India’s Last Hope: Banking on Bureaucracy!

Few would deny that India is suffering from a silent and deadly crisis that shows little evidence of abating. The cancer of corruption has reached fatal proportions. The collapse of governance endangers democracy and the basic rule of law. The stage managed clashes in Parliament between the government and the opposition destroy all hope of deliverance from this crisis by politicians. Across the board politicians make the appropriate noises befitting their respective roles. But their actions betray full contentment with the status quo. They want above all to complete their full terms in the House. From where then might ordinary citizens expect deliverance? 

The time has come for the passive majority among the bureaucrats to also play their role. More and more bureaucrats are getting sick of the excesses committed by politicians.

It is unrealistic, and also undesirable, to expect a population attuned to democratic elections to take to the streets and compel change. Change can come only from the elite that rule the nation. But from among the ruling elite the politicians undoubtedly comprise the worst segment. The better segments exist within the bureaucracy, the armed forces and the judiciary. Undoubtedly there are black sheep in all these three segments too. But the majority remains untainted. The fault of this majority lies mainly in playing a passive role and refusing to confront the few black sheep that smirch the reputation of an entire institution. 

Well, things can change. Things are changing. Chief Justice of India , Justice Kapadia, is utilizing all the constitutional powers at his command to initiate reform. Slowly but surely the efforts of the Supreme Court are bearing results. But those minimal results will not suffice. The time has come for the passive majority among the bureaucrats to also play their role. More and more bureaucrats are getting sick of the excesses committed by politicians. It is time for the honest among them who constitute the vast majority to take a stand. They need to remind themselves of what Jayaprakash Narain advised the officials of India to do. That advice was deliberately and shamelessly distorted by the Congress government led by Indira Gandhi to justify the illegal and treasonable imposition of Emergency.

To oppose the corrupt acts of the Indira Gandhi government JP simply urged government officials to obey only legal orders of their superiors. He urged them to disobey all illegal orders. One believes that if that advice is taken to heart by the bulk of the honest officials who man the administration the nefarious designs of the corrupt political class will be thwarted. India would reclaim governance. Indian democracy would be reformed. Any illegal or improper orders by politicians should not be accepted by officials if issued orally. The officials must insist upon written orders. Illegal orders in writing should be at first refused. Subsequently if insisted upon by higher authority the orders must be followed only after recording explicit dissent on the files. 

If the vast majority of honest bureaucrats were to unite and follow this advice corruption would end and governance would be restored. One is aware that it would not be easy to follow this advice. Politicians could transfer officials, destabilize the education of their children, harass them in other ways, and even register false cases against them.

Officials with family responsibility cannot easily take on their corrupt political masters. The venal political class that rules us is capable of anything. Nevertheless those who are honest would be sustained by inner conviction and courage if they make a firm resolve.
To meet the crisis in India sacrifice and courage are needed. The bureaucrats must summon such courage. India and history depend on them. If they act India will achieve its unique version of the Jasmine Revolution.  


More by :  Dr. Rajinder Puri

Top | Analysis

Views: 3364      Comments: 12

Comment Dear TagoreBlog,

Still waiting for your response !

Wondering, how can we stop a serious discussion in the middle - when the discussions and arguments are needed to be complete in order to find truth.

There can be three possibilities (assuming that both participants argue with facts and logic):

1. When one of the participant in discussion is wrong and other one is right.
2. When one of the participant in discussion is right and other one is wring.
3. When both the participants are having half truth, and thereby generating larger truth out of the discussion.

We neither reached possibility 1 or 2 nor possibility 3 ....

I posted last comment at 2 AM, 28 Mar 2011 - that's the time that day I got to write and post comment reflecting my thought process, tired eyes resulted in some spelling mistakes, e.g. "whistle blowing" became "while blowing".


Dinesh Kumar Bohre
30-Mar-2011 05:15 AM

Comment Dear TagoreBlog,

Read your both the posts - 'Bureaucrat Bankimchandra' & 'Bankimchandra and the Peasants of Bengal'.

But these are not relevant to the point I mentioned explaining scenaior# 1 & scenario# 2.
Could you please directly comment on the logical derivation I wrote ...
Don't know where you got this idea of Hallucination!!

On the courageous bureaucrat: The bureaucracy is not only IAS officers, it's about whole working force on the floor. So why only talk about IAS ? Let me give some examples of honest officers in recent time:

Satyendra Dubey - Director, National Highways Authority of India - got murdered for while blowing.
Manjunath, IIM student and IOC employee, got murdered for exposing an adulteration racket at a petrol pump
And only a few weeks back, Additional collector in Maharashtra, Yashwant Sonawane was murdered for detecting mafia involved in adulteration of diesel.

Didn't these offices understood the threat they if they pursue honesty ? Were they not courageous, can't we compare them to Bankimchandra for the matter of 'courage' ?

And there are many who are not yet murdered, hence they are not so well known - to whom honesty is integral part of body-mind-sole.

And not to mention those, who had to 'adjust' themselves according to the system driven by politicians, so that they can live peacefully and do their duty honestly ‘only’ where possible - I know few of them, who learned bitter lessons after coming to job.

And to mention more, my father, in his capacity as Education Manager in a large public sector undertaking, heading management of 200+ schools, himself did not bow down in pressure to favor anyone illegally - in such situations, he always asked legal orders from superior to take pre-defined action - as suggested by Mr. Puri in this article.

And more about his friend - who was Chief Education Officer in the same public sector undertaking, got extreme pressure from Managing Director of the company to change location of certain examination center so that children of some Sr. IPS officer need not travel a lot in a remote area. He refused the orders & direction from MD in interest of greater mass, ready to sacrifice his job but not ready to bow down ('you will see bad results' was the threat). Finally the IPS officer withdrew from the battle !

If he was murdered, then probably you could have known him, or if he wrote another 'Vande Mataram' and if you happened to visit the place where he was posted, then probably you could knew him !

There are numerous examples - all from this century.

These people have not surrendered to corrupt rulers, they will not. And such people will never extinguish.

'Yatha raja tatha praja' ...

Dinesh Kumar Bohre
28-Mar-2011 16:34 PM

Comment Hallucination is a disease and is incurable, Mr. Bohre.

27-Mar-2011 11:47 AM

Comment Mr. Bohre may also read my blog Bureaucrat Bankimchandra, posted in boloji, to get an idea of a really couragious bureaucrat.

27-Mar-2011 10:02 AM

Comment Dear TagoreBlog,

Read your both comments.

Scenario# 1: Ruling party (or ruling coalition) has decided to curb corruption, and has taken strong and appropriate measures to eliminate corruption in bureaucracy.
How much time corruption will last in bureaucracy ?

Outcome# 1: I believe few years (may be 2-3 years) after which an average Indian will be surprised with delight. Corruption among class 1 & 2 officers will be shown the door within this time.

If outcome# 1 is not agreeable to reader(s), then it's an issue of debate.

Scenario# 2: Ruling party (or coalition) is corrupt and is committed to take on the challengers from bureaucracy, to punish them by hook or crook.

Outcome# 2: Soon or less (considering the constitutionally dependent nature of bureaucracy on rulers - such a nominating head of a stream, e.g. even CVC is appointed by rulers), bureaucracy is going to surrender to rulers. This may not be black & white, but in general bureaucracy is going to join rulers in corruption (else rulers will be thrown out of power).

How much time the honest bureaucracy will last against corrupt ruler depends upon various factors, such as the background the bureaucrats come from, the honor society, friends & relatives have for an honest bureaucrats and so on.
If these factors are strong enough, then (and then only) bureacucracy will create enough friction and difficulties for ruler to collapse.

Scenario 2 is relevant to India - first ruler got corrupted, which in turn enforced corruption in bureaucracy.

Hence, 'Yetha Raja Tatha Praja' holds good in democracy too (with some variation).
If outcome # 1 & 2 are not agreeable to readers, then only it's matter of debate.

The article is suggesting scenario# 2 and hoping that bureaucracy will emerge to throw out corrupt rulers.

Dinesh Kumar Bohre
27-Mar-2011 09:15 AM

Comment Mr. Bohre, here is another piece, already published in boloji, in praise of your 'honest' and 'couragious' bureaucrat. Hope you will enjoy and respond.

The Small Men

This place has been over peopled by pigmies
Each one with an inflated ego
With illusions of greatness and grandeur
Seeking distinction
They are indistinguishable one from the other.

To cover up their impotence
They masquerade as omnipotent
With swashbuckling sideburns
And masculine moustache
Always bragging they appear bold
But when boldness is really needed
Uncontrollably their knees do tremble
They are haughty with the humble
Before the mighty they crumble
They are so small
They are so little
They are so brittle.

They think they are omniscient too
And repository of all wisdom.
One of them, for example,
A mastaan with a pair of thin loins
Learned only in computation
And crossword puzzle solution
With a thick head and a heart of chicken
Thinks he is the greatest of pundits on earth
Ignorant of his reputation
That he is the densest of dullards.
Walking like a stork
Does this bloated toad know
He is a past master in messing up things?
Or does he not know
That others know
He is small
He is little
He is brittle?

In the marriage mart
None is handsomer or dearer
And brought to the hammer
They get themselves bought by uglies and dollies
Yet these cuckolds and coxcombs
Think themselves Cupids
And each one a ladykiller.
Eternally engaged in an internecine fight
They profess themselves to be friends
And like benignly smiling swines
Each other they malign all the time.
Hardly able to stand on their own without a prop
Either a maternal uncle or a patron at the top
They trip each other
These fops
In their burning passion to reach the top
Have flopped themselves down so low
Do they know
Or do they not know
They are so small
They are so little
They are so brittle?

27-Mar-2011 07:05 AM

Comment My dear Mr. Bohre, in continuation of my earlier reply to your comment I would like to quote a poem I posted long ago in boloji. Of the two senior bureaucrats of the rank of Secretary to the GOI who were very shabbily treated in a largely attended official meeting held by Late Rajiv Gandhi as PM belonged to the cadre to which I belonged and I know him very intimately. I wrote this poem on him when immediately after this incident the editor of our association newsletter wrote in his editorial that bureaucrats if maltreated should respond in a fitting manner. In the early 70’s Rajiv’s mother used to talk about committed bureaucracy. Our intelligent bureaucrats got the intended message. Most of them work in a partisan manner instead of being objective. My specimen is a perfect example. During the leftist rule he did many illegal things to please his political masters. Now after retirement he has joined the Trinamul Congress. Many such notorious bureaucrats have followed his example and to all political parties they are in great demand. The borderline between bureaucrats and politicians are totally blurred today. They are birds of the same feather. You should know why the bureaucrats behave in this manner – for pelf and profit. I also wrote a poem (already posted in boloji) on a legendary honest officer, which also I quote below.

An Eye for an Eye

Dear Mr. Editor, sir,
From you I beg to differ.
At my hand many suffered humiliation
And some left their jobs in indignation
The rest are bond slaves all right
But one of them is a swine downright
With no sense of self-respect
For everybody did expect
After what had happened
He would go back to his friend
But that son of a bitch
Has burnt his bridge.
He was a rabid Marxist
Almost overnight
A damned turncoat
He has turned a nationalist
And like a neophyte
He is the most fanatic follower of the faith.
His friend a few days ago
Is now his greatest foe
And always on some plea
He spreads his friend’s calumny.
As you advise I began
By thinking him a gentleman
And treated him as such
But in my great circus
He is not even an ass
Nor an acrobat of renown
He is a bluffing clown.
All through his illustrious career
In acrobatic antics he has been a past master
To him conscience is convenience
And convenience conscience.
His burning passion
Is yet one more promotion.
For the paradise of a sty
He is even ready to die.
When none is available
Or others have some scruple
To do for me something nasty
Indifferent to morality
Or even to legality
In utter obsequity
He will do it as his duty
Without any protest
Such is his zest.
This caricature of a creature
This sleek operator
Will always volunteer
To serve as my scavenger
Ousting in a calculated manner
Those who have some sense of honour.
It is he who has formed my habit
Him and his tribe to treat
The way I treated him that day.
But as you say
It was not proper
But dear Mr. Editor,
That swiniest of the swine-herd
Has himself set the standard.
That shameless creature
Finds no pleasure
Unless he is kicked
Or by him I allow my feet to be licked.

So that is the actual situation
And according to my estimation
He is no more than a swine
And to satisfy his governing itch
My feet he will always kiss.
He will fall sick
If at regular intervals I don’t kick
On what itching part of his anatomy
Better not ask me
For continually
He has kept it on offer
In a slatternly posture
Even at the risk of the latest disease
You are welcome to see if you please.

An eye for an eye? Please don’t talk rubbish.
Before you reform others
Please reform your brothers
Specially that degenerate swine
Who boasts he has reformed the land clean.

An Epitaph for Appu

Here lies one
Whom we killed first
And canonized after.

He took it upon himself
To accomplish the impossible task
Of righting all wrongs, avenging all evils,
Of reducing the distance
Between what is and what ought to be
And unable to adjust to its ways
In righteous indignation
Abjured the world itself.
He took his bearings in life
With a sextant set by a distant star
Always looming above narrow horizons,
But the submerged rocky outcrops of the shore
Kept him away from the harbor.
Steering clear of some inevitable collisions
Ultimately he foundered.

He was unlike us, the successful lot,
Successfully navigating following no rules
Excepting those for momentary survival
Diving or swimming along the prevailing tides
And sailing with the current winds
Swerving our course to our convenience
Without caring where we ultimately reached –
The hell or the port of call.
To have a captain like him is sheer madness
It’s much better to drift
Than to row against the tide
Revolting to the galley slaves.
We would rather join the pirates
To plunder the high seas
With a banner unfurled on our foremast
Carrying his clean image
To convince the credulous shippers
We are honest merchantmen.

We would kill him to canonize
Rather than have him amongst us.
May his soul rest in peace
Leaving us to peacefully plunder.
Hang him on your drawing room wall
As a good piece of decoration:
If his ghost frowns from there
Do not care
For we are many, he is alone.
Like one of those clumsy dinosaurs
He is destined to die
It’s we who shall prosper and multiply
And inherit this pigmy world.
To ensure he doesn’t resurrect
By the infallible rule of majority
We shall elbow him out.

27-Mar-2011 05:00 AM

Comment My dear Mr. Bohre, We can go on arguing whether the seed or the fruit comes first.

26-Mar-2011 23:51 PM

Comment Dear TagoreBlog,

"And they have not been imported - they are the products of our society which wants them to be corrupt"

'Yatha Raja Tatha Praja', wrong to say that bureaucrats are products of our society which wants them to be corrupt.
It's the other way round - bureaucrats are the product of our society, but soon after they come to govt services they realize that they have to compromise with the corrupt system - where corruption is emanated and enforced from the very top, and in case of no compromise, the price to pay varies anywhere from transfer to remote areas to kidnapping (e.g. Bihar had 27 magistrates missing as per some report around year 2000).

and Mr. Puri in this article has suggested for courageous bureaucrats not to compromise on corruption which is enforced from top.

Whether, such a population who can really be courageous and willing to sacrifice among bureaucrats is a matter of debate many would like to engage to.

Dinesh Kumar Bohre
26-Mar-2011 15:16 PM

Comment You are totally mistaken Mr. Puri. Majority of the bureaucracy are corrupt. And they have not been imported - they are the products of our society which wants them to be corrupt! Sounds strange but is true.

25-Mar-2011 10:57 AM

Comment Mr Puri, the episode you are quoting is thirty six years old and India of today is very different that India of those days.Of course would know all this far better than me. Today's bureaucracy has come to the conclusion that it is futile to fight and make their lives miserable, so they have joined the loot. If you observe closely you would know that today's bureaucrats live lavishly and hold vast benaami properties, even those who are considered relatively honest.

25-Mar-2011 04:50 AM

Comment //But the majority remains untainted.//
//More and more bureaucrats are getting sick of the excesses committed by politicians//
I am not sure, your above premises holds good today. Scam after scam coming out every day show bureacracy's active involvement.
All the same, India deserves a change for the better: and let us hope, the bureacracy will change themselves and bring about a change in their political bosses actively.

25-Mar-2011 04:09 AM

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