Hounded For Her Honesty

They are the elite of India’s elites: the brilliant men and women who belong to the Indian Administrative Service, the top strata of civil servants, numbering about 5, 000, who in effect rule this nation of nearly 125 crores. The British, who had set up the ICS as the top tier of bureaucrats, referred to it as a “steel frame” on which they constructed their Indian empire. Today, young IAS officers call it “a rubber frame”.

There, around 100 of the brightest recruits are selected each year from among the thousands who appear for the UPSC Civil Services Examination. Bureaucracy represents power, and these people all want to seek an alliance with this power. For most Indians, who have every reason to fear the country’s octopus-armed bureaucracy, the scowling IAS officer sitting at his grand desk is still someone to be approached with fear and often with a thick packet of rupees. In fact, if corrupt, an IAS officer can literally mint money.

In Uttar Pradesh, some honest IAS officers were so incensed by the swindling and bribe-taking of their superiors that they tried to embarrass the culprits by polling colleagues to select the three most corrupt and undesirable officials in the state. The secret ballot was held but the names of the three worst offenders were not disclosed. There’s a total demoralisation of the bureaucracy at the top level. Officers, whose duty is to be close to the people, are found hanging around ministers and party bosses. The few honest ones are the ones who suffer the most.

Since it is virtually impossible to sack an IAS officer, politicians often use the threat of transfer and suspension to bend administrators and even make them comply with unethical or downright illegal orders.

The recent example of Durga Nagpal, the upright 2010 batch IAS officer who had taken a tough stand against the unbridled mining mafia of the country’s most populous and mismanaged state,is but another reminder of the IAS losing their godly status. The honest officer was charged with trying to flare up communal tension in the region and put under suspension. Much needs to be explained on how stopping mafias from looting the nation is an act of flaring up communal tension. The cornered UP government has accused the lady officer of bulldozing a makeshift wall around a mosque. Makeshift because the structure was brought up in last few days on public land and used by Muslims to offer their evening Namaz during the month of Ramzan. Even if the story holds some truth, the action of the officer was not wrong. According to 2010 Supreme Court ruling, no religious structure is permissible on public land, come what may. Isn’t the officer simply abiding by the rule of the land when she went ahead and allegedly razed that wall?

The mining mafia was allegedly controlled by local Samajwadi Party leader Narendra Bhati, who is also the party’s declared candidate for the 2014 Lok Sabha election from the area. Even as the SP leadership went about flatly refuting allegations about his role in Nagpal’s suspension, a video-clip captured Bhati bragging, “it took me just 41 minutes to get Durga Shakti Nagpal suspended”.

Appeasement for minority votes has become so intense that people whom we have elected to govern have gone blind of everything else. All that these morons see is Muslims and a hasty race to appease them. To hide their own corruption and protect the Mafia, these politicians routinely join their hands to victimise honest officials who stand as hindrances. Since they cannot claim to have suspended her because she was obstructing their loot, a convenient communal story was fabricated and rolled out. To safeguard their own evil interest these thugs would even go ahead and manufacture communal tension when there is none. The local Muslims, the state wakf board and the administration including the police, have all given a clean chit to her, but for the Akhilesh government to bow down would be a clear loss of hubris. Dishonest IAS officers in Uttar Pradesh have never been the bane of the political bosses, be they from any party, but honest officers have been a thorn in the flesh.

The people of UP had lot a of expectations from Akhilesh Yadav, but by suspending Durga Nagpal he has disappointed crores of his followers. Let’s stand behind this young brave woman in her fight and assure her that she is not alone. Can we? If not then I am sure Durga Nagpal neither is the first case nor will be the last. If she is not reinstated and posted back as SDM, Noida, the Mafia will have their way and it would deter other honest officers from taking action against such errant gangsters.

Deepak Kumar Rath

Deepak Kumar Rath

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