Spe­cial: Skul­dug­gery in in­dian bu­reau­cracy

Skul­dug­gery is on the rise in the ad­min­is­tra­tion

Governance Now - - FRONT PAGE - ajay@gov­er­nan­cenow.com Ajay Singh

In 1988, at the peak of the ra­jiv gandhi-vp singh face­off fuelled by me­dia ex­poses, the most re­spected ed­i­tor of those times, gir­i­lal Jain, wrote a com­ment in The Times of In­dia with the head­line, “a gala­had of the Press”. It was a rare front-page ed­i­to­rial, and it con­tin­ued over into an in­side page. It clearly tar­geted In­dian Ex­press ed­i­tor arun shourie for pur­su­ing more ac­tivism than jour­nal­ism.

With­out go­ing into the mer­its of the is­sue that Jain had raised, I am here re­fer­ring to the us­age of the word ‘gala­had’. as a rookie re­porter of the TOI back then, I won­dered what on earth it meant. I con­sulted a dic­tio­nary and found that ‘Gala­had’ is one “who is pure, no­ble and un­selfish”. The us­age comes from sir gala­had, who in arthurian leg­end, pur­sues the Holy grail, an ideal im­pos­si­ble to at­tain.

Time is noth­ing but a col­lec­tion of me­mories. The ‘gala­had syn­drome’ that af­flicted the In­dian press in the eight­ies has also taken in its grip the en­tire In­dian bu­reau­cracy too. The spec­ta­cle of the bit­ter­est-ever bu­reau­cratic gang war be­ing fought in the cor­ri­dors of power and be­hind the por­tals of the coun­try’s high­est court on June 27 is only sym­bolic of the rot that has set in. and all this has been hap­pen­ing in the name of hon­esty and in­tegrity.

since in­di­vid­u­als are not im­por­tant, I in­tend to avoid tak­ing names. But look at the man­ner in which an of­fi­cer of state civil ser­vices gets in­te­grated into the en­force­ment direc­torate (ed) and se­cures ju­di­cial in­ter­ven­tion to get im­mu­nity from any ac­tion against his al­leged mis­de­meanours. a bench of the supreme court re­moves that im­mu­nity and di­rects the of­fi­cial to submit him­self to scru­tiny like any other of­fi­cer. The court also refers to a sealed en­ve­lope and points out that the con­tents shown to the court were enough to war­rant a scru­tiny by the gov­ern­ment on the con­duct of the of­fi­cer.

Was there any­thing wrong in this or­der? Prima fa­cie, it ap­pears to be a fair or­der which sub­jects the of­fi­cial to a reg­u­lar in­quiry with­out giv­ing him blan­ket im­mu­nity. But if you see the fall­out, it would ap­pear as if a mon­u­men­tal sin has been com­mit­ted. The ed is­sued a press state­ment vouch­ing for the in­tegrity of the of­fi­cial and even mak­ing a gra­tu­itous ref­er­ence to a phone call from dubai. The state­ment in­sin­u­ated that the gov­ern­ment was lead­ing the sc bench up the gar­den path by giv­ing a sealed en­ve­lope which con­tains noth­ing but fic­ti­tious charges.

Whether true or false, there is hardly any doubt that a sec­tion of civil ser­vants in the coun­try have as­sumed they are the sole pur­vey­ors of truth, ex­ter­mi­na­tors of cor­rup­tion and de­fend­ers of democ­racy. and they have been con­sis­tently sub­vert­ing the sys­tem to pur­sue their own Holy grails ir­re­spec­tive of the gov­ern­ment’s agenda. The man­ner in which the ed has been tar­get­ing the rev­enue sec­re­tary, an IAS of­fi­cer with unim­peach­able in­tegrity, is only il­lus­tra­tive of drift in var­i­ous or­gans of the gov­ern­ment.

Iron­i­cally, this is not an iso­lated in­stance. The CBI is also suf­fer­ing from in­ter­nal fac­tional feuds that are look­ing like a ver­i­ta­ble gang war. The modus operandi of these gala­hads who are self-pro­claimed “pure, no­ble and un­selfish souls” runs quite sim­i­lar to the underworld gangs. They col­lude with ac­tivist-lawyers, pass on half-truths and con­ve­nient in­for­ma­tion to make cases for pub­lic in­ter­est lit­i­ga­tion (PIL) and hold the sys­tem at ran­som through ju­di­cial in­ter­ven­tion. In delhi such a clique not only thrives in the name of hon­esty and in­tegrity but has also de­vel­oped ten­dency to is­sue char­ac­ter cer­tifi­cates to fel­low of­fi­cials who have not yet ac­quired the ad­e­quate char­ac­ter­is­tics of a gala­had.

In ut­tar Pradesh, a group of Ias of­fi­cers had taken upon them­selves the task of iden­ti­fy­ing the most cor­rupt of­fi­cers among them­selves. In Haryana, an IAS of­fi­cer as­sumed the role of sole ar­biter of pub­lic good and called ev­ery­one else who did not fall in his line cor­rupt. They seek im­mu­nity and pro­tec­tion in the name of their self-pro­claimed mis­sions, cloak­ing in­ef­fi­ciency and tru­ancy. Most such of­fi­cers ex­pend their en­tire ca­reer in cre­at­ing a par­al­lel sys­tem in a bid to sub­vert the sys­tem. It ap­pears quite at­trac­tive at first but ul­ti­mately turns out to be a big­ger threat than cor­rup­tion in de­rail­ing the en­tire ed­i­fice of gov­er­nance. The prob­lem with these gala­hads is that they tend to ig­nore the glo­ri­ous his­tory of sac­ri­fice, ded­i­ca­tion and hon­esty of thou­sands of In­dian civil ser­vants since in­de­pen­dence.

It would be com­pletely out of place in this con­text to re­mem­ber those rare of­fi­cers who, when cor­nered, did not have to re­mind the world of their hon­esty be­cause ev­ery­one else spoke up on their be­half. I promised not to take names, but let me make an ex­cep­tion for an ex­cep­tional of­fi­cer – Har­ish Chan­dra Gupta. He is an ex­cep­tion who proves the rule.

Arun ku­mar

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