Friday, August 9, 2013

Durga Nagpal Is Not Alone

3 IAS officers who walked the same path as Durga Shakti have suffered worse-ET

All-India services are like the children of the Central Government, and they have completely abandoned their children.
The dust raised by the Durga Shakti Nagpal  row is yet to settle. But chances are that the key issues that the abrupt suspension of a young IAS officer raise will be sacrificed at the altar of political brinkmanship between the Congress and the Samajwadi Party. Here we take a look at three officers, from three states, who have walked the same path and have suffered worse. Yet, they quietly get on with their job, from 'insignificant' postings.

IAS thrives & survives because of its integrity: Ashok Khemka, Haryana 

"See it in simple terms. Don't complicate and don't box people in categories - sex, caste, gender, creed and now profession," says Ashok Khemka from his Chandigarh offi ce where he is the Secretary, Department of Archives, Goverment of Haryana --- his 44th post in just about two decades. "What she (Durga Shakti Nagpal) did as a young offi cer is commendable. And I don't praise her just because she is a bureaucrat. Very few young IAS offi cers would have dared to do this," Ashok Khemka tells ET. 

Khemka's apprehension is that the issue is getting reduced to a plain-vanilla politician vs bureaucrat debate. Asked about Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav's comments that Uttar Pradesh doesn't need IAS offi cers, Khemka feels everyone is entitled to have his view. 

"His view is fair enough, if IAS can't maintain integrity, it's a fair view. The IAS must be seen to be contributing to the state welfare and not just occupy the cadre post. I want to make it clear that here I am not defending or criticising the IAS cadre. It's a view. It's time for introspection from within the service. IAS thrives and survives because of its integrity. It was thought that this cadre is going to be the fair arbiter." 

"Why did Ram Gopal say so? Is India up in arms against him for saying so?" asks Khemka. 

"I am not defending the IAS, at the same time not criticising the service. This case should be viewed dispassionately, as she was doing her duty. Not because she was an IAS." 

A politician is not a lofar or not the one whose integrity is always doubtful. Can any bureaucrat be a match for Jawaharlal Nehru or Atal Bihari Vajpayee? Even among the present crop, I can name 20 of them, and I doubt if any bureaucrat today match their stature, he says. 

In this Durga Shakti case, even bureaucrats were involved. Who drafted her charge sheet ? It's the bureaucrat who drafted it, he says. 

"The situation is clear, if you work without fear and favor, you know the answer. You give me any situation, the answer is clear as per the law. The problem is, when you have different considerations. Even a constable can fine a judge if he breaks the signal. Dilemma is when he thinks he will be suspended and refuses to take the action out of fear. What system can you design? There are different people. Here the traffic constable is a unique example of all shades of responsibility. He fines, whom he wants to and he leaves whom he wants to," says Khemka. 

(Viney Sharma)
A Class X topper -- also Class XI, Class XII, IITJEE and, finally, the Civil Services Exam in 1992 -- Raju Narayanaswamy's career started unravelling after he initiated a probe into a land deal in which a minister's son and daughter were allegedly involved. The minister eventually had to resign. 

Raju Narayanaswamy started his career as the Sub-Collector of Alleppey. He was later posted as the district collector in Kottayam, Pathanamthitta and Kasargod. It was when he worked as the district collector in Thrissur that Raju Narayanaswamy decided to take up a road widening project. Though the project cleared some major traffi c bottlenecks in Thrissur, there were many in the government who thought that his move was ill advised. 

It was the previous Left Democratic Front (LDF) ministry headed by VS Achuthanandan that made him the district collector of Idukki. Achuthanandan handpicked three offi cials, Narayanaswamy, Suresh Kumar and Rishi Raj Singh for his Operation Munnar, a major exercise for the eviction of encroachment. 

But Raju Narayanaswamy courted controversy in Idukki also through an enquiry into the land deal in which a minister's son and daughter were involved. The minister had to resign but Narayanaswamy was shifted out of the district. 

He later became the Commissioner, Civil Supplies Department, but was removed from the post when a vigilance enquiry was ordered against the concerned minister. The commissioner's opinions are important during the inquiry. It is widely perceived that Raju Narayanaswamy was removed due to the fear that he might give a report that is unfavorable to the minister. 

Raju Narayanaswamy was offered a scholarship by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). But he opted for the Civil Service to serve the country. Though successive governments in the state have been sidelining him, the crusade against corruption will continue, he said. "I lead an ordinary life and have no problem in traveling by bus or by boat", he said adding that he would be happy if he is known as someone who fought against corruption. 

He firmly believes that a civil servant is answerable to the constitution and the people. 

"Hats off to Durga", he said for showing that the "tryst with destiny" has not turned into a "tryst with destitution". 

(S Sanandakumar)
The central government has abandoned its children: C Umashankar, Tamil Nadu

Over a period of time, politicians have understood how to tame the bureaucrats, especially those from the Indian Administrative Service, Indian Police Service and the Indian Forest Service. And this is directly proportionate to the quality of politicians India has generated over this time. Earlier, politicians had respect for the all-India services officers, wanting them to be honest and upright.

The power to suspend has been delegated to the state government. The power to initiate serious disciplinary action was vested in the Central government. It has also been delegated to the state government. Transfers and postings are with the state government from the beginning. It should have been regulated by the Central government, and the central government has failed. 

The one regulation they should have got right from the beginning is security of tenure. A minimum tenure in each posting has not been laid down by the Central government, and it's a gross failure on their part. All-India services are like the children of the Central Government, and they have completely abandoned their children. 

There is no grievance redressal system except the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), which was supposed to be an agency of the level of the high court. Some 10-12 years ago, the Supreme Court downgraded the CAT to the equivalent of a district court. For example, my peon, if I suspend him, can directly go to the high court and get it addressed. But if the state government suspends an all-India service offi cer, he/she has no option but to go to the CAT. The CAT so far has failed to come to the rescue of the upright offi cers. What is normally available for even a peon is not available for all-India service offi cers. 

The politicians have understood that whatever action they take, the offi cer can at the most go to the tribunal. And 99.9% of the time, the offi cers don't go to the court as they know nothing will happen. I have gone to the tribunal a few times from 1995, but there was no result. CAT is probably a good institution for railway engine drivers, post masters etc. But it has failed to checkmate corruption and irregularities by protecting the honest IAS/IPS/IFoS offi cers. 

State governments create dummy positions and call them ex-cadre position and send unwanted IAS offi cers there. For example, the posting I am holding now is equivalent to what a district revenue offi cer holds. A district revenue offi cer has to work for 10-15 years to get conferred into IAS. The State governments all over India have understood that they can create these illegal excadre posts and sideline honest offi cers there. 

Another method through which they have destroyed the IAS is by allowing State services officers to get promoted into IAS and give them preferred treatment in postings. By defi nition, the State Service offi cers are not meant to stand up for honesty, integrity and upright behaviour as the protection available under the State Service scenario is dismal. 

Politicians get very comfortable with these offi cers and misuse the same. Now tell me where is the place for honest offi cers? The best thing for India is to go for a multi-member, Constitutionally-created civil service commission and police commission. It should be a central body. And the member of the commission should not be chosen through nomination of the state government or even the Central government but through a proper recruitment-like process. If you can do that, there is hope for the nation. 

(As told to Sangeetha Kandavel)

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