IAS, IPS and other officers in Kerala often display a blue flag on their official vehicles, which has the same symbol as on the flag of the training academy in Mussoorie. But now that the Kerala motor vehicle department has termed it "illegal" and said there is no order from the state government that allows the flying of flags on the official vehicles of the babus.
Even earlier, babus in the state had got into trouble for not putting registration number plates on official vehicles. Even official vehicles of the state governor and several ministers were reportedly in violation of the rules. At the time, the then state transport commissioner Tomin Thachankary had taken action against this practice and also directed the removal of the flags from the official vehicles. Clearly, the order was not followed through.
Given the reluctance of babus to relinquish the trappings of their official status, this new order in all likelihood will face the same fate, unless there is vigorous follow-through. Do you know of other states that have this rule? Do share if you know.
Ex-babus still in play
Ex-babus do not always go away when their stint in the civil service ends. Often, they find themselves hoisted into government committees and continue to be productive. DKB has learnt that former shipping secretary Gopal Krishna, who heads the Conciliation and Settlement Committee (CSC) set up by the ministry of port, shipping and waterways, was crucial to settling a decade-old dispute.
The committee includes, besides Krishna, former special secretary (logistics) of commerce ministry N. Sivasailam, former DoPT secretary Dr C. Chandramouli, and former special secretary road transport and highways Shambhu Singh, among others.
The mediation by the Krishna-led committee ended a difficult dispute over a contract between the Chennai Port Authority and Chettinad Logistics, remarkably within six months. Sources say though there are more than 100 cases of contractual disputes in major ports, the success of these retired babus sends out a positive signal that disputes can be resolved quickly and also inexpensively.
Similarly, it was an alert babu who had first advised the government in 2010 to scrap the controversial Antrix-Devas deal, which is back in the news these days. Former additional secretary in the department of space Gopalan Balachandran who had been tasked with reviewing the report on the deal had advised the government to scrap the deal and investigate former top officials of the department who had withheld crucial information regarding the deal and led the Cabinet to cancel the agreement.
The good that babus do often remains buried in files and paperwork, but sometimes it does manage to get its rightful time in the sun.
Time to debate cooling-off period for babus
Politically ambitious babus find it hard to resist the call of their parent state, especially when it is headed for elections. In the upcoming assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, a few "sons of the soil" have heeded this call and exchanged their civil service career for the rough and tumble of state politics. A few weeks ago, this column (Jan. 12) had written about two senior IAS officers in UP, Asim Arun and Rajeshwar Singh, who took VRS and jumped into the poll fray. Close on their heels, DKB has learnt that additional chief secretary of Tamil Nadu, Jagmohan Singh Raju, took voluntary retirement from service, which was promptly accepted. Mr Raju has now been fielded as a BJP candidate in Punjab.
In most cases the babu-turned-netas claim that they felt the compelling need to "do something" for their native state, which they apparently were unable to do while in the service. But the exit of these senior babus once again props up the question of having a mandatory cooling-off period for babus before they can jump ship whether into politics as in this case or into other lucrative careers in the private sector.
The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) has already said so on several occasions, but the government has chosen to ignore the advice. But given the growing number of babus who are quitting the service to join politics, and often the ruling party that they served in their civil service career, the time is ripe to revive this important debate.
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