Former Bihar Chief Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav’s conviction in the fodder scam created quite a stir. It also brought the spotlight on Amit Khare, the 1985-batch Bihar cadre IAS officer who had unearthed the scandal 17 years ago. Khare is Joint Secretary in the Union Human Resource Development Ministry, but at the time was deputy commissioner of West Singhbhum district. He had no idea of the chain of events he would spark off, which would lead to the downfall of the State Chief Minister. Not unlike Durga Shakti Nagpal, to recall a recent instance, Khare was subjected to harassment for exposing the irregularities in the animal husbandry and fisheries department. From being transferred to a defunct department to being recalled to work when his father was on his deathbed, Khare had to pay a heavy price for daring to take on the establishment. After all these years, he has reason to feel vindicated.
The Government first creates a vacuum and then sends in the bureaucrats to fill it. Important culture and heritage institutions like the Archaeological Survey of India, National Archives of India (NAI), the National Museum, and the Centre for Cultural Resources & Training have been without qualified full-time bosses for a long time now. In their absence the Culture Ministry is appointing bureaucrats to run them. The Archaeological Survey is being headed by the “now-specialised” Pravin Srivastava, Joint Secretary in the Ministry; similarly his colleague Pramod Jain is currently heading the National Archives. The National Museum, which has been without a Director General for five years, is headed by another babu, V Venu, a Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Culture. Apparently, the problem is not just in Dilli but several States too are either unconcerned about filling top vacancies in their cultural institutions or consider it a low priority. Naturally, this has led to bureaucrats taking charge of these institutions.
Saying The Unspeakable
When the Government announced the setting up of the Seventh Central Pay Commission to revise the salaries of bureaucrats, one blog by a former UP IAS officer post struck a different note, and unwittingly drew attention to the author Sanjeev Ahluwalia. Mr Ahluwalia argued for (horror of horrors!) taxing the “perks” enjoyed by babus — their sarkari accommodation, furniture, house helps, official car and telephone etc! He has also called for delinking babus’ salaries from inflation and linking it instead to economic growth, clearly another unthinkable! Even before babus could recover, it was pointed out that the author, a former Joint Secretary in the disinvestment department of the Finance Ministry and in the World Bank also happens to be the brother of Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia! Now the cryptographers are busy trying to decode this piece of knowledge.