proceedings of an egg-theft case in a Mizo village during the British rule — would have a very deep impact on various Government departments.
The theft case goes like this: In an eastern Mizoram hamlet, villagers often complained of missing eggs from chicken coops of their houses. No one knew who was stealing the eggs. So the village authorities hit upon the idea of distributing ballot papers to each household on which the family members were to write the name of the person who they thought was stealing their eggs.
The ballots were secret and collected by persons appointed by the village authority. It was opened in a public meeting and all the ballots had the same name written on it. The man protested. He went and complained to the British officials but there was hardly anything they could do. No action was taken but after that the eggs stopped disappearing.
Eiru bawm campaign is likely to have similar impact to strengthen RTI process in the State. In fact, the organisations say, there is information that suddenly the empty coffers of certain departments are overflowing with funds again. “This happened because corrupt officials who took the Government money are returning the money before someone raises a finger at them.” Vanlalruata opined.
People are emboldened by the fact that something is happening with their own actions at last. Recently the arrest of a former State police chief and the pressure on former Home Minister Tawnluia, allegedly involved in police modernisation scam, and former Chief Minister Zoramthanga — all these are making people believe that no one can escape the law if people persist in following up cases.
Recently, the Gauhati High Court had ordered the State Anti-Corruption Branch to probe into allegations of disproportionate assets — Rs 18.65 lakh worth Maruti Grand Vitara, a luxurious mansion in Aizawl’s posh Chaltlang area and a huge Aii Puk Farm — owned by the former Chief Minister.