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Yours, faithfully

Published : Mar 13, 2013, 10:48 pm IST
Updated : Mar 13, 2013, 10:48 pm IST

You cannot have your cake and eat it too, is an old adage. In India, however, we have a breed of civil servants who manage to do both.

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You cannot have your cake and eat it too, is an old adage. In India, however, we have a breed of civil servants who manage to do both. While in service, quite a few of them like to combine the wealth and splendour of the private sector to the power and glory of the bureaucracy, indulging in unabashed corruption in the process. And some, especially those close to the centres of power, just refuse to retire in the normal course. A couple of years before they are to superannuate, they start going out of their way to please the political masters so that they get an assignment after retirement. Those adept at manipulation manage to hop from one job to another. One would perhaps not mind their “Fevicol attachment” to the service provided they showed integrity and commitment, but then these are virtues associated with a dying tribe. The government, on its part, finds it convenient to exploit the government servant’s hunger to hang on to the service. It dangles the carrot and eventually rewards the obliging civil servant with a suitable berth after superannuation where he continues to show his gratitude to the government. This is having a devastating effect on the professional commitment of the functionaries at the highest levels in different services. Public interest is compromised to promote the interests of the ruling party. A Central Bureau of Investigation director — who hobnobs with politicians or goes soft on government corruption — lands up in the National Human Rights Commission or gets a gubernatorial assignment. An obliging secretary is accommodated anywhere from the Planning Commission to the Union Public Service Commission. A servile defence chief may become an ambassador. There are, of course, honourable exceptions, but this is the usual pattern. The ruling party is happy, the retiring government servant is also happy. If anyone suffers, it is the people. The organisational ethos is eroded and, at times, even the national interest is compromised. It is high time that we restore sanity in decision-making at the highest level. There should be a mandatory cooling off period of at least two years after retirement. At the end of it, if the services of the public servant are still required and his contribution has not been forgotten, he may be given an appropriate berth; the others should just be allowed to fade away. The CBI director was given an assured two-year tenure by the judiciary irrespective of his superannuation. This was subsequently extended to include the intelligence chiefs and some bureaucrats like the Cabinet secretary. This select group should have at least been debarred from getting any post for a prescribed minimum period after retirement. But they continue to have the best of both worlds — a fixed tenure at the peak of their career followed by a plush assignment after retirement. Why should they complain And who is bothered about public interest They say, in Hindi, Andhaa bante rewari, ghar gharane khaye (the blind man distributes doles, only to those close to him).

$It is the people who suffer Prakash Singh ***

The appointment of a former director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has raised the question in some sections of the society and the media whether this kind of appointment will tempt future directors to be on a mission to please the government of the day so that they can get a sinecure as a post-retirement reward. Why single out the Indian Police Service officers who have held important posts when so far, all the time, it has been the fundamental right of some services to invariably land in post-retirement plum jobs. The CBI is not an independent or a constitutional body, like the Supreme Court or high courts or Election Commission. It is funny that almost all committees, commissions and other statutory bodies are being filled up by officers retired from the Union Public Service Commission, the Election Commission or numerous regulatory bodies like the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, tax tribunals or the Customs. For that matter, even the top job of Comptroller and Auditor-General invariably goes to a retired officer. Indeed, members of constitutional bodies, like the apex and high courts, have been appointed to important positions of tribunals or commissions, or even governors, by the government. But there has been no whiff of suspicion that any member of the judiciary appointed governor has acted in a way unbecoming of his position or had compromised his position to get any favour from the government. Even some former members of the Election Commission were given tickets by political parties to enter the Upper House of Parliament. So why should it be doubted in the case of former CBI directors There is no law that prohibits the appointment of CBI officers to any post after retirement. At least the CBI is under the active watch of the media and courts and anybody going slightly off track is likely to land in serious trouble. At the same time, there are certain jobs, like in the Northeast or Jammu and Kashmir or Naxalite- or Maoist-affected states, where the experience of IPS officers is not only handy but of tremendous use to the government. There are certain states in India where no bureaucrat who has served the government faithfully and overzealously ever retires. When the Right to Information Act was enforced in 2005, all the 28 state governments appointed the retired chief secretaries as chief information commissioners, though the job of the chief secretaries all along was to conceal the wrongdoings, if any, and present to people that all is hunky-dory. Even now most bureaucrats before retirement keep an eye on the job/post they would like to occupy after retirement and make sure that such a job is either created or, if it already exists, is kept vacant. Except for a few politicians in power in the government, most of them do not understand the working of the government and are taken for a ride by the self-serving bureaucracy. There are more than 450 post-retirement sinecures in the government. The ideal course would be to fill all jobs, uniformly, only with serving officials.

$Why target only CBI directors Joginder Singh ***