New Delhi, March 17 (IANS) Even as the post-retirement stand taken by former bureaucrats in the Ishrat Jahan case has re-exposed the chink in the politicians-babus nexus, a new book by Jammu and Kashmir Governor N.N. Vohra says “politicisation of public services” has left a negative impact.
“The politicisation of public services, with money and muscle power playing an increasing role, has negated the scope of orderly functioning,” says the book ‘Safeguarding India – Essays on Governance and Security’ by Vohra, also a former union home secretary.
“To remain in power at any cost, the political executives consciously select pliable officers,” says Vohra, who in 1993 authored the famous Vohra (Committee) Report on the nexus among criminals, politicians and bureaucrats in India.
“Over the years, governance through known policies, systems, rules and procedures has been vitiated by political interference and all kinds of extra-constitutional pulls and pressure,” says the book (published by Harper Collins Publishers).
Serving officials, on the condition of anonymity, agree to most of what Vohra says with a few stating that mostly the political class and hidden ambitions of the babus are to be blamed for the loss of credibility of Indian steel frame.
“The latest instances suggest politicians of all hues believe in using and abusing the bureaucracy,” said an office-bearer of IAS Association in poll-bound West Bengal.
“The instances of former Delhi police commissioner B S Bassi playing into political tune or former top babus like G.K Pillai coming forward turning the tables on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s known detractor P Chidambaram vis-a-vis Ishrat Jahan case is a point in case,” he says.
The political class seems to agree about the rot.
“If G K Pillai had an issue with the affidavit on Ishrat case, he should have complained then. I did not expect this from a senior officer,” K C Tyagi, member of parliament of Janata Dal (United), told IANS.
In 2011, a bizarre episode reflecting muscle-flexing by bureaucracy had come to light when a parliamentary panel probing the 2G scam found that former Telecom Secretary A. V. Gokak had “overruled” then Prime Minister I K Gujral in 1997 and referred the study on licensee fees to other fora instead of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) as directed by the then prime minister.
“This was a major lacuna. This should not have happened. Prime Minister is the highest authority and any order from him should have been implemented in letter and spirit,” then Joint Parliamentary Committee chairman P C Chako had said.
But complexities in Neta-Babu relations is nothing new as there have been several such instances of bonhomie and at times political arm twisting as well as kowtowing of the steel frame in front of the political class.
Under UPA several babus and former military men thrived in post-retirement careers.
Top brass in intelligence M K Narayanan was accommodated first as National Security Advisor and then as Governor of West Bengal.
The likes of P C Haldar and R S Pandey were assigned as negotiators to deal with ultras in the northeast.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 3 during his reply to the debate on President Pranab Mukherjee’s address to Parliament made terse remarks on babus in the Lok Sabha and said, “arbo-kharbo ka tankha ja raha hae (Crores are being given as salary of government servants)”.
True, Indian bureaucracy, known for its huge numerical strengths and peculiarity in performance, has grown from 1,232 in 1951 to over 5,000 in 1996.
By 2011, according to officials in the Ministry of Personnel, total sanctioned strength of IAS officers as on January 1 was 6,077 and of these 4,488 were in position, thereby making a shortage of 1,589.
The problems for babus mount once good work yields reprimand, say some. “I know of former Punjab DGP O P Sharma who worked in tandem with KPS Gill to curb the spinal cord of Punjab militancy. But once government changed in the state, he was hounded out by the Brar government,” says a Punjab cadre official.
Least to say, former Chief Election Commissioner T N Seshan, known for his maverick style, had acidly coined a phrase “I am sorry” for abbreviation of IAS.
(Nirendra Dev can be contacted at email@example.com)