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Tuesday, October 6, 2015
Kleptocratic India : The enemy within - By MG Devasahayam
Kleptocracy, alternatively cleptocracy or kleptarchy, ("rule by thieves") is a form of political and government corruption where the government exists to increase the personal wealth and political power of its officials and the ruling class at the expense of the wider population, often with pretence of honest service. This type of government corruption is often achieved by the embezzlement of state funds.
The existence of an octopus-like MAFIA in the financial arena is no secret. That it has gone to kleptocratic extremes has been vividly brought out in the gfiles cover story of September (Loot in name of the farmer). The ‘embedded bureaucrats’ listed in the write-up have been conspiring to sell ‘bloated air’ to fleece the farmers and small investors of their flesh and bones. It is extremely distressing to see that some of the names, including of senior civil servants, are well known and even well regarded. Is it conceivable that they were so overtaken by love of Mammon so as to fall easy prey to a small-time stock trader? Is it because this conniving carpetbagger “deals with tons of money every day by dominating all of India’s assets: equities, currency, commodities, derivatives, power and precious metal and the forex trade,” makes billions in the process and throws some crumbs at these worthies?
Why have governance standards in India, with one of the finest civil service structures in the world, descended to such deplorable depths? We need to seek the answer by going back four decades. Being from the pre-Emergency vintage of the IAS, I was the District Magistrate of Chandigarh, joint capital of Punjab and Haryana, before, during and after the Emergency. Both these States enforced Emergency rules with rigour and ruthlessness. Therefore, I have grass
roots knowledge of what happened during that period.
As the custodian-in-jail of Loknayak Jayaprakash Narayan (JP), the ‘enemy-number-one-of the- State’, who was arrested by the District Magistrate, Delhi, and sent to me for safe custody, I dealt with the Delhi Administration, Union Home Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Secretariat (PMS), and therefore, had a macro-level view of the functioning of Delhi’s ‘power centres’. The collapse of democratic governance and its institutions that we witness. Tragically, several AIS officers have willingly entered into this kleptocratic pact in return for plum ‘commercial’ postings during service, coveted ‘independent directorships’ and an ever-multiplying government sinecure after retirement!
Today had its origin during that period, starting with the breakdown of the elite All-India Services (AIS). The strategy adopted by the rulers then was akin to the ‘Trojan Horse’ described by Homer in his legendary epic, Odyssey. It is a tale of deceit and subterfuge that the Greeks used to enter the city of Troy and end the conflict, which they could not win otherwise. For centuries and generations, this episode is remembered as the epitome of ‘betrayal of trust’!
A similar thing happened to India’s democratic governance during the Emergency. The Indian version of the Trojan Horse was set in motion on the fateful night of June 25-26, 1975, as top leaders of the opposition, including JP, Morarji Desai and AB Vajpayee, were triumphantly returning from the massive rally at the Ramlila Grounds, Delhi, after sounding the ultimatum to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, indicted for electoral corruption by the Allahabad High Court, to resign forthwith.
By that time the Trojan Horse, filled with a ‘committed’ bureaucratic- police coterie, had been smuggled into the Prime Minister’s Household (PMH) and positioned in the Home Ministry, Delhi Administration and Police. On a signal from the PMH, these wolves pounced on and arrested the opposition leaders and shut down the newspapers by cutting off electricity so that the news of the Emergency was unreleased. Within hours, they formalised the Emergency and proclaimed draconian rules and regulations to choke the media and extinguish people’s freedom and liberty.
The Emergency thus ushered in, ripped apart India’s delicately crafted and carefully nurtured democratic fabric and the institutions of governance. A new type of regime and new criteria of allocation of rights and obligations were sought to be legitimised. The real issue was the abrogation of any sense of boundary or restraint in the exercise of power, and the striking arbitrariness and arrogance with which citizens were turned into subjects. Democracy was replaced with a crude form of autocracy. Most of those who facilitated this belonged to the covenanted services of the IAS and IPS, meant to defend and safeguard our democratic republic!
Today, things are worse. In its judgement in the ‘Blackmoney Case’ (July 2011), the Supreme Court talks of the “unholy nexus between lawmakers, law
keepers, and lawbreakers”, clearly indicating that a State-sponsored kleptocracy runs the country. A kleptocracy is a deviant system wherein government departments and public institutions are commandeered for the benefit of carpetbaggers and packed with their loyal retainers. Tragically, several AIS officers have willingly entered into this kleptocratic pact in return for plum ‘commercial’ postings during service, coveted ‘independent directorships’ and an ever-multiplying government sinecure after retirement!
This has turned Delhi into a kleptocratic den with loots and scams galore. These have been cropping up like mushrooms in recent times —Commonwealth Games, ISROAntrix- Devas deal, 2G Spectrum, Godavari basin gas, National Spot Exchange, imported nuclear deals, thorium loot, Air-India mega purchase, and the biggest of them so far, Coalgate, where crucial files have gone missing! In all these massive cases of corruption, not one bureaucratic head has rolled. In fact, key players in these scams and scandals are being meticulously shielded and protected by ‘caging’ the CBI and sabotaging the instruments of Parliament, like the Public Accounts Committee and the Joint Parliamentary Committee! For pushing the Indo-US nuclear deal, Parliament itself was compromised!
But the humongous nature of defence purchase scams, that vitally affect the nation’s security, takes the cake. Here, even the Comptroller & Auditor General of India, the “most important officer under the Constitution”, has been brought into the kleptocratic network. This IAS officer has been joint secretary, additional secretary, director-general of acquisitions, officer on special duty and, finally, secretary in the Ministry of Defence from 2003 to May 2013, when he was seamlessly shifted as CAG as if it was just another routine bureaucratic transfer! During his long tenure in the ministry, he has been closely associated with many policy/ purchase/acquisition decisions and deals spanning the Army, Navy and Air Force. Most of these have become stinking scams due to wheeling and dealing and huge kickbacks. They are either under the CBI scanner or CAG scrutiny (see box). Now he is himself CAG and can cover up everything. What a wonderful kleptocratic pact.
The Union Public Service Commission, that recruits the crème de la crème of India’s civil services, has also not been left out. Here, the coveted position of Member, UPSC has gone to the loyal retainer of a State land/real estate mafia. For eight long years, this IAS officer has been deputy principal secretary, principal secretary and, on re-employment, officer on special duty to the Haryana Chief Minister. In these capacities, he has been handling the State’s Town & Country Planning (TCP) Department, which, during this period, plundered Gurgaon district and issued colony licences and change-of-land-use certificates for thousands of acres in the State, causing a loss to the exchequer running to Rs 3.5 lakh crore due to land frauds. This officer also managed to scuttle an ongoing ‘performance audit’ by the CAG on these frauds, that included the DLF-Vadra land deal. It looks as if the UPSC has lost its virginity!
By all accounts, the Haryana Government, which has successfully transformed the State into real estate in the past few years, has put together a neat kleptocratic network. The newly appointed UPSC member is not the only one to have a long stint in this network. Others include his successor as principal secretary to the CM,
The humongous nature of defence purchase scams, that vitally affect national security, takes the cake. Who has already spent seven years as director, TCP Department, and its principal secretary. Another one is following suit with more than three years as director, TCP. As against this, the crusader against this network, Ashok Khemka, who had already seen 40 transfers in 20 years of his career, was allowed to stay for just 80 days in the job from where he had blown the whistle. Now, as per Chief Secretary (On extension) PK Chaudhary, for cancelling Vadra’s land deal, Khemka is being charge sheeted for administrative misconduct that could attract major penalties. UPSC membership and high-profile positions for the looters and gallows for the crusader! Can the IAS-anchored kleptocracy get any worse?
Kleptocratic India is fast moving towards being a ‘failed State’. Several senior and middle-level members of the AIS, more particularly the service I once belonged to, are the root cause of this. Because, without their concurrence, connivance and collaboration, no kleptocratic network could ever emerge, exist or expand. Wailing and shifting blame on politicians is pointless. Because the enemy is within, hidden in the underbelly of the Trojan Horse, the universal symbol of betrayal!