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Saddening case of the Indian Bureaucracy

By: U. Mahesh Prabhu
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(Author is Editor-In-Chief of upcoming apolitical and illustrated family magazine FOLKS and Fellow of Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, London (UK))

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In India there is no dearth of columnists arrogating to be "experts" in polity, governance and administration. But the very mirthful fact, that which I realized of late, is "how less of notions do we actually have versus the bureaucracy from these columnists". And most of the articles on them are absolutely rabble rousing - that which hardly makes any sense.

When India"s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was asked as to where in administering this country was he a failure, his answer was "Administration System". "I have miserably failed in setting right the administration - it is still the same as left by the British." The situation is no different even today. Most of the governmental works are, and have to be, routed through these bureaucrats.

Technically these Administrative officials claim to be "grossly underpaid", and yet we have more than a majority of them owning properties exceeding their financial capacities - yet none to questioning them.

Being acquainted with the political class I can claim to have a privilege of understanding the troubles faced by a politician whenever he aspires to execute a developmental work. One of the several challenges is in handling these bureaucrats. There are several illustrates where the political will has failed to implement a project just because it lacked the bureaucratic support! What is worse is that with every year passing by taming corrupt bureaucrats turns increasingly difficult.

Here"s an interesting case you all:

In the recent winter session of the parliament, on December 28, 2009, that which lasted for a meagre of [13 minutes], one of the bills passed was for amending the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA). The bureaucrats all over the country, specifically those facing allegation of corruption, fĂȘted over its passing. This was because the amendment bill was in every sense a "triumph" to bureaucrats all over the country as they were no more answerable to "pesky" investigating agency.

The only voice that which was technically visible was that of Lokayukta of Karnataka Justice Santosh Hegde. "We were struggling to get sanctions to investigate bureaucrats. Thanks to the amendments, we now have to seek permission of even retired officials" he was found saying to the press with thwarting.

He had in fact recommended "prosecution of an IAS officer under the clause 13 (1) (d) (i) of PCA." But now the [entire clause has disappeared].

The earlier law had said that "If a government official, by corrupt or illegal means, obtains for himself or any other person any valuable thing or pecuniary advantage, he or she is said to have committed an offence of criminal misconduct." It includes awarding contract to any person with the above said motive. "Now" says Justice Hegde, "the bureaucrat can award any contract to anyone and no one can question it!"

Tells a bureaucrat to a premier daily ". I have an academic question. What is the guarantee that people who succeeds those like Justice Santosh Hegde as Lokayukta will not misuse the powers given to them?" furthering "The Lokayukta is free to express his opinions and views. People like me need permission from government to speak to newspapers. The public will not understand the kind of pressure on officers like us. We have to be nice to many to retain our posts and yet get the work done, hopefully without violating the law and procedures"

The bureaucrat however "agreed" that "checks and balances" were "necessary in a democratic setup". "If you give all the powers to men like, say Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, even the opposition leaders would not complain. But is there a guarantee that the succeeding prime ministers will not misuse the power?" the bureaucrat is said to have told.

For this Justice Hegde had but one question to puzzle, which is in every regard very significant one, "If a driver of a fire force vehicle, rushing to the spot of an accident to prevent further damage to the property or save lives, commits a traffic offence, he can be pardoned. But it does not mean that the officer on duty is free to run amok causing more damage, than the one cause by the fire itself."

Alas the words of Justice Hegde will never be heard and the corrupt bureaucrats will have no troubles with their current streak of degeneracy.

With the "fear of misuse" some have began dissenting framing of any new laws. The same is the case if anti-terror laws. Then there is one idea, I wish to convey to these men: why don"t they get rid of the law itself? After all an outlaw is termed based on law, No law no outlaw(s)! Given that where arises the need for framing new laws? The rationale "Misuse" don"t even arise!

U. Mahesh Prabhu

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