Opinion Op Ed 28 Jan 2017 Babudom: Weeding out ...
The writer is a senior TV journalist and author

Babudom: Weeding out the deadwood

Published Jan 28, 2017, 12:46 am IST
Updated Jan 28, 2017, 6:59 am IST
Bureaucracy, steeped in corruption and nepotism, needs a surgical intervention.
Bureaucracy believes in expanding its bureau and every cadre, like a caste, promotes itself most shamelessly and unabashedly. Representational image
 Bureaucracy believes in expanding its bureau and every cadre, like a caste, promotes itself most shamelessly and unabashedly. Representational image

Recently the government retired two IPS and one IAS officer compulsorily because of non-performance. The performance of these officers was found to be sub-optimal. But according to media reports, they were facing serious charges of corruption and other irregularities also. Though the government has tried to give a strong signal, it could have given a stronger message by initiating their dismissal, or at least reduction in rank as provided under Article 311 of the Constitution. Compulsory retirement is not penal in nature and the affected employees are not deprived of their retiral benefits or pension. Since the compulsory retirement does not attract the procedural safeguard as mandated by Article 311 (2), it may have been a more practical option for the government to get rid of such corrupt, non-performing officials, otherwise they could have continued for years or even decades further. This is the irony that recourse is seldom taken to this constitutional provision for dismissal, removal or reduction in rank, which instead of being a Damocles’ sword has become a shield for depraved employees.

In another welcome move, the government has amended the All-India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1969, mandating that any inquiry against any employee must be completed within six months. Though it has not happened for the first time, such instances are rare. And the instances of dismissal are still rarer. Still it gives a ray of hope. If an honest inquiry is done, a large percentage of them would be sacked and retired compulsorily. Bureaucracy, steeped in corruption and nepotism, needs a surgical intervention; such a patchwork may not spruce up its image of being ragtag and bobtail. Though everyone talks about making the bureaucracy service-oriented, it remains a cry in wilderness as any attempt at reforming it is sabotaged by the babudom, which perpetuates status quo. During the Russian Revolution of 1917, most of the bureaucrats were sent to gallows and the remaining ones to concentration camps. Why, because they were considered agents of status quo. However, it is also true that the subsequent communist government also set up a huge bureaucracy. So, it is nobody’s case that the bureaucracy is not needed. The question is: in what form and for what purpose — to serve or to rule and loot?

 

Bureaucracy believes in expanding its bureau and every cadre, like a caste, promotes itself most shamelessly and unabashedly. It may be argued that it is based on merit and not on the accident of birth. True, caste is an immobile class and class is a mobile caste, as propagated by Ram Manohar Lohia, but it is equally true that once a class is formed, it is no less recalcitrant, and so, no less ignoble than caste. That is why, for Karl Marx, the history of mankind is that of class struggle from slavery to feudalism to capitalism and which would usher in socialism and ultimately in communism. For Marx, there were only two classes — those who owned the means of production and workers. Max Weber modified it: political power and Church also had a role in facilitating entry to the upper class. Political and bureaucratic powers are inextricably linked together. IAS officers have grabbed even those posts, which legitimately belong to technical experts of the field. This is invisible corruption.

And adding salt to the wound, they swagger that IAS officers’ jobs are not constrained by narrow specialists’ concerns. This hubris of babus is responsible for the stunted growth of science and technology in the country. Professionals prefer to go abroad and pursue their research unrestrained by generalist babus. Similarly, IPS officers have grabbed most of the senior positions in paramilitary forces leaving little scope for insiders. A recent video on social media by BSF jawan Tej Bahadur Yadav exposed the corruption of senior officers. The question cropped up whether paramilitary forces should be headed by IPS officers? They immediately countered that being outsiders they are better placed to head, as they are free from bias. Going by this logic, all directors general of police in states should be non-IPS and all chief secretaries in states and secretaries in the Union government should be non-IAS. The bureaucratic neutrality is now only a concept, which is extinct in practice. Earlier, ministers, many a time, disapproved the proposal of departmental secretaries.

Now, they don’t have to do it as secretaries send only those proposals which ministers want. The practice is not new, but now it is almost the accepted way. We saw it happening even during the Nehru era and its classic example is the Mundhra scandal, which speaks volumes on the relationship between the then Union finance minister T.T. Krishnamachari and the principal finance secretary H.M. Patel who did not show any neutrality. In 1956, the government decided to invest `1,26,86,100 of the LIC in private companies owned by H.D. Mundhra. The Chagla Commission indicted both Krishnamachari and Patel and both had to quit. It is an undeniable fact that ministers cannot indulge in corruption without the acquiescence of babus. Bureaucratic inertia can be jolted and corruption checked if there are lateral entries at senior levels. We have the example of Britain where all senior posts of civil servants are advertised as there is no promotion. There is no reason why India cannot do it.

At present, anyone qualifying in an all-India service by merit or by fluke keeps reaping the benefits of success in one exam lifelong. Merit is not a constant factor; it degenerates and regenerates. Its best example is last year’s IAS topper Tina Dabi. She is in the reserved category despite topping the exam because she cleared the preliminary test in reserved category. Only three inferences can be drawn from it — either she is quite able but flunked the preliminary exam in the general category just by chance or she topped by fluke or she improved herself so much in the next few months. Babus of these All-India Services begrudge any lateral entry at any higher level and ensure their failure by sheer groupism. Indian Information Service officers are guests in DD and AIR according to Prasar Bharati Act and they cannot head the news organisation. But they are doing so, and anyone having no knowledge or expertise of either news or television becomes DG (news), while the insiders are forced to lick their boots. A major reform is required. But who will listen?

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