Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The men who rule us: good,bad and the corrupt (by Srivatsa Krishna)

Contemporary India is characterized by a 21st century economy,being run by a 14th century polity of the robber-baron variety,supported by a 19th century bureaucracy.The last few weeks have been characterized by scam after scam tumbling out of Indias cupboards,which have shamed us globally.The CWG mess where India got Kalmadi-ed,Adarsh where Ashok Chavan and Mother-in-Law Pvt Ltd cheated the nation in the name of Kargil war heroes,and the spectrum scam where Raja looted the exchequer by giving away a scarce national resource to companies who wouldnt know the difference between a telecom tower and Leaning Tower of Pisa.In each of these cases civil servants formed an integral part of the decision making.For example,it is fairly well known that Raja waited for an officer with integrity to retire before going in for the lootfest with someone much more pliable;likewise Adarsh society has serving and retired officers including Idzus Kundan,Seema Vyas,Ramanand Tiwari,Shankaran,Jairaj Phatak or their immediate family who allocated flats to themselves at a deep discount.This is unprecedented and perhaps happened for the first time in the history of independent India that serving civil servants have violated All India Service (Conduct) Rules and yet no action appears to have been initiated against them.These officers and others from both the civil service and defence services who signed the files to procure faulty bulletproof vests for Mumbai Police,or to buy coffins for the Kargil jawans,those who did not stop Raja and Chavan from running amok,or those who routinely issue NOCs to hazardous buildings which collapse much later must be tried and punished under a fast track court system setup exclusively for this purpose.

There have been some fundamental changes in the governance superstructure of India over the last two decades,and these are: First,the Westminster model of governance where the politician is expected to debate and legislate policy,whereas the civil servant is supposed to execute policy has been turned on its head.The politician more often than not,cares a damn for policy,and has instead gone into execution for he sees the pot of gold there.The civil servant is left to pass off something as policy,whose value is questionable given that it has allowed crony capitalism to flourish on a large scale.Second,the culture of the civil service has become one where accountability to a process is paramount over accountability to a result.As such,especially in the secretariats of almost every government,time and money is wasted in following due process whereas eventual impact and results are often relegated to a distant third or fourth place after personal aggrandizement,political sucking-up to name a few.Thirdly,our democracy is rapidly degenerating into a kleptocracy where the entry barriers to fighting elections namely huge money,muscle power along with the right caste and family credentials make it impossible for the average citizen with sound common weal to even dream of contesting elections.As such the masses elect a few through an imperfect electoral process which has led to fractured mandates leading to the tail wagging the dog,leading to a further splitting of the spoils to recoup election expenditure and political blackmail as standard operating procedure to bully and coerce an already timid bureaucracy.

However,we must also not forget the other side,because there is another side too.The beacons of hope are also many from the civil service with whom lives Indias hopes for a better tomorrow : We forget that it was an IAS officer namely S R Rao who was called upon to rescue Surat from collapsing during the plague who went to places where even the Army reportedly refused to go into in a boat and more recently he along with other IAS officers worked tirelessly to make the CWG a resounding success;Rentala Chandrashekhar and J Satyanarayana led Indias egovernance revolution which is touching the lives of millions today when they interact with the government at the cutting edge level.Dr T V Somanathan,another exceptional officer,has quietly designed a world-class blueprint for the Chennai metro which is being rapidly executed on the ground,as is being brilliantly done by N Sivasailam in Bangalore.Dr I V Subba Rao designed the bar-coded entry to smoothen the pilgrim experience at Tirupati one of the busiest temples in the world.

Countless faceless IAS officers work selflessly every day in circumstances,which almost no private sector professional would be willing to work in on a day to day basis.I challenge a Ratan Tata or a Narayana murthy  to report to a Pappu Yadav or A Raja or a Kalmadi and yet produce market like performance and market like results and that too while being watched over by a proactive judiciary, indisciplined staff and a rapacious media! Also we often confuse publicity with achievement and as such,many who do good work in the civil service remain unknown but that doesnt take away the good work they do every single day in very tough circumstances.

In the rarest of rare cases,the Supreme Court awards the death sentence to those who kill and rape.Perhaps the time has come to contemplate the death sentence for those who rape the public exchequer too,so that we set a public example of such cases to prevent others from doing the same.If not,we run the peril sadly accepting the uncomfortable truth that removing corruption from India is as impossible as it is to remove capitalism from America.

(The author is an IAS officer.The views expressed here are personal)


Ministers have been forced to resign and military officials are facing a court of inquiry but the bureaucrats involved in two of the biggest scams of recent times are sitting pretty.

ADARSH HOUSING SOCIETY:-At least 10 IAS officers,and other officials from the Defence Estates department and the state government directly or indirectly have apartments in the Adarsh Housing Society complex.Not a single one of these officers has given up their apartment so far;no administrative action has been initiated against any of them.The officials include:

Jairaj Phatak - He was municipal commissioner of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation till October 2009.He too was involved in several important decisions,which enabled the highrise to come up right next to military installations.He has an apartment in the name of his son.

Ramanand Tiwari - Maharashtras Information Commissioner.He was with the Urban Development department between 2001 and 2008,when most of the approvals were given to the Adarsh society.He too has an apartment in the name of his son.

PV Deshmukh - As deputy secretary in the urban development department of the Maharashtra government, Deshmukh cleared several important decisions that favoured Adarsh.He also misinterpreted a letter from the Union environment ministry and cleared construction work at the controversial site.

Pradeep Vyas - He was collector of Mumbai when land was allotted to the controversial society in July 2004.One of the officials accused of misleading Parliament.He has an apartment in name of his wife.

2G SPECTRUM:- The mega scam has already claimed the minister responsible for the telecom ministry but no action has been taken against former and current officials hand in glove with the tainted minister.Former TRAI chairman Pradip Baijal,former DoT secretary S Behuria,former PS to Raja RK Chandolia etc are among those who figure in various files of the controversial spectrum allocation.


Rakesh Mohan - A senior IAS officer,who was raided by the CBI in 2007,has been accused of taking Rs 3 crore to award a contract.Now back as education secretary in the Delhi government.

Randeep Sudan-Some serious complaints have been filed against this IAS officer,including charges of sexual harassment.He still managed a coveted World Bank posting.

Arvind Joshi and his wife Tinu Joshi-Suspension has been this senior Madhya Pradesh IAS couples only punishment so far even though the Income Tax department recovered crores from their home.

Subhash Sharma-In 2003,the CBI conducted raids across Delhi to find out if the then DDA vice chairman took crores from DLF to favour the builder.Sharma spent sometime in jail and the CBI chargesheeted him,but he went on to retire at the rank of secretary.


The neta loses his job.The officer loses his commission.But the babu manages to keep both the loot and his pension,reports Josy Joseph

It is high time somebody had the courage to infuse a bit of morality into the soul of Indian bureaucracy the steel frame of governance in this country.If all the scandals of our times have a single unifying theme,it is the central role played by the civilian bureaucracy.Thats right from the powerful Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer to the lowly clerk.In Mumbai,a clever and manipulative Defence Estates Officer,with active support from many IAS officers and military men,was able to corner a prime plot of land meant for the defence services,pull in top generals and politicians and build the 31-floor Adarsh Housing Society.Its pretty much the same story in A Rajas 2G spectrum scam.A host of officials,from senior bureaucrats to Department of Telecom officials,aided and guided the minister at every step.

In both instances,the key political leaders involved have paid a price for alleged involvement in the scam.They have been forced to resign from their postsAshok Chavan as Maharashtra chief minister and A Raja as Union telecom minister.In the Adarsh scam,the army has already started its own court of inquiry and the Ministry of Defence has ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation to investigate military officials who conspired to get themselves apartments.Embarrassed former military chiefs and Chavans relatives have given up their apartments.But we are yet to witness any such act of repentance by any bureaucrat involved in these scandals.

The trend is clear.If political leaders are caught engaged in acts of commission or omission,they are mostly forced out of office and always have to face the ultimate test - public trust during the next elections.If you are in the defence services and accused of impropriety,you can be assured of swift and harsh punishment. But if you are a bureaucrat,there is not much of a problem at all punishment is the exception rather than the norm.The message that the system seems to convey is that babus are from a different planet;the rest belong to the wobbling democracy called India.

The steel frame of a rising power,men and women who decide the fate and fortunes of one billion people is increasingly looking like a soulless greedy herd,with very few good men and women.Worse,even as other institutions at least act to placate the angry,the civilian bureaucracy sits back and aloof as if the scams dont concern it at all.

As India takes a closer look at government corruption,there is growing anger against the visible immunity enjoyed by bureaucrats.In the last week or so,almost every gathering of young politicians and military officers is charged up and anger at the way the civilian bureaucracy appears to be,in their words,getting away with murder.

A recent gathering of young MPs,for instance,expressed loud and exasperated frustration at the apparent immunity enjoyed by bureaucrats involved in the Adarsh scam.One MP speculated that it seemed the babu had the best of all wordsit was practically impossible to dismiss them.Another argued that unlike politicians,babus never have to face the public test of their efficiency and honesty.All agreed that it was the wily babu who helps the politician manipulate processes and 6in order to and doctor files to rob the hungry and poor people.

As India liberalized over the last two decades,there was genuine hope that the iron-grip of bureaucracy would be replaced by a more efficient administration of technocrats and neutral regulators.A few years ago,BS Baswan,who was then head of the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration in Mussoorie,predicted that the IAS may simply not exist a generation from now.Some 20 years ago,the Academy had predicted the evolution of technocrats.It said they would head regulatory bodies as the state withdrew from micromanaging governance.

Its predictions were completely and utterly wrong.As the state itself gets involved in welfare programmes such as NREGA and undertakes nationwide tasks such as infrastructure development,the babu has emerged as ever more powerful.The babus grip on the nations resources and exchequer has actually tightened.

The result of that ever-tighter grip is most visible most in departments that conduct critical public functions.In all of them,corruption has been institutionalized.In the national capital,a bribe is de rigueur if you want to register property.Were one to add the police force to Indias bureaucratic framework,the picture that emerges is disconcerting,ie for the average citizen,this is a cruel and corrupt police state.You have to pay a bribe to file an FIR and almost the same money can be used to hire a policeman to harass someone. The corruption-free government department is all but unknown in India.

A large number of officials serving in the so-called lucrative departments customs and income taxare multimillionaires.They have apartments and own property in almost every big Indian city.A senior IAS officer who recently visited an academy that trains young civil servants was shocked by the way they discussed the ill-gotten gains they could expect in the course of their careers.The systemic corruption that has seeped into Indias steel frame is so staggering that it is not unusual for whistleblowers to be harassed in many departments.And for silent but honest officials to hunted down if they refuse to take their share of the booty.

The Defence Estates department,which is under the scanner in the wake of Adarsh housing scam,is a classic example of what most government departments have become.Of the five officers of Indian Defence Estates Service recently cleared for promotion to the rank of additional secretary,four face serious allegations of financial misdeeds.At least one was originally a member of the Adarsh society,another was raided by the CBI on one occasion and others have faced vigilance indictments in the past.

So,how do babus get away with it The loot And the pension The short answer is politics.The Indian political system,which us driven by a humungous amount of black money,is heavily dependent on its supremely clever bureaucracy to find ways and means to rob the republic.No major national party can operate using clean money alone.Together,the babu and the neta have created a system in which politics,elections and all related activity is driven by massive amounts of black money.

As a weak executive leadership,made up often enough of morally bankrupt politicians,looks the other way the civilian bureaucracy is having a free run.Often,when bureaucrats retire,they merely head right back into the service to head regulatory bodies such as,say,the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.The recently released report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India on the 2G spectrum scam is a ringing indictment of some of the most senior officers in the Department of Telecom and TRAI.

If the corrupt babu is sitting pretty its because he feels invincible.Despite aggressive efforts by the Central Vigilance Commission,it takes months for a government department to permit the corrupt to be prosecuted. All too often,permission is never given.

Interestingly,in this season of scams,the political and army class are under scrutiny,but the baby remains unscathed.No firm action has been taken by the Cabinet Secretary;nor has the civil service asked for any.

For India,an emerging power,this immoral babudom may be the poison that finally smothers its dreams.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010



AMBIGUITY IN LAW - SC asks Centre to fix age for girls marriage

New Delhi: Four years ago,the National Commission for Women (NCW) and its Delhi chapter (DCW) had sought an answer from the Supreme Court as to what should be the age of marriage for a girl,given the different figures given in various laws and the resultant confusion.

On Tuesday,counsel for the commission Aparna Bhat pointed out that despite the lapse of a long time,the Centre has not yet filed its response.A Bench comprising Justices Dalveer Bhandari and Deepak Verma impressed upon additional solicitor general Indira Jaising that "it's a matter of vital importance" and that the Centre should think of amending a few statutes to bring uniformity in the age of marriage.

The question -- "what is the age of marriage" -- was raised before the SC by NCW and DCW citing two judgments,one by the Delhi High Court (October 5,2005) and the other by the Andhra Pradesh High Court (February 1,2006) allowing underage girls to marry their beloved.

The HCs,the petitioners said,were aware of the law but ruled in favour of the underage couples in view of the confusion created by a host of laws in force in India at present.While assuring those whose marriages were held valid by the HCs not to worry and carry on with their lives,the apex court had in 2006 asked all courts not to draw inspiration from the two HC orders.

The petitioners had pointed out that as many as seven different laws and regulations existed in the fields pertaining to the minimum age of marriage,definition of child and the age to give consent for sex as well as child marriages in certain areas.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

EXTRA ORDINARY ISSUE - Will the guilty be punished ? (By Pritish Nandy)

Why is it every politician accused of a scam,however big and ugly,always protests his innocence,asks for an inquiry,and states (without the slightest embarrassment,even though he may be caught with not just his hand but his arm,elbow and shoulder in the cookie jar) that he is clueless about the crime and therefore finds no reason whatsoever to give up his office Ashok Chavan is no exception to this rule.

Suresh Kalmadi is exactly where he was before the CWG scam broke out and the nation woke up to the fact that a huge part of the Rs 70,000 crore spent on the Games was simply purloined by a bunch of shameless crooks who held up the nation to ridicule before the world.Despite all the hot air blown and the multiple inquiries launched from the PMO,Kalmadi still sits in his corner office with a smirk on his face,telling the whole world to go do its worst.He is Teflon-clad.Nothing hurts him.He appears to be beyond all inquiry, above the reach of all investigators,and by the time the multiple agencies complete their mammoth task of chasing down the crooks in this huge heist,the nation would have moved on to other,bigger scams and the media will be chasing yet another set of irascible rogues.No wonder Kalmadi smirks.

So does A Raja.Its well over a year since the 2G scam broke,assessed between Rs 20,000 and Rs 60,000 crore,but all that the media and the Opposition could elicit from the Government was a half hearted CBI enquiry that,last Friday,made even the Supreme Court comment on its tardy pace and inquire sarcastically whether a decade will have to pass before the inquiry is complete.What about the man involved in this huge scam No,Raja is not cooling his heels in a prison.Nor does he look embarrassed in the least.He still struts around as Indias telecom minister,much to the dismay of even the Supreme Court.He remains a respected member of the Prime Ministers cabinet.Does he give a damn about the inquiry No,doesnt look like it.He sports the same smirk that Kalmadi does.

Chavan looks more dour than both.In that sense,he is closer to Satyams Ramalingam Raju.But like Kalmadi he is now busy pointing his finger at others.Senior and not so senior but critically placed bureaucrats,most of them chosen by him, army and navy chiefs, even his own so called distant relatives who wangled flats at Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society. He claims he had no idea that they were up to no good. Just as Kalmadi is pointing his finger at Shiela Dixit,the Delhi administration,and all the other agencies who were involved in expending the astronomical Games budget.Kalmadi also tried to whip up patriotic sentiment, suggesting that those criticising the loot of the exchequer were actually antinationals trying to undermine Indias image before the world just before the staging of the Games.Luckily, no one fell for that arrant nonsense and,even after Indian athletes performed spectacularly at the Games,Kalmadi was still booed every time he got up to speak.So much so that to avoid embarrassment the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi nixed his name from their guest list for the celebration parties.

But see,he is still there.In office.So is Chavan.So is Raja.So are a whole bunch of people who have been, otherwise,spurned by the public.Even RR Patil,Maharashtras Home Minister (and Deputy CM) during 26/11, is back in office. This time,he has Ramesh Bagwe with him,as his Minister of State,to make matters worse.Shinde and Vilasrao cannot return to Maharashtra to replace Chavan because,it appears, they too played a crucial role in the same scam.So did a whole lot of senior Government officers who have mastered the art of breaking rules to please their political benefactors and make money and property for themselves on the sly.Land reserved for Kargil widows and war heroes.Homes for the homeless, for beggars, vagrants, street children. Land for public hospitals.Parks.Public gardens.Mangroves.Forest land.Land under the CRZ. Salt pan land. There is nothing they will not grab.

The tragedy is not jut the loot.Its the punishment.No one in power ever gets punished even when they are caught in flagrante delicto.Yes,a few get rapped on the knuckles but the process of inquiry,investigation and,eventually,justice takes so long that seasoned scamsters have learnt how to cope with it.Even when punishment happens,which is rare,very rare,it is too little too late.And by that time no one quite cares. Newer, bigger rascals have emerged. Strange,how we beat a pickpocket to death.We lynch a petty thief. We lock away for years on end,poor people who may have committed some minor indiscretions out of severe, back breaking poverty. But the rich and the powerful step away from their enormous crimes to pretend that nothing ever happened.

(Views expressed by columnists in Hyderabad Times are their own,and not that of the paper)