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'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 IAS Association.

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," he says.

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.


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