'These crooks have had their way for long, now it is time for them to hang their heads in shame'
In Uttar Pradesh, upright IAS officers take on their corrupt colleagues
Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow
Uttar Pradesh has often been called Ulta Pradesh and has
remained only second to Bihar in both crime and corruption. Hence
it appeared rather incredible when a group of UP bureaucrats rose
up in arms to wage a war against corruption in the state.
However, the group of crusading IAS officers, who recently succeeded
in forcing their colleagues to reflect on the rampant corruption
at various levels civil service, are now threatened by a group
of unscrupulous officers threatening to forge a split in the UP
Signs of a vertical split in the 500-odd UP cadre of the Indian
Administrative Service, were visible on the very day the crusading
bureaucrats put to vote names of three most corrupt officers in
August last year. While a number of officers conveniently kept
away from voting, a few walked away. However, after failing to
stop the resolution, they started a signature campaign to oppose
the adopted procedure.
Even officers who enjoyed reasonably good reputations were led
to believe that pointing out three most corrupt officers was unfair.
The procedure was formally adopted through a resolution at the
August 14 emergency meeting of the association which called for
a secret ballot with the rider. Only such officers with a minimum
of 100 votes would qualify among the three most corrupt. "If
none get to this figure, the result will not be declared at all,"
revealed a spokesman.
Several arguments were expressed against the adopted procedure,
largely by the vulnerable. "How can you rule out the ganging
up on caste lines? That way you could even label an honest officer
as corrupt," said an officer. "This gives a bad name
to the country's elite service," revealed another. "There
are procedures and laws to deal with the corrupt. Agencies like
the vigilance department and the CBI are there to look into corruption charges against
all government officials," was a third view. Arguments like
these were being floated to convince fence-sitters.
Finally, Aparmita Prasad Singh, president of the association and
the senior-most serving civil servant of the state, issued a circular
postponing the proposed ballot.
On the day of voting, only 126 officers among the 200-odd posted
in Lucknow were present. Ninetytwo were in favour of the resolution.
However, four months later on December 14, the day of the actual voting,
the turnout was even lesser. Although voting was organised at
each of the 14 divisional headquarters of the state as well as
in New Delhi where over a hundred IAS officers from UP are posted, a total
of 135 officers showed up.
Nevertheless, chief crusader Vijay Shankar Pandey with his 1979
batch colleague and S R Lakha, the association's secretary, were
confident. "The corrupt will not be able to outnumber the
honest. These crooks have had their way for long, now it is time
for them to hang their heads in shame, " revealed an officer.
"It is not the numbers that matter to us, we have succeeded
in driving home our point that the corrupt cannot have a field
day anymore," said an officer who dared to defy the association
chief's directive against voting. Another senior IAS officer said,
"The manner in which some of our colleagues are disturbed by
this issue only shows how vulnerable and guilty they are,
otherwise, why should an upright officer have any objection to
the identification of the three most corrupt."
Neera Yadav, a senior IAS officer, resigned from the association
in protest against the move. In a letter addressed to the president
of the UP IAS association which was later circulated among other
members, she called the ballot, 'unlawful, unconstitutional and
unethical, motivated by malafide intention of defaming some officers
for personal reasons."
While the low voting turnout has boosted the moral of the 'corrupt'
lot, it has dampened the spirits of the upright bureaucrats. Some
honest officers kept away from voting because they differed on
the process adopted for combating corruption in the higher echelons
of the state bureaucracy.
"Why don't we let established agencies
like the CBI or central vigilance probe the assets acquired by
each one of us during our respective tenures? This will automatically
expose those whose wealth is far beyond their legitimate means,"
questioned an officer, widely regarded as a man of integrity who
had opposed the ballot.
A large number of officers favour this view, yet many are unsure
whether the crafty mandarins will not oppose this move too. "If they
do so, they will be only exposing themselves," asserted
a young secretary to the government.
But crusader Pandey feels if the established agencies were in
a position to haul the corrupt, many heads would have rolled by
now. He expressed the need to subject the dishonest to public
ridicule. "This is the least we could do when the government
has turned a blind eye to the blatant siphoning of official funds
by bureaucrats who have turned into millionaires and billionaires,"
To keep the whole exercise transparent and free from further controversy,
the results of the secret ballot have been sealed in a packet
and deposited in a nationalised bank's locker in Lucknow. While
everyone was tightlipped about the result of the ballot, it is
being rumoured that two seniors officers have crossed the 100
vote mark qualify as 'most corrupt'. While the names are anybody's
guess, a formal announcement would make all the difference.
The opening of the locker awaits a meeting of the association's
body, to be held shortly. And the day that happens, a bombshell
is sure to explode.