Modi matters little as babus call the shots

Last Updated: Fri, Jul 11, 2014 23:15 hrs

The root cause of all the ills afflicting this country is India's insensitive, self-serving, arrogant, corrupt, power-hungry and inefficient bureaucracy. From the lofty days of being the steel frame of India, it has degraded into being the misfortune of India. Shamelessly but through well calculated maneuvers, bureaucrats have reduced India into their captive fiefdom with the sole objective of perpetuating their vice-like hold to safeguard their own interests.

Right since their training days, it is ingrained in their minds that they are the rulers. Question any bureaucrat, and he will retort by saying that 'he is the government'. Commonly referred to as 'one-exam wonders', they suffer from acute inferiority complex in relation to the specialist cadres. Their demeanour of self-importance is in fact a facade to hide their acute sense of inadequacy. Their arrogant behaviour is symptomatic of the malaise.

To Indian bureaucrats, national interests or citizens' welfare are of secondary importance. In some cases, they are more loyal to the foreign nations which grant green cards and citizenships to their children as favours. Even mediocre offsprings are accommodated in foreign universities with liberal scholarships. It will be highly revealing if complete data of all such 'diplomatic gratifications' is made public. It will prove the normally held belief that external influences often govern bureaucratic decisions.

Further, all bureaucrats crave for lucrative appointments under UNO, World Bank and other international organisations. They know that their candidature would need positive support from the developed nations. Need for continued 'good behaviour' renders Indian diplomats incapable of taking up Indian issues forcefully.

Irrelevance of the Political Leadership

Although only six weeks have passed since the Modi sarkaar assumed office, disappointing signs are already discernible. It is apparent that the bureaucracy is so well entrenched that it cares little for the political leadership. Bureaucrats cannot be reformed simply by asking them to put in extra hours of work or to skip golf on weekends. These are superficial and peripheral measures.

As they say, coming events cast their shadow before. Here are a few indicative signs that do not bode well for the Modi government and the country. They demonstrate that bureaucracy continues to rule supreme, Modi matters little.

One, in early June, well after the swearing in of the Modi government, bureaucrats filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court castigating General VK Singh, a member of the cabinet for his allegedly 'illegal and extraneous decision' against Lt General Suhag. It was termed as 'premeditated and issued in utter disregard to the legal provisions governing the court of inquiry and principles of natural justice'. It must be the first ever occasion in the Indian history when the government indicted its own minister in a court of law with obnoxious expletives.

It is apparent that the bureaucrats had approved the affidavit at their level. They did not consider it necessary to consult the Defence Minister. What did the embarrassed government do? Nothing, except for a few sound bites from a discomfited Defence Minister. Was any bureaucrat sacked or taken to task for such a major transgression? Forget it. Bureaucrats are above law; in fact they are the law. They lead the political leadership by the nose.

Two, despite loud declarations by the ruling party of its love for the soldiers, bureaucracy continues to file cases against all judicial verdicts that go in favour of soldiers, ex-soldiers, war-widows, soldiers' families and even war casualties. Shameful state of affairs indeed. India must be the only country in the world where the Ministry of Defence fights legal battles against the soldiers whose welfare is its prime responsibility. What a dubious distinction! We have a department to look after the welfare of ex-servicemen but it has been staffed by personnel whose sole mission in life is to inflict indignity on them. The political leadership remains a powerless spectator.

Three, when not in power, BJP had demanded release of the Henderson Brooks Report, stating that the country had a right to know as to what went wrong in pushing the military into a war it could only lose. However, under the pressure of the bureaucracy, the party has changed its stance. Even a chameleon takes longer to change its colours. It is now singing the familiar tune of keeping it under wraps in national interests. Once again, the bureaucracy has demonstrated that it holds complete sway over the government functioning.

Four, the move to liberalise FDI in defence is supported by all except the bureaucrats of the Ministry of Defence who feel that their empire of the public sector would get adversely impacted. Despite the much applauded proposal of the Commerce Minister, the bureaucrats have managed to restrict it to mere 49 percent, as indicated in the budget speech. With control firmly in Indian hands, no foreign vendor is likely to bring in his exclusive technology. Hence, it is a meaningless change. But then, the political leaders count for little in governance. Bureaucracy rules the roost.

Five, despite the much declared support of BJP for One Rank One Pension, the issue has got mired in bureaucratic quagmire. Bureaucrats have devised a new stratagem to obstruct its execution. They have resorted to distorting the very definition of OROP, thereby obscuring the modalities of its implementation. A meeting was called by the Defence Minister to sort the issue. According to a member of a veterans' organisation who was present in the said meeting, "It was sad to see the Defence Minister looking helplessly at the bureaucrats' stalling tactics. He had no courage to oppose them."
OROP in the Budget Speech

Reaction of ex-servicemen to the budget speech varies from a sense of betrayal to outright disgust with the BJP. Sample some of the comments making rounds on the social media – 'an allocation of Rs 1000 crore is nothing but a cruel joke', 'we have been taken for a ride by false promises', 'let all ex-servicemen take a vow to teach BJP a lesson by voting against it henceforth', 'state assemblies that go to polls shortly should be used to deliver a shock to the ungrateful party' and 'even a Kejriwal would have been more indebted for the support we extended'.

It is strongly felt by most veterans that no dilution in the definition of OROP should ever be accepted. In case the government expresses its inability to increase allocation, it should be requested to implement OROP for JCOs and OR immediately. The officer cadre can wait till the fiscal position improves. If that is not acceptable to the government, the ex-servicemen should say a polite 'thank you' and reconcile to live without OROP. How long can they let themselves be treated as beggars by an apathetic leadership? Enough is enough.  


A few years ago, some bureaucrats were ordered by the then Defence Minister to visit forward areas to get a feel of the ground conditions. The Defence Minister's stock went up considerably amongst the soldiers. In a social gathering soon after the above incident, a few service officers were busy eulogizing him. Overhearing their conversation, a senior retired bureaucrat told them that the euphoria was premature. He advised them to watch for a few days. "Military salutes and guards are good for ego but politicians need funds to fight elections. Therefore, they need bureaucrats and listen to them," he added.

As regards BJP, rarely has one seen such a shortsighted leadership – in a short period of six weeks it has frittered away all the goodwill and support that it had garnered by assiduously cultivating the soldiers and ex-soldiers. It forgot that it owed its electoral victory in no small measure to the en-bloc support extended by 50 lakh strong military community and their family members. But then, gratitude is not a quality that one generally associates with politicians.
Even the die-hard opponents of BJP had never expected such a short honeymoon. Breach of faith is as ruinous to any relationship as infidelity to a marriage. Thus, a divorce is now inevitable. BJP is certainly going to rue its ill-advised act of taking ex-servicemen for granted and reneging on its promise.

After listening to Modi's pre-election speeches, one expected him to stand by his word and overcome bureaucratic resistance. It appears that his much trumpeted 56 inches chest was good enough to annihilate opposition in the elections but not potent enough to tame the obdurate bureaucracy. How else can one explain BJP shooting in its own foot by losing backing of such a solid support base?

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