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'It's easier to shake hands with the corrupt and enjoy life'

Last updated on: December 15, 2004 13:07 IST
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Y P Singh joined the Indian Police Service in 1985.

During his stint, he dealt with high-profile cases like the US-64 scam and the Panna-Mukta oilfield deal. But he was often at odds with the powers-that-be because his investigations uncovered uncomfortable facts, which he was not willing to conceal, at any cost.

To prevent him from disturbing the status quo, he was shunted to insignificant postings while his contemporaries received accolades, medals and promotions.

Nearly 20 years later, he quit [his resignation is yet to be accepted] because he couldn't take the harassment; he was hounded for being honest.

In his resignation letter to the secretary, Union ministry of home affairs, Singh said, 'Despite being one of the most outstanding officers of the country, I exist, debilitated and belittled, like a living corpse.'

After learning of Singh's decision, director general of police (retired) S S Puri, said: 'It's a sad day for the IPS and the Maharashtra police when upright officers feel coerced to leave public service before completing their tenure.'

Singh spoke to Senior Copy Editor Salil Kumar and Senior Correspondent Vijay Singh about his career, some of the cases he handled and corruption in the police force. The first of a two-part interview:

You experienced work-related problems for a long time. What is the immediate reason for your resignation?

The decision was taken after several years of deliberation.

What was the provocation?

It was a cumulative effect. In 1996, I was working in the CBI when I was asked to return to my parent cadre. I belong to the Maharashtra cadre. At that time I was trying to expose very big scams, including the one in the Unit Trust of India.

Finally, in 2001, when the US-64 scam became public, about 2 crore people, mostly middle-class Indians, lost money.

When a person is doing outstanding work in an organisation like the CBI but is ill-treated while the corrupt ones are honoured with medals and promotions, I knew that I could not sustain myself in the police force.

The easy course would have been to shake hands with the corrupt and enjoy the best of life. I decided not to take that course. Instead, I studied law and got a degree.

Who was responsible for the UTI scam?

It was the organisation as such… It did not happen in a day but was the result of ten years of mismanagement. The mismanagement peaked around 1994-1995.

When S A Dave was the chairman?

Yes. Under him, UTI repeatedly made dubious investments, including some in contravention of rules and regulations.

Can you be more specific?

It was openly investing in securities banned by the Securities and Exchange Board of India, saying UTI was not governed by SEBI rules. They were investing in lock-in shares and debentures of companies.

If questions had been raised about these issues in 1991, we would not have had the US-64 scam.

Did politicians let the people down? Were they involved?

Without political support, such big scams cannot take place. Only when you try to unravel the truth will you come to know whether politicians were involved. But the truth is not allowed to come out at all!

The Panna-Mukta oilfield case was the most controversial one you handled. Can you tell us something about it?

The Oil and Natural Gas Commission had discovered the oilfield. It was literally screaming in despair when it was told by the government to share it with private companies. ONGC officials were unhappy as it had huge potential. Their argument was that if the government wants to give away something, let it give an undiscovered oilfield.

How much did the government lose?

There has been no calculation of that. The entire oilfield was almost given free of cost -- ONGC retained 40% ownership while Reliance and Enron shared the rest.

How much oil does it produce?

Around 4 to 5 million tonnes per annum (India's oil consumption is around 110 million tonnes). The government gave such an oilfield virtually free to private companies.

The CBI was very angry with me for investigating the deal. They tried to hush up the case. Its officials cut my phone, withdrew my car, my assistants, deputed men to get my house vacated. The Supreme Court passed strictures against the CBI officers. But no action was taken against them.

When I was thrown out of the CBI, I went to the Central Administrative Tribunal and complained against the agency.

You are never able to complete your investigations.

A case can be concluded if one officer handles it from beginning to end. Often, midway through an investigation, the investigation officer is transferred. Then it takes just one corrupt officer to ruin a case.

You also opposed the merger of the Global Trust Bank with the Oriental Bank of Commerce. Why?

The merger protected the interests of the depositors, but not the shareholders. The equity was wiped off. Besides this, there were certain violations of the law for which nobody has been held accountable.

Who was responsible?

The Reserve Bank of India. The problem was in the offing for the last three or four years. Even towards the end, the RBI put out a press note saying that GTB was in a very good condition. When the RBI knew the bank was in bad shape, why did it issue a press note misguiding the people?

Coming to corruption in the police force, is an IPS official more likely to be corrupt than a constable?

The general perception is that corruption is linked to salary. But it is not so. Senior officers often earn at least five or six times more than constables, who earn about Rs 5,000 per month. Plus they get perks like official accommodation, car with driver, domestic help, telephone, yet he is more corrupt. The more money they make, the greedier they become.

An officer earning Rs 30,000 wants a crore of rupees. He starts taking bribes. Then he wants Rs 3 crore, then Rs 5 crore; it never ends.

So there is no link between salary and corruption. Corruption is basically a state of mind. It is linked to greed. Otherwise, how is it you can find more honest constables than senior officers?

Also, corruption can be divided into various degrees. Some officers are honest to the core. They will not allow other people to demand or accept bribes. There are very few people like this.

Some won't take money but won't stop others from doing so. They are honest people, but spineless. I say a spineless man is a dead man. So we have officers who are honest but dead.

Corruption has been institutionalised in the police force. So there are some officers who only take money, which comes in the routine course of duty.

And then there are the vultures. The bribes that come in the routine course are just not enough for them. They are always looking for avenues to secure more.

What is the potential for earning in the IPS?

If he is in a good posting in a city like Mumbai, a vulture can earn around Rs 25 lakh to Rs 30 lakh per month from ladies bars alone.

In one month?

Yes. Some ladies bars pay up to Rs 5 lakh per month in bribes while the smaller ones pay up to Rs 100,000.

Do all ladies bars in Mumbai have to pay bribes?

They cannot function otherwise.

Are all the top officers in the city corrupt?

No. Some will demand bribes, not all. But those who are not demanding bribes are not doing anything to curb the activities of those who are and, hence, are ineffective.

Also, there is a reasoning behind the corruption. If you paid bribes to obtain a certain posting, then you are fearless. You can recover that money, and more, through bribes. There is nobody to stop you.

If you did not pay, the same posting may fetch a much smaller amount in bribes. The reason is that since bribes were not paid to higher-ups, the officer is afraid to demand any from the public fearing disciplinary action.

You have mentioned in your book that the IPS has become a lobbying ground for posts. Can you explain that?

IPS postings are put up for sale. You have to approach an agent or a politician…

Who are these agents?

Anybody can be an agent. Generally, these are people who know politicians, bureaucrats, police officers and businessmen. If an officer wants a posting, he will contact an agent. The agent will know the concerned people, senior officers, ministers. There are a lot of agents, powerbrokers. They get the work done.

Has there been any improvement after the Telgi scam?

No. If there are 100 corrupt officers, only one or two were caught. What difference does it make? The others are more careful now. Everything is as it was earlier.

Are you saying that Mumbai does not have a single police officer with spine?

If anyone has spine, he will be in the position I am in today.

To be continued tomorrow

Part II: How corruption is institutionalised

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