Citizens' Issues
Back to the future: How babus can nip scams by netas in the bud

It might be surprising to know what our babus can do to stop corruption. The second part of a three-part article highlights three instances of honesty and bravery of IAS officers 

"Corruption is not just about money. It is also about ethics in public life. Anything that violates it can trigger public anger."
—Venu Srinivasan, managing director, TVS Motors

Let me ask you a question. Which homogenous section of citizens in India can, and must be the first bulwark to hold off the tidal waves of corruption that have been sweeping our land for three decades and more?

Don't laugh. My answer is, the bureaucracy, particularly the Indian Administrative Service.

Do you know apart from the judgments of the Supreme Court which are the opinions that are most difficult to overturn? These are the jottings of senior bureaucrats (of the level of joint secretaries and above) in files dealing with matters involving large sums of money. I make this statement confidently after reporting on the affairs of government for four decades.

For example, a senior bureaucrat vets a file containing a proposal to buy equipment for a public sector company. The amount involved runs into a couple of hundred crores. The bureaucrat senses something fishy in the proposal; he feels that somebody, probably a minister, will get kickbacks. He notes his objection diplomatically: the amount is too high and the proposal can be passed if the cost is cut by, say, Rs50 crore. Any possibility of a kickback is thus thrown out of the window.

No minister, unless he or she is foolishly brave, or courageous as Sir Humphrey Appleby put it in "Yes, Minister", will risk overturning this opinion. The facts could come out any day, the bureaucrat may leak the story to a friendly newspaperman, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India may pounce on it, the vigilance guys may sniff something. It's too dangerous. The minister decides to either drop the matter or move it through another bureaucrat who may be more accommodating.

This is not an imaginary situation. It happens a lot of the time when the bureaucrat is honest and unafraid. Here are three examples about which I have personal knowledge.

In the mid-80s, an international tender was put out for building the HBJ pipeline from Hazira in Gujarat to Jagdishpur in Uttar Pradesh. There were four bidders and two frontrunners emerged: Spie Capag of France and Snam Progetti of Italy. The representative of Snam Progetti was Ottavio Quattarochi, the infamous friend of Sonia Gandhi.

Snam's bid was $100 million costlier than that of Spie Capag. Banking on his well-known friendship with the prime minister's family, Mr Quattarochi tried to use muscle. He is even reported to have personally threatened the then petroleum secretary, GV Ramakrishna. The difference of $100 million in the bids was too much for Mr Ramakrishna to accept. He stood firm in the decision to award the contract to Spie Capag. Even Rajiv Gandhi did not dare interfere. Mr Quottarochi lost and the country saved $100 million.

Next, during Jayalalitha's previous stint as chief minister, the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board put forward a proposal to import high quality coal costing hundreds of crores. One IAS officer, by the name of Mr Sundaram, who was the secretary to the Tamil Nadu government in charge of coal imports, smelt a rat. The coal was too costly; surely a kickback was involved. Mr Sundaram wrote in the file his refusal to clear the import. There was a kickback-this became public knowledge later-and even even Jayalalitha had to back down. Of course, she made life miserable for Mr Sundaram and within a year he resigned from the IAS.

The third instance involves the issue of shares by Southern Petrochemicals Industries Corporation (SPIC), a joint venture with the Tamil Nadu government through the Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corporation (TIDCO). The chairman of TIDCO was Ms Chandralekha. She found that the share issue would result in heavy losses to the Tamil Nadu government and objected strongly. Jayalalitha backed off for a while.

Some weeks later, Ms Chandralekha was travelling in a car, in heavy traffic, when some goonda put his hand through the window of the vehicle and threw acid on her face. She was horribly burned. Ms Chandralekha resigned from the IAS. There was absolutely no reason for the attack, but the public drew its own conclusions. Ms Chandralekha later joined the Janata Party and became a close associate of Subramaniam Swamy.

If only there were 5,000 IAS officers who are prepared to act as honestly and bravely! If a few IAS officers can block high-level corruption, what is there that cannot be achieved by a band of motivated people?

(R Vijayaraghavan has been a professional journalist for more than four decades, specialising in finance, business and politics. He conceived and helped to launch Business Line, the financial daily of The Hindu group. He can be contacted at [email protected].)

User

COMMENTS

Pritis C Majumdar

6 years ago

All the PUs and state transport departments headed by IAS are running on loss of huge crores of rupees years after years since independence. Is not inefficiency of IAS? Thus IAS should not be posted in any industry, PUs, electricity board, ports, manufacturing units etc.. What is the root cause of these losses of national revenues? It should be investigated thoroughly.

Tira T

6 years ago

Yes, there are a few bureaucrats who have the character and courage to do so while the entire bureaucracy id truly the fountainhead of corruption, hand-in-glove with their political masters. I am sorry to say that the author is absolutely wrong in eulogising the bureaucrats who as a group are more corrupt and dangereous that the politicians who in any way come up from the gutters and we can expect no better. One must not really ignore the bureaucracy's war against Anna.

C Jyoti

6 years ago

Thank you for this long awaited article which no newspaper or journal or even electronic media has had the bcourage of conviction to write about. There is a representative case of the energetic minister of Women and Children's Affairs in the centre, Krishna Tirath. Not one single initiative of this minister has been allowed to go ahead by the sophisticated and upper class civil servants who have literally created a barrier in whatever she proposes, despite her attempts to get this IAS-laid moratorium on her dreams for the poorer women and hapless children. The reason is her background of not having been educated in the English-medium convent school or a highly sophisticated exclusive and upper-class college and for not being articulate enough in English to express her views and extraordinarily original schemes for the target sector of her ministry of WCD. She neighter has the "requisite class" nor the clout to make the IAS and CSS babus to listen to her or even adhere to her written orders so much so that the files get missing and she simply feels lost as even the autonomous bodies under her direct control blatantly ignore and disregard her. Thousands of Anna Hazares and the self-dtyled Civil Society upstart time servers from the privileged classes can never achieve anything (nor are they really serious either) unless this class divide is destroyed and India is freed from the clutches of the menacing grip of the IAS bastionj which shall remain the supreme authority nurturing and protecting their own empire as this class is the king of all it surveys, duly assisted by the entire bureaucracy and hence tooth and nail against the Jan Lokpal Bill draft as it is a threat to their permanent hegemony. Krishna Tirath's is a model case study in the class divide in the governance which only Moneylife can reasonably take up. And should.

REPLY

nagesh kini

In Reply to C Jyoti 6 years ago

A fit case for IAC's Kiran Bedi and/or Arvind Kejriwal to find action as here is a live case, right in their domain.
If the Civil Societywallah's fail to tackle, then all of Anna's efforts have gone in vain!

Narendra Doshi

In Reply to nagesh kini 6 years ago

Well said Nagesh in response to Jyoti's comment

Rajiv Ahuja

6 years ago

Kudos to bravery shown by these officials. I salute them. Thank you Ms Sucheta Dalal for sharing this .

Nagesh KiniFCA

6 years ago

Upon Chakri Bireddy's comment I visited Sundaram's blog. Going through his bio, I am convinced Mr. Sundram amply fills the bill of being adequately qualified to really represent the Civil Society in its truest form.
It is high time that men and women like Mr. Sundaram, Aruna Roy, Harsh Mander, Dr. Jay Prakash Narayan,Mumbai's Julio Rebeiro, DM Sukhtanker are brought on a common platform with dedicated professionals from other walks of life like accountants, advocates,architects, doctors, economists, engineers, journalists and the like to form an effective APOLITICAL Civil Society "Third Front". With the vast expertise behind them and no vested interests their dedication can direct the energy generated by the IAC.

REPLY

RAJIV AHUJA

In Reply to Nagesh KiniFCA 6 years ago

I agree with your statement. An endeavour should be made to bring these officials on a common platform.

Chakri Bireddy

6 years ago

One of the IAS officers, Sundaram mentioned in the article writes a blog: http://ennapadampanchajanya.blogspot.com... In his bio on the website, he says he took voluntary retirement in 1994. Appreciate his courage in the fight against corruption/nepotism. Now through this article, we know why he tool early retirement.

Vikas

6 years ago

I want to tell you how much i liked your article. I have been reading a lot about the scams took place in our country, and your illustrated note evoked the hidden truth of IAS Officers who were conscientious . It was thoughtful of you to add those personal observations. Thank you very much for an enlightening and stimulating Article.
Regards
Vikas Arya

Narendra Doshi

6 years ago

There is merit in what Mr. Vijayaraghavan has articulated. I am sure there are a little few of this tribe even today. May they grow in numbers in the days to come. Pen is indeed mighter than sword.

Nagesh KiniFCA

6 years ago

Not that the entire tribe of babus are bad or corrupt. There are a few who are upright but looked down by their crooked fellow babus in cohort with the netas who can spoil their CRs.
We have had upright Mumbai Municipal Commissioners in PR Nayak, DM Sukhtankar, SS Tinaikar and Sharad Kale. There have been others like Arun Bhatia, Harsh Mander, Aruna Roy, Dr. Jayprakash Narayan, Julio Rebeiro, Kiran Bedi who have left inedible mark during their tenure in the serviced. May their tribe increase!

Govind Shanbhag

6 years ago

Mr.V,R: Few years back there was an IAS officer named Mr.Sundaram posted at Solapur. Before Sundaram there were number of IAS officers posted in Solapur, who could not implement town planning but Mr.Sundaram, took the onus on himself implemented and whatever solapur is today that is thanks to Mr.Sundaram. There was lot of pressures from highly connected politicians, bureaucrats and also under world leaders but he did not buckle under pressure and he was very honest. I do not know whether he is the same Sundaram what u have written about or somebody else.

DR Aniruddha Malpani

6 years ago

In fact these stories are likely to discourage honest IAS officers from becoming whistle-blowers. If the neta can make life so miserable for you that you are forced to quit, how many will have the courage to stand upto them ?

REPLY

RAJIV AHUJA

In Reply to DR Aniruddha Malpani 6 years ago

I agree with your observation..

Telcos under TRAI scanner for hiking mobile tariffs

The telecom regulator has sent letters to all the companies which have recently hiked tariffs seeking justifications for the reasons as to why they have hiked the tariffs and the reasons for the same. However, telcos cited inflationary pressure in the country as being responsible for the tariff hike

New Delhi: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has asked leading telecom service providers, including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea, to justify their decision to hike mobile tariffs by up to 20%, reports PTI.

"We have sent letters to all the companies which have recently hiked tariffs seeking justifications for the reasons as to why they have hiked the tariffs and the reasons for the same. The last one (letter) gone to Reliance Communications," TRAI chairman JS Sarma said on the sidelines of an event.

Recently, companies like Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular, Vodafone and Reliance Communications raised tariffs for their services by about 20% in most operating circles.

Most of the companies cited inflationary pressure in the country as being responsible for the tariff hike.

Airtel had raised the tariffs for its 'Advantage' and 'Freedom' pre-paid tariff packages, which are based on per minute billing, to 60 paise per minute for local and STD mobile-to-mobile calls. Earlier, it was 50 paise per minute in this category.

"Telecom is probably the only industry where, despite increasing inflation, tariffs have been falling unabated.

Continuously declining margins, high third generation (3G) and broadband and wireless access (BWA) auction prices, constrained spectrum and rural roll-out aspirations leave us with little choice but to make some price corrections," Bharti Airtel had said in a statement.

User

India Factoring & Finance appoints RS Reddy as independent director

RS Reddy has 34 years of  experience as a banker in multifarious assignments

India Factoring & Finance Solutions Pvt Ltd, a joint venture of the state-owned Punjab National Bank (PNB) along with Malta based FIM Bank Group, Italy based Banca IFIS and Blend Financial Services Ltd, Mumbai, has appointed RS Reddy as independent director on the board of the company. Prior to this appointment Mr Reddy was a chairman and managing director at Andhra Bank.

Mr Reddy took charge as CMD of Andhra Bank in August 2008. He has 34 years of  experience as a banker in multifarious assignments. He was also the chief executive of Bank of India's American Operations in New York for three and half years.

Sudeb Sarbadhikary, CEO and MD of India Factoring said, "We are delighted to welcome RS Reddy on the Board of India Factoring. I am confident that his vast experience, knowledge and unique insights into the lending to small and medium enterprise and cross border trade products in india and overseas would be an invaluable asset to India Factoring. We would be looking forward to his guidance to enable us to build a consistent, sustainable and growing long term business."

Mr Reddy said "India Factoring has a vision to provide financial services to the SME sector which despite being a significant contributor to the Indian economy suffers from lack of support from the financial institutions. I am delighted to be a part of the team wherein I can fruitfully use my knowledge of SME financing to assist in the development of a platform to support them by way of factoring & trade finance products."

User

We are listening!

Solve the equation and enter in the Captcha field.
  Loading...
Close

To continue


Please
Sign Up or Sign In
with

Email
Close

To continue


Please
Sign Up or Sign In
with

Email

BUY NOW

The Scam
24 Year Of The Scam: The Perennial Bestseller, reads like a Thriller!
Moneylife Magazine
Fiercely independent and pro-consumer information on personal finance
Stockletters in 3 Flavours
Outstanding research that beats mutual funds year after year
MAS: Complete Online Financial Advisory
(Includes Moneylife Magazine and Lion Stockletter)