Politically Inappropriate Talks on Corruption
Thanks to A. Raja, Kalmadi and Anna Hazare, it has now become fashionable not only to talk, but also to form associations, organize demonstrations and sit on dharnas against corruption. And an all powerful Lokpal is considered to be the Ramban-Oshadhi against corruption of every form or magnitude. However, in deference to political propriety, rarely a voice is raised against such inappropriate actions of the government as well as its three wings of administration, as have been the most important causes of rising corruption among the government employees. Lokpal might rein in a few high-ups, but he will never be able to intervene in the day-to-day corruption of the hoard of corrupt government employees. And government employees are the abettors, perpetrators as well as controllers of corruption.
It is true that today Netas control the reins of bureaucracy and to a large extent that of bureaucratic corruption, yet it cannot be gainsaid that initially Netas were either too honest, too meek or too ignorant to indulge in brazen corruption like today. It is the bureaucracy - managed and controlled in the field as well as in the secretariat exclusively by the I.A.S. /P.C.S. - that taught the Netas the art and science of corruption and gradually fell from the position of advisor to that of a crawling slave. In fact, the I. A. S. - which was the new name for Steel-Frame given to I. C. S. by the British-, ensured that democracy never devolved in governmental services. The unitary and arbitrary control of various services by the I. A. S. without commensurate responsibility demoralized other services, and even honest officers of other services had to resort to corrupt practices, if their bosses in the administrative service so demanded.
The service rules of government employees - and particularly those of All India Services- were unduly protective towards the employees; therefore, it has always been a Herculean task to punish an employee. And, unfortunately, the post-independence governments have been making these rules more and more employee-friendly. For example, in the state of U. P. earlier the departmental proceedings against policemen were dealt with under the Indian Police Act, but later this was replaced by Civil Services Act bringing policemen on par with all other employees. Similarly, stringent provisions of P. A. C. Act were also made inapplicable by the new Civil Services Act. Even if some officer took the pains and courage to punish an employee, there is provision for appeal and then revision within the department and, thereafter of course, for fighting legal battle in the courts. And the decision of the punishing authority was usually overturned by one of these authorities. This demoralized the punishing officers.
The process of demoralizing strict officers was also expedited, although vicariously, by a circumstance rarely discussed in open forums although often mentioned by senior officers in private talks. Those who have been part of Indian bureaucracy in the early days know it well that in their zeal to protect the rights of workers- who were presumed to be exploited even if they were the worst exploiters of the liberal system - the grant of frequent stay-orders by courts against transfer, suspension and dismissal orders of the erring employees resulted into highly demoralizing the punishing authority and emboldening the undisciplined and corrupt employees. From my personal experience as a senior officer I can state with confidence that on many occasion interference by Netas did not demoralize me so much as some of the court orders staying or overturning my orders to punish the subordinates. Nothing can be more humiliating for an honest officer to get his order being thus thrown back on his face by a corrupt or undisciplined subordinate.
Reservation in promotions proved to be the last straw to break the back of honest officers. It is an eye opener to go through the proceedings of any departmental promotion committee. All the vacancies at higher level to which promotions are to be given are marked as ‘general’ or ‘reserved’ according to a roster prescribed by the government. And each promotion has to be made accordingly. Concomitantly, in many vacancies of reserved category such candidates have to be promoted who are not only junior to general candidates but also inefficient, undisciplined, and thoroughly corrupt. Now only a foolishly optimistic person should expect honest behavior from such dishonest employees, who are assured of their promotion on caste-basis. Many a reserved category police constables have been heard telling on the face of their Head-constables, “Deewan Ji, chup raho. Tum jo bhi chaho mere khilaf likh do, Sub-inspector to mai hi tumse pahle banunga.” In such a scenario only too naïve a person should expect any senior officer to be able to rein in the corrupt subordinate. Since in many states a new rule has been issued according to which junior reserved category officials bypass their general category seniors at each stage of promotion, all top posts of every state department are being filled by reserved category officers alone. All senior, honest and hardworking officers of general category have to sub-serve the junior, inefficient and dishonest officers of reserved category.
Unfortunately, there are no Anna Hazares to go into the nitty-gritty of these dishonest-friendly policies and sit on dharna against them. People either don’t know these details or are simply shy of speaking something perceived to be politically inappropriate. The ignorance of administrative details is so wide spread that in the panel for Lokpal Bill, no police officer, whose duty is to catch and prosecutes a corrupt person, was included while two such members were included whose profession had been to get the corrupt acquitted by the courts. Perhaps this is because it is politically appropriate to include judges, advocates or I. A S. officers in any panel on legal matters (see the composition of Law Commissions/ Human Rights Commissions, etc. of the Centre or the States) and a political blasphemy to include a police officer, although he spends his whole career in facing the nitty-gritty of criminal law. Some dalit leaders demanded inclusion of a Dalit in the panel- and, it does not require great brains to guess which legal luminary would be the choice of such leaders for Lokpal.
Nothing substantial can be achieved in attacking corruption, if we do not gather enough courage to speak freely against the causative factors of corruption. Till then God save the Nation.
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Mahesh Chandra Dewedy
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