Thursday, September 1, 2016
India’s Governance and the Politician-Bureaucratic Nexus in the context of the on going Coal Secretary's case in the Coal scam. The Judiciary prematurely blocked former PM's prosecution in the coal allotment scam and the 2G spectrum scam. The nexus works mostly for the benefit of its own stakeholders : By Prof N. Natarajan
An interesting blog post regarding the cozy relationship between the politician and the bureacrat.
In Bangalore the Chief Secretary (Arvind Jadhav) is caught in a web of his own lies and should go behind bars soon. Actually he should have already been behind bars for his role as CMD of AirIndia several years ago. But like a cat, all babus have nine lives.
Read on. CHG
I am posting below a blog I wrote only this morning on Linkedin about Politician-Bureaucrat nexus in the context of the on going Coal Secretary's case in the Coal scam. In retrospect I feel judiciary is the third side of the triangle. The Judiciary prematurely blocked former PM's prosecution in the coal allotment scam and the 2G spectrum scam. The triangular nexus works mostly for the benefit of its own stakeholders including elite lawyers.As in the case of any rule there are a few honourable exceptions.
India’s Governance- The Politician-Bureaucratic Nexus
Governance of India is the joint responsibility of elected politicians called Ministers headed by a Prime Minister and administrative executives at the top echelon called Secretaries of various departments dominated by the members of the Indian Administrative Service.
Lately the country's administrative system comprising the above 2 categories has been rocked by Coal allocation scam leading to the prosecution of H C Gupta former Coal Secy in the Manmohan Govt described as an ‘honest upright’ IAS Officer. The case has attracted much public attention. Gupta in his capacity of Coal Secretary and Chairman of an adhoc coal block allocation committee recommended the allotment of Coal blocks to many ineligible industrialists at throw-away prices for extraneous reasons, resulting in a huge loss of over 2 lakh crores to the exchequer.
The case demonstrates the Politician-Bureaucrat nexus. The allotments were held illegal by the Supreme Court and cancelled. The coal mines subsequently were auctioned. The proceeds of auctions showed that the loss to the public exchequer would have been even more if the manipulators of the system had not been found out.
Now Mr. Gupta (G) and some of the beneficiaries are being prosecuted for the role in the scam. G told the Court that he had no money to seek bail or appoint a lawyer and that he would personally argue his case from jail. The court was not amused. The judge asked Gupta to reconsider his offer.
G has been certified by a group of fellow IAS bureaucrats as an honest and upright officer. They are outraged that such a man of integrity was being harassed for the duty he discharged in his official capacity. They fear is that such harassment would deter all of them from taking bold decisions and paralyze the bureaucratic administration. Some of its literary giants are to speaking up for their cause through newspaper articles. Suddenly Mr. Gupta made a U turn and withdrawn his strange request on the advice of his IAS friends.
G has argued that he was merely the Chairman of the committee that took made the recommendations for allotment of mines and his boss the Coal Minister (PM Manmohan Singh was also the Coal Minister) was the approving authority and final decision maker. He claims that he had placed all the facts before the PM. G's case is that since the former PM is not being prosecuted there was no rationale behind holding Coal secretary accountable responsible and the case should be dismissed. The co-accused companies have also taken the same stand. Moreover he says that he did not benefit in any way by the allotment. Hence his plea for discharge.
The discomfiture of the IAS lobby is understandable. This cadre of highly paid officers has sailed smoothly and prospered all along without any accountability ever since independence. They occupy all the top most posts in the Central and State Governments. Lately many of them have a flourishing after-retirement career under the aegis of the Government itself, draft their own rules for promotion under which they enjoy highly accelerated career growth leaving all the other professional cadres including armed forces far behind.
They can do no wrong. In any other private or public organization in the world, if a person is rejected for a promotion he would at best stay where he is. However the IAS is different. It will surprise you to note that if 10 senior IAS secretaries are found unsuitable for Chief Secretary’s post (carrying a higher pay due to extra responsibility) and a eleventh officer junior to all of them in seniority is selected, all the superseded officers will be rewarded for their unsuitability by being paid the same salary as the Chief Secretary without any additional responsibility. A senior IAS officer is always included in the pay commissions and ensured that the IAS cadre is dis-proportionally rewarded.
Ministers are always dependent their IAS secretaries to execute their clandestine activities to favour businessmen and crooks at the cost of the exchequer. Unless a supportive noting is made by the Secretary on the file as a protective shield, no Minister would find it safe to show any undeserved favour to anyone. Even the Minister’s foreign tour itineraries are imaginatively prepared by the Secy to get approval of the PM. A smart Secretary scents suitable opportunities and creatively records the justification which the PMO cannot easily turn down. The entourage naturally would include the Secretary and his side kicks in this win-win collaboration. A recent example was the large secretarial delegation to Rio Olympics led by the Sports Minister.
The Minister-Secretary nexus works beautifully. It also enables the bureaucrat to push some of his personal agenda through, like cornering a piece of Government land in a posh urban locality for a nominal price, or overseas scholarship for his son etc.
Even many honest IAS officers have palatial homes in the best localities in their name or as a benami holding. A Chief Secretary of Karnataka is said to be in a huge real estate business in Bengaluru in the name of his mother aged 86 years!
If a maverick like Ashok Khemka IAS (who unearthed illegal allotment of land to one Robert Wadra), refuses to oblige his political boss he will get shunted from pillar to post every few months. No Govt would reward him for his honesty. A man called Bhatia was punished with 10 transfers and was labelled a trouble maker.
A pliable Joshi in the MP cadre of IAS and his wife made and hid crores of rupees in their house. They are yet to be punished.
Why has the IAS lobby risen in favour of Gupta?
The parliament enacted a small amendment in the Prevention of Corruption Act which says that if any public servant either derives a pecuniary benefit for himself or allows another person to obtain unintended pecuniary advantage in a deal at the cost of the public exchequer he can be punished with imprisonment. Hence Gupta cannot escape by saying that he did not personally benefit from coal mines allotment. Moreover being the highest executive authority in the Administration he cannot escape personal responsibility.
Pointing fingers at Manmohan Singh will not dilute his own criminal act, although there is merit in his argument that the latter is also culpable. G is sinking and the straw called Manmohan cannot save him.
If Gupta is punished, it will put an end to the cozy relationship between IAS and the Ministers. Even ministers would hate such a prospect which will end their manipulation.
No wonder the IAS lobby has started its breast beating act. Their fort is being raided. To help them in their cause there is already a bill in parliament to delete this provision and dilute the definition of corruption in the Prevention of Corruption Act. This just shows the nexus between politicians and babus no matter which party is running the government.
G’s is a test case. If he goes unpunished it will mean that no prosecution or conviction for corruption will be possible in future. The bureaucrat will always argue that he is not responsible for a decision taken by his political boss. The political boss in turn will argue that he only went by the advice he received from his secy. The case will fall between two stools.
The only hope is that the judge will stay his course.
It is not sufficient for Gupta to say that he told the PM everything. He should be pardoned only if he comes clean, turns approver and also discloses the entire political intervention by Manmohan Singh and other Congress bosses in the scam. The CBI in turn should not hesitate to prosecute Manmohan Singh since G and others gave implicated him.
After all, the entire buck stopped at PMO and he did intervene in another allotment to the Birla group. He cannot claim ignorance or innocence.
(Source- Via Gp e-mail from Carl Gomes Naughtilus, Vet)