A bureaucrat’s outburst

The Daily Excelsior publishes some extracts of Dr Ravi K Jerath’s (IAS) book Glimpses of Indian Public Administration- A saga of wasted years. The book contains an eye witness account of the author’s forty two years long experience in government service during which he had seen gradual decline of the service which was once known as “Steel Frame of India” and has now been reduced to a “Hollow, Shallow and Moth eaten bamboo frame of India” by the political executive rendering permanent executive almost demoralized and sulking making governance rather extremely difficult indeed. This decline had accelerated from June 1975, when internal emergency was imposed and political executive had sent a clear cut message to the permanent executive to either bend or brake and the bureaucracy started begging, bending and crawling, when the Babus were only told to bend, in a mad race to pick up the cherry from the cake.The book starts with the History of Civil services in India from 1757 (Battle of Plassey/ Battle of Tarpal) and delves in detail about the present working culture in India, the level of corruption, especially at the gross root and cutting edge level, thus making the life of a common citizen very hard and difficult indeed.

Dr Ravi K. Jerath, (IAS, 1980 J&K) a civil servant by profession, was born in Mohalla Mastgarh, Jammu (J&K), soon after his grandfather had been reduced from riches to rags due to abolition of chakdari system under J&K Big Landed Estates Abolition Act (1950), whereunder the family had lost almost its entire agricultural land, but still the family was neither rich nor poor and was leading a middle class life. His forefathers had come to Jammu, during the reign of Maharaja Ranbir Singh, from Bijwara in Hoshiarpur district of Punjab, which is also the birth place of world-famous musician and singer “BAIJU BAWRA”, after whose name the town had been named.
Early schooling
Dr. Ravi K. Jerath completed his early schooling in Government Primary School Mast Garh. Later on, he passed 8th class from Government High School Jullakka Mohalla, Jammu and Higher Secondary from S.R.M.L Higher Secondary School, Parade Ground Jammu. After graduating from G. G. M. Science College Jammu, he completed Law and M. A. Political Science from Jammu University and M.Sc. in project Planning, Implementation and Monitoring from Bradford University (U. K.). He completed his Ph.D from Jammu University in “FINANCING DEVELOPMENT IN J&K”. Before joining the I. A. S, he had also cleared J&K Civil Services Examination in 1976 and had been allotted the Accounts Service. He had also been selected as a Probationary Officer in J&K Bank in 1979, which he did not join. After clearing the I.A.S. and Allied Services Examination in 1976, he served in New Delhi for two years and finally joined the I.A.S at Mussoorie and was allotted the J&K cadre.
This book Glimpses of Indian Public Administration- A saga of wasted years is based on his life time experience in the Government service, which started in 1974 from the State Service and ended in February 2017 as Member of the J&K State Vigilance Commission. The book has primarily been written for the students of Political Science, Public Administration, I. A. S. aspirants and their parents.
My Probation and period thereafter
I was sent to District Poonch for District Training in July 1981. Mr. Syed Abdul Qayoom was the Deputy Commissioner, he was extremely nice and experienced Revenue Officer, who at the outset told me in clear terms that one must always remember that his subordinates in the office are like snakes and for their selfish motives & designs, they will be the first to bite you and throughout career one must always remain careful of his subordinates, because in majority of the cases the subordinate staff members, who keep on indulging in washing dirty linen in the public for their narrow, petty interests either intentionally or un-intentionally may at times out of their habit of indulging in loose talks divulge office secrets and cause irreparable damage to your reputation as at times they act like snake in the grass for their petty selfish motives.
Gross Indiscipline
I was fortunate enough in having the experience of visiting various Government offices right from my school days and often used to find most officials absent from their seats and touts and brokers having a field day and poor people waiting in corridors and adjoining shops wasting both their precious time and money with helplessness writ large on their faces and eyes and paying a huge price and facing huge harassment; humiliation and inconvenience because of their innocence as most of them did not know that it is the “Money which makes the Mare go” and whom to pay as well as how much to pay – resulting in repeated futile visits to the various Government offices till they were completely exhausted due to inherent fatigue and humiliation to which they were subjected and ultimately fully accustomed. I myself had to visit D.C. Jammu office for number of times in 1970 to get my Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC) which I could get only after about one year that too after paying Rs. 10/-, which was the prevalent rate at that time. And despite knowing this sorry state of affairs, all the officers have/had virtually totally surrendered and abdicated their responsibility of taming their staff because of complete politicization of the entire bureaucracy as a result of which majority of the employees have become “Touch me Not” and have become powerful enough to manage their posting and stay of their own choice by all means fair or foul.
Once I was working as Additional Secretary, Industries and Commerce Department in 1984 and my Secretary was Mr. M.S. Pandit (IAS 1969 J&K) who was a very decent, nice and upright officer. The Hon’ble Minister for Industries was putting lot of pressure for clearing two cases of C.S.T. refund – in favor of two young entrepreneurs, but cases being false and fake – were not approved with the result that one day Minister summoned Secretary (I&C), Director (I&C) and myself at his residence in Srinagar – and on reaching his residence – we were taken to a room on the first floor where minister was lying on a bed and there were only two chairs on which the two entrepreneurs were sitting. We all the three remained standing, neither the Minister asked the two entrepreneurs to vacate the chairs nor asked for few more chairs and after great embarrassment and humiliation the Director (I&C) Mr. M.S. Qureshi, (An extremely fine and God fearing gentleman) asked the two boys to stand up and vacate the chairs, though those boys vacated the chairs – but minister neither asked for more chairs nor asked the boys to vacate the chairs and remained silent spectator enjoying the humiliation of “Holy Trio” – and after about twenty minutes, we all the three, after listening Minister’s sermons, left his room without sitting and the minister did not even have the courtesy of getting up from his bed and seeing us off. This is how the politicians have created complete mess and total in-discipline and chaos thus demoralizing and demonizing the bureaucracy and upright officers.
During my tenure in the State Vigilance Commission, I found that more than eighty percent complaints were false and baseless, filed only to harass, the respondents which not only increased the work load of the Commission but simultaneously also createdtension amongst, the officers because of piling up of normal/routine work of the officer/ departments and thereby putting people to lot of inconvenience, delay and harassment but the real culprits going scot free enjoying, the undue harassment of officers and enjoying the settling of scores and teaching a lesson to the respondents.
Supersessions Galore
The J&K State Administration has also not remained isolated from the general deteriorating administrative culture of the country and its record is also certainly not better, if not worse than the other states of the country. Every time a Chief Secretary or Director General of Police is appointed he or she invariably supersedes one or more seniors thus causing lot of resentment and ripples and under currents of frustration….
“An officer, against whom a corruption case is pending regarding land scam in Gulmarg under “Roshni Act”, for which Government of India had already conveyed prosecution sanction in 2013 and the case is still pending before the honorable J&K High Court, and during the pendency of the corruption case, in an unprecedented manner, the officer was granted 1-year extension in June, 2019.”
The position in the IPS is rather still worse, where every appointment of DGP had been made more to ensure total loyalty and obedience and after the appointment of Mr. A.K. Suri (J&K 1969),as DGP, all appointments had been based on total loyalty consideration rather than on merit and seniority and superseded officers had never protested or submitted their papers except that a 1985 batch officer, who had challenged the appointment of Dr. S.P. Vaid, (1986-JK) his one batch Junior officer as DGP in supersession of his senior position in the seniority list before the Central Administrative Tribunal Chandigarh and in the J&K High Court where the matter is still pending. In the meanwhile, Dr. S.P. Vaid was also thrown out and side lined soon after imposition of Governor Rule in June, 2018 and another officer of 1987 batch superseding about five senior officers was appointed new D.G.P. out of a panel approved by UPSC as per the direction of Hon’ble Supreme Court in Parkash Singh’s case.
Another classical example was the appointment of Wajahat Habibullha (I.A.S. 1968, J&K) as first Chief Central Information Commissioner on 25.10.2005, soon after his retirement in September, 2005 because of his proximity with the Indra-Rajiv family and soon, thereafter, he was appointed as Chairperson of National Commission for Minorities on 03.02.2011 for three years immediately after the completion of five year tenure as Chief Information Commissioner, but due to change of Government in May, 2014 his career graph met sudden dead end and had U.P.A. Government again come into power in 2014 he would have either been appointed as Governor like Mr. Romesh Bhandari (I.F.S. 1950) or would have been nominated as member of Rajya Sabha and subsequently made union minister like S.M.S. Gill (I.A.S. 1958PB) but it appears that his stars were on the wane and presently he must have been waiting in the wings for return of U.P.A. Government for getting fresh start of his career graph.
Playing with Tax Payers money
I was Commissioner Secretary to Government, General Administration Department during 2001-2002 and when on 16th of August, 2001 the Assembly met, immediately some members stood up and raised the issue that last evening during “at home” the “Kababs” were not made available despite the fact that the Directorate of Hospitality had shown huge amount spent on “Kababs” and the matter needs to be investigated. The Chief Minister stood up and assured the Members that the matter shall be looked into and the Directorate of Hospitality had clarified the position that the shortage of “Kababs” was primarily due to the fact that the number of un-invited persons was much more than the persons invited which resulted in shortage of “Kababs” and the matter was closed.
Playing with Cabinet decisions
Another major development over the years is that the major transfers are just not discussed in the cabinet, in fact the transfer proposal is first discussed in the kitchen cabinet of the Chief Minister invariably and the same is just announced in the Cabinet Meeting and the Chief Secretary only gets the proposal typed and orders issued without having any say in the formulation of such transfers of which at times he also comes to know only during the Cabinet meeting itself exceptions notwithstanding.
The only real de fact as well as de jure Chief Secretary of the State had been Mr. Ashok Jaitley (1996-2002) who was nick-named as “Chief Secretary cum Cabinet” and it will perhaps be no exaggeration to say that he was perhaps the last Chief Secretary of the state who had maintained the dignity of that August office, rest all lived and whiled away their time leisurely under the shadow of some Banyan Tree or were being operated and controlled by some invisible hand through remote control, who at times used to be his Junior Colleague or an extra constitutional authority which had resulted in massive dis-contentment amongst officers because such transfers, apart from being highly irrational are purely patronage based on community, caste, constituency, religion, regional party affiliations and at times on pecuniary considerations thus promoting cut throat competition amongst Senior Officers for picking the cherry from the cake, throwing all rules of eligibility, seniority, integrity and ethics to winds leading to massive corruption in matters of transfers, postings and promotions and thriving of a well-entrenched lucrative transfer industry involving gross abuse of Administrative and Discretionary powers for achieving selfish ends rather than for promoting public good as is evident from below:-
The Enforcement Directorate has issued a provisional order under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act to attach cash worth Rs. 89.68 lakhs in a moneylaundering case involving the nephew of Congress’ Chandigarh candidate and former railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal.
The agency said it has issued the order to freeze the “bribe” money, which according to it, was “proceeds of crime”.
ED officials said CBI investigations revealed that Mahesh Kumar, a 1975-batch officer of Indian Railway Service of Signal Engineers, was posted as General Manager, Western Railways, and he wanted to get himself appointed Member (Electrical), Railway Board instead of Member (Staff).
There is famous British Maxim which says that “In case you want to put an issue under the carpet appoint a committee” and no other maxim has been followed so scrupulously by the Administration both at the Centre as well as by the States then this which amounts to telling white lies – as the clear intention of the Government is not to sort out the issue but to scuttle the same in plain terms. In India this has been a “Dharma” to nip the evil in the bud and in order to befool the people a Parliamentary Committee or Group of Ministers or an Empowered Group of Ministers is immediately constituted to bury the issue once and for all and buy the peace till eternity as the said Committee or Group of Ministers or Empowered Group of Ministers will either never give a report or shall give a report after years or when the issue has either been totally forgotten by the public with the passage of time and has totally lost its relevance and in most of the cases, invariably the report is given by the Committee, if not favorable or acceptable to the Government, the same is either filed or a new Committee is appointed to examine the recommendations of the earlier Committee which will take another few years to submit report which never sees the light of the day. As in between the Governments are replaced by another Government which shelved all such reports.