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The Teflon tribe

  • Posted On: 11th June 2013
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It is indeed interesting to note that post 26/11, not one bureaucrat was fired. Not one was
suspended and nor has there been an enquiry against any of these jokers. It is almost as if
their enduring teflon coating saves them from both responsibility and accountability every time there is a national crisis or calamity and this begs the fundamental question… Why do we tolerate so much slack in our bureaucracy and why do we allow these inept people to get away? I guess this too is a class issue. This country has created many cosy clubs. There is the media club, then there is the industry club, and then there is the bureaucracy club; they all function as silos when they need to, and crossover when it is convenient which is why the politician is left out sometime. I have never seen a bureaucrat being hauled over the coals for any kind of misdemeanour. They either get transferred or just melt into thin air.

In the entire ruckus that followed 26/11, we took every politician to task; we berated the lack of equipment that our defence services were working with; we commented on the apathetic system we’ve engendered but not once did we ask for a bureaucrat’s scalp. Not once did we make examples of their inefficiency and ask for their removal. And the story keeps repeating itself. This was the same tribe, which desisted from giving snowmobiles to our brave hearts in Siachen until George Fernandes made an issue of it. These were the same jokers who kept India’s army in the boonies as far as equipment is concerned only so that they could exert greater power. Tales of one-upmanship between the IAS officer and army commanders is well known and well documented but yet, we have not sacked one of these fellows.

Even more recently in the Satyam scandal, enough noise has been made about YSR Reddy and Chandrababu Naidu and we have also seen the silly arrests of well-regarded
professionals but not once have the independent directors been questioned or arrested. You know why? Because one of them, T R Prasad belongs to the Teflon tribe: he was India’s former Cabinet Secretary. As long as we leave these people out of the domain of
accountability, we will send signals that are confusing and bad in spirit. This is the point we actually need to address. We cannot have a situation where in this country and entire tribe of self-serving officers is left out of the accountability bucket only because it is a cosy club.

There must be weeding out and there must be demonstrable punishment. If news channels
can call in politicians and industrialists and read them the riot act, they must have the
courage to do the same with this Teflon tribe. But you know why this may never happen?
Because in many organisations, the children of this Teflon tribe occupy places of influence.

Exceptions to the rule exist and there are examples of some superb officers too. What V
Krishnamurthy did to Maruti followed by R C Bhargava or for that matter Bhaskar Ghose did to Doordarshan are examples of unbridled success but they exist far and between. Why, for instance, did we sack Shivraj Patil and take no action against the current Home Secretary who is not just inept but seems to be as lost in a world of mannequins as his former boss was? Why does Madhukar Gupta still call the shots? It was extremely generous of M K Narayanan to offer to resign but did Gupta offer that? No. The answer lies in the fact they believe they are invincible. This tribe actually erects statues of itself every morning and then garlands them much like Lord Fauntleroy. This tribe is living in cuckoo-land but only until their retirement. It is their post-retirement reticence that will shock you. I strongly believe India’sweakness is not its political system but instead its administrative system. People who are meant to be custodians of values and institutions are busy begging corporates in India so that their children can study abroad and live there. They, therefore, have no stake in seeing a prosperous India because their children will work in some wretched investment bank and seek Daddy’s interventions to get deals done.

This is the harsh reality. Instead of getting the low-hanging fruit like the Vilasrao
Deshmukhs of this world to exit office, try and remove some of these errant bureaucrats: the signal you will then send will be both telling and impactful: something that this country needs so desperately!

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