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Corruption, Lokpal and the IAS brotherhood

Author: Kingshuk Nag
Publication: The Times of India
Date: January 3, 2012
URL: http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/masala-noodles/entry/corruption-lokpal-and-the-ias-brotherhood

There is an IAS officer in the state that I live in. In 2003, he disappeared without informing his bosses. For five years there was no trace of him, officially that is. Everybody knew that he was in the US. The government (read his colleagues in the IAS) was kind enough to persist with his ‘service’ and merely mark him "AWOL" (absent without leave). Then one day in 2008 he showed up. The government made motions of asking him why he was missing from service but he provided some answers that would put the mythological Shravan Kumar to shame (that his father in law who lived in a different city in India was unwell and he was tending to his medical needs all this while!). “Satisfied” with these answers, the government took back the officer. Of course, anywhere in the private sector he would have lost his job within a few weeks of his absconding. But this is not the end of the story. On December 31, 2011, that is, over the weekend, the officer retired on attaining the age of superannuation. To make his exit smooth, the government (read other IAS babus) on the last day of his service closed an inquiry pertaining to some alleged wrongdoing by him long ago. If the file had not been closed the gentleman would not have got his pension. A typical case of the government being one of IAS officers, by IAS officers and for IAS officers?

Read on. In the same state an IAS officer has been named in an FIR for a major case filed by the CBI as accused number 1. The case relates to loss of hundreds of crores to the exchequer. There are many other accused including “unknown some” in the FIR. But the CBI has gone ahead and arrested these unknown some and even as they are spending time behind bars, this IAS gentleman is very much in his office. Of course, I am not saying that the officer is guilty, but the fact is that he is accused number 1. Incidentally the gentleman is the principal secretary, department of home of the state government and nobody thought it fit to at least shift him to a less important post pending the FIR. What sort of signal does the public get when the accused No. 1 in a major case of corruption continues to function as the principal secretary, department of home? But as I said this is a case of a government of IAS officers, by IAS officers and for IAS officers. This is the biggest brotherhood in the country but yet the Lokpal Bill thrust by Anna Hazare and acquiesced in by the Union government concentrates more on bringing in the 55 lakh Group C and D employees under the ambit of the proposed ombudsman. This is only going to add to the burden of the Lokpal’s machinery and will result in an enormous burden on the exchequer, while the big fish will continue to flourish.

You want to hear more stories? There is an upcoming golf club in this city. A decade or so ago, golfers keen to pursue their game went and met the chief secretary asking him for land. The chief secretary said that it was fine but asked for a concession, senior government officers (read mostly IAS officers) must be allowed to become members of the club at nominal rates and they should also have a say in the management of the club (never forget even if they do not know the g of golf). So a decade later, while genuine golfers pay Rs 7.5 lakhs for a lifetime membership, the IAS brotherhood pays peanuts: Rs15,000 for the membership that brings along with it other club facilities for socializing, eating and drinking. More concessions are given to these superbabus: they were allowed to pass over the membership to not only their kin but also third parties for a nominal fee (opening up scope for black marketeering?). The story has not ended. Now that the club is growing bigger, the superbabus want to increase the number of memberships for them. At present, there are 200 babu members but more joining the ranks of babudom they are demanding 100 more.

I guess that the golfers can do nothing to resist this because the premises of the club is adjacent to a 500-year-old historical fort that is under the charge of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The golf greens has now started encroaching on the premises of the fort. But the ASI is silent. Why? Possibly this is because both the ASI director general and his boss the secretary, department of culture, are IAS officers. The story doing the rounds is that the latter is a golfer but it is quite possible that the duo at Delhi are not even aware of these violations. The funniest thing is that the government of India (GOI) is now sending (or has recently sent) a proposal to Unesco so that the fort and its premises can be declared a heritage site. Perhaps for these superbabus, golf greens is an example of the type of heritage that must be protected in this country.

These are a few examples of wrongdoing perpetrated by the IAS brotherhood that I have seen in this city. There are many other examples too numerous to be recounted. I am sure there are equally potent one in other states. I am quite convinced by what I see around that a large number of IAS officers are rank corrupt, though an equally large number are honest to the core. The really corrupt ones have made tens of crores. And for the information of the ilk of Baba Ramdev, this money is not kept in Swiss Banks. It is deployed to buy land and to run benami businesses. Everybody knows the names of corrupt IAS officers but nothing can be done to them. Many of them move around as if they are paragons of virtue. Anna Hazare and his team instead of concentrating on that elusive Lokpal Bill that focuses on 55 lakh small employees should think about how to tackle the big fish. For this is required an understanding of what makes these big babus corrupt.

Many so-called intellectuals think that corruption in the IAS can be controlled by increase their salaries to a sufficiently high level. They point to the ICS officers of the British times who were honest. But they miss the main point. The ICS officers were honest because they had no elected government to report to. Today’s politician coming up all the way through the grind for a five year term wants to break even or make profits to try to get elected for a new term. So he does illegal things and forces the superbabus to toe his line. But the superbabus of IAS can resist: because theirs is an almost lifetime employment till the age of superannuation. Nobody can sack them or throw them out of employment. The maximum that can be done is to be transferred to positions that have no scope for work and therefore corruption. But so used they have become to good life that many of them have started collaborating with the netas. It is this corruption and wrongdoing of IAS babus that has to be curbed first. This is what Anna an his team and in fact all of us should concentrate on instead of trying to nab that traffic constable who takes Rs 50 to look the other way as you jump the signals.
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