Follow by Email

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The culture of corruption- some reflections

Two months ago, Neera Yadav, former Chief Secretary of U.P. and once its most powerful bureaucrat was convicted and sent to jail. Soon thereafter, BS Lalli, CEO of Prasar Bharati, was suspended on allegations of corruption. Both were my batchmates in the IAS and my memories of them as probationers are so completely at variance with the reputations they acquired later in their careers that it becomes both sad and difficult to reconcile the two.

Do social origins and the cultural milieu in which one has grown up have a role to play in the kind of IAS officer one eventually becomes?

At one level, all bureaucrats have been corrupt in some way or another -- favouring friends or kinsmen or persons of a particular region, using the perks and freebies offered by PSUs, accepting free ‘companion’ tickets offered by Air India, and so on. Worse, many readily condoned or not resisted the corrupt behaviour of those in power and often, while keeping their own noses clean, allowed their masters to get away with murder. A few, however, become known for the voraciousness of their appetite for material acquisitions and their tyrannical behaviour, especially in dealing with the subaltern classes. They stand out both because of the awesome scale of their greed and because of their complete disregard for what this greed does to their reputations in civil society or even their peer group. What makes for this change in behaviour? Were the symptoms, or the ‘Lakshanas’ of such behaviour always there?

When we joined the IAS in 1971, the entrants could be broadly grouped into three distinct, occasionally overlapping, categories.There were those of us whose parents had been/ were in the higher echelons of civil service or senior management positions in the boxwalla companies. Most of us had been to public schools and our undergraduate years had been spent in the elite colleges and universities of India. We cultivated intellectual airs. We thought, or at least pretended to be, well read; were passionate about books, classical music and the arts. We had little understanding of caste and community relations, except in academic terms. The only world we knew was the world of the metropolis and gender distinctions were absent from our world. It amused us that many found us to be insufferably snobbish, English-speaking minority in an India that was then still predominantly rural and provincial.

The second social group in the IAS was also from an urban middle class background but with a strong non metro, medium sized city bias. Belonging to cities like Chandigarh, Ludhiana, Kanpur, Nagpur, Sagar, Baroda or Mysore, their parents were mostly from professional, technical backgrounds working in the middle rungs of their organisations. They were deeply rooted in the emerging Indian middle class and the IAS was a very significant part of their aspirational growth. Their fluency in English, to them a second language, was acquired with a fair degree of effort.

The third group had closer links with the rural and provincial than the second. They were deeply and integrally connected to land and land relations. They accepted, even venerated, feudal style hierarchical relations between ‘master’ and ‘servant’. The IAS of their imagination was still rooted in a semi feudal, patriarchal order. Their most distinguishing feature was their unease with the English language. Their lack of familiarity with Western literature, with the Arts was almost a badge of their being rooted in the vernacular. A strand of anti-intellectualism ran through their normal discourse, as they believed that intellectuals did not make good administrators.

This threefold varna is probably sharper in retrospect than it was at that time and many of us fell in between these groups. Nor was this division based primarily on class or caste or income although these dimensions did exist. The distinctions were primarily cultural and the English language the main dividing line. Many in the first category came from families whose incomes were much lower than those in the second or third categories and many in the third category belonged to the higher castes.

Many of us in the first group were half ashamed of our elitist origins. While we were most comfortable with our own blood group we took pains to cultivate friends from the other groups. To our social guilt tainted eyes a person like Neera appeared a shining example of someone who had fought her way out of a male chauvinist, patriarchal social order and stood her own ground in an elitist milieu. The fact that she was completely unselfconscious about her ordinariness made her even more striking to us.

To understand what changed, tracing the career trajectories of the three groups can offer interesting sociological insights. Those of the third group rarely sought careers in the Central Government, saw little benefit in acquiring specialised technical and professional skills, had very close relationships with provincial political satraps and local traders and contractors (forests, mines, liquour, cement, kerosene, civil works) and most of their corrupt dealings dealt with land and real estate related transactions, mining leases, excise licences etc . All of them displayed a tremendous appetite for acquiring landed property. The economic profiles of most changed dramatically between the beginning and the end of their careers. Very few remained free from the taint of corruption.

Those of the second group, while not averse to Central Government careers, focused on jobs traditionally associated with power and status -- Ministries of Home, Defence, Industry, cultivated low profile politicians powerful in the backrooms of party politics to secure posts in such Ministries and Departments, gave great importance to following rules and procedures and paperwork and avoided getting into controversial situations. For the majority of them wielding authority, being treated deferentially, ensuring protocol proprieties was more important than making money. They never took a bold, unconventional stand and never questioned the status quo. They managed political masters deftly showing sufficient elasticity to bend when required without getting into ugly confrontations. Most of them had their children take up careers in finance, or consultancy or Government and they saw to it that their educational progress was geared towards such careers.The corrupt among them concentrated on opportunities in Government procurements, industrial licences and approvals, grant of concessions, food procurements and trading in essential commodities etc. Unlike the third group, their accumulation was relatively discreet and modest in scale. Corruption was practised more by showing flexibility in the application of Rules and procedures and the calibrated exercise of discretionary powers to favour identified parties than through brute domination and control of resources and powers to grant concessions. The incorruptible among this group suffered from intense ‘bouts of integrity’ with a strong sense of self righteousness and sanctimony.

Those of the first group made a beeline for careers in the Central Government as far as possible in Finance, Commerce, Industry or the Infrastructure Ministries -- jobs that offered the maximum potential for international careers and foreign postings. Many managed careers in the International/multi Lateral bureaucracy eventually getting absorbed by them. Most jobs required dealing with International treaties and protocols and therefore superior skills in communication in English gave them a natural advantage. Those with an Economics and Finance background leveraged that to considerable benefit in career terms with organisations like the World Bank and the IMF or the poorer cousins in the Asian and African Development Banks. Relations with political masters tended to be awkward until the Rajiv Gandhi regime brought in the generation of politicians with very similar cultural backgrounds. The corrupt among them brought high levels of sophistication to corruption itself, making it knowledge- and skill-based either to bring about policy changes conducive to favourite corporates or interpreting policies and regulations to facilitate favoured transactions. While some may have salted away fortunes in tax havens, most corruption was a kind of lifestyle corruption rather than crass accumulation of property.

Several generalisations can to be made from this descriptive account. One, that the differences in the internalised image of the IAS between the three socio cultural groups were substantial and determined future behaviour. In the construction of these images their lingual/cultural origins played a significant role. Two, the language of discourse which persons like Neera and Lalli were used to, being steeped in provincialism, showed a very high degree of acceptance bordering on reverence for existing socio-cultural hierarchies. The purpose of getting into the IAS was not to reduce hierarchies but to be on top of them and perpetuate them. A tyrannical style of functioning was appropriate and expected. The Public School/ St Stephen’s lingual environment, on the other hand, encouraged irreverence and reflected a less socially iniquitous culture. Three, each of these language based categories occupies its own distinct cultural and moral universe in which standards of what is acceptable behaviour differ substantively and qualitatively. In the universe of those with a pronounced provincial background acquisition of wealth by using the privileges of office is natural and legitimate. Rent does not have to be sought but should flow as a natural consequence of the position one has made strenuous efforts to get to. In the same way as politicians from a similar social background join politics in order to acquire wealth and power and see nothing wrong with that as a purpose, entering the IAS with similar objectives carries cultural legitimacy. Being oblivious to the social consequences of their reputations outside their own universe is probably why many of them could be so blatant in their styles of corruption.

For those of us from elitist backgrounds the cultural gap between the Officer and the Politician was enormous. They literally spoke completely different languages that made it easy to caricature the Politician as a crass and greasy low life creature with an unspeakable accent and the Officer as an impeccable, upright (steel frame), genteel and ‘honorable schoolboy’. This cultural gap made it difficult to work out a convergence of interests between the two for the optimal exploitation of rent seeking opportunities. This gap has now substantially disappeared and since achieving success in corruption requires complicity and very close collaborative relationships between the Officer and the Politician the narrowing of the cultural, lingual gap has facilitated the process. At the same time, the induction into politics of the new breed of public school educated politicians has meant the emergence of a new kind of nexus especially when it comes to subtler and more sophisticated forms of knowledge based corruption (corruption related to policy design, design of bidding systems, selection of consultants and experts, designing forms of public/private partnerships etc).

A major part of the problem in the IAS stems from an inherent design flaw. The architecture of the IAS was consciously drawn from the ICS and it was premised on a social and cultural distance between administration and civil society on the one hand and between the political executive and the civil servant on the other. It was self consciously elitist and relied on creating a kind of Brahminical mandarinate which was specifically groomed for the task of governance and wielding power in a way in which even outsiders could be put into an appropriate cultural mould. The critical mass had to consist of people who shared a certain cultural ethos, who subscribed to an ‘Esprit de Corps’, who genuinely believed in what is cricket and what is not.

Such a design was obviously at variance with the rough and tumble of the Indian democracy where the Realpolitik was increasingly emerging as the only ‘Real’ Politics. Instead of redesigning the architecture more appropriate to the changing socio-political context, the IAS was sought to be retrofitted by tinkering with its basic design. Obviously uncomfortable with the bias in favour of the westernised, deracinated and seemingly effete elite the policy makers gradually sought to broaden the recruitment zone to include more and more of those with a vernacular background. This was done in the naive hope that by inducting persons of more vernacular social origins and giving them the same elite status the system could be made more sensitive to the underprivileged.

What has happened is the opposite. A new, more aggressive vernacular elite has replaced the earlier one that has brought in a whole new culture where pragmatism, expediency and moral elasticity are the presiding virtues and the exercise of petty tyranny and corruption a legitimate practice. The flaw in the design is in the idea of the elite in a democratic system not in the social composition of that elite. The concept of the IAS itself is an anachronism in a democratic framework and tinkering with its design makes it prone to ‘corruption’ in a very fundamental way. To think that one can actually engineer an elite force which is trained into social conscientiousness and good governance and which remains immune to changes in the socio-political environment is not just naive, it is dangerous. Just think of the number of new, techno savvy, culturally sub-educated, petty tyrants who get added on to the monstrous apparatus that is the Indian State and tremble with fear! What is the alternative? As that contemporary of the Bard said: ‘Another time another place... Besides, the wench is dead...’.

34 comments:

BARSHANKANTI said...

Brilliant article.

Subroto said...

Welcome to the blogosphere. Like the name of your blog (and the contents).

Rupvarnman said...

An excellent read.

santosh said...

better to push power down to lumpens rather thn push lumpens upto power!

faisal said...

its a nuanced sociological analysis of bureaucracy. I think in a country like India corruption becomes a cultural fact and is looked at by different backgrounds with different lenses. In a way corruption cannot be taken out with laws and legislative act. It has to be a change in cultural psyche

Kalyani chaudhuri said...

Great piece Amitabh, brilliant analysis. Only one rider, the likes of Arvind Joshi, son of an IPS officer would be a hybrid combining the worst of groups 1 and 2.
Keep writing.
Kalyani Chaudhuri 1973

amitabha pande said...

@Kalyani- Glad you enjoyed it. Do circulate to other IAS colleagues.

Re Arvind Joshi kinds, I agree and I have said that there were considerable overlaps within the three categories and of course the categories themselves have undergone changes since our days, but Arvind in cultural, lingual terms belongs much more to the second category , would you not say?

Nirmalya said...

Brilliant analysis, Mr. Pande. I am just curious to know what the reactions of your colleagues are. Also, you don't seem to belong to any of the three categories. Are there more like you there? If so, we probably have some hopes for this country.

krb150 said...

A highly readable write up. The analysis is too simple yet correct up to a point.

krb150 said...

How is this one?

THE SMALL MEN

This place has been over-peopled by pigmies
Each one with an inflated ego
With illusions of greatness and grandeur
Seeking distinction
They are indistinguishable one from the other.

To cover up their impotence
They masquerade as omnipotent
With swashbuckling sideburns
And masculine moustache
Always bragging they appear bold
But when boldness is really needed
Uncontrollably their knees do tremble
They are haughty with the humble
Before the mighty they crumble
They are so small
They are so little
They are so brittle.

They think they are omniscient too
And repository of all wisdom.
One of them, for example,
A mastaan with a pair of thin loins
Learned only in computation
And crossword puzzle solution
With a thick head and a heart of chicken
Thinks he is the greatest of pundits on earth
Ignorant of his reputation
That he is the densest of dullards.
Walking like a stork
Does this bloated toad know
He is a past master in messing up things?
Or does he not know
That others know
He is small
He is little
He is brittle?

In the marriage mart
None is handsomer or dearer
And brought to the hammer
They get themselves bought by uglies and dollies
Yet these cuckolds and coxcombs
Think themselves Cupids
And each one a ladykiller.
Eternally engaged in an internecine fight
They profess themselves to be friends
And like benignly smiling swines
Each other they malign all the time.
Hardly able to stand on their own without a prop
Either a maternal uncle or a patron at the top
They trip each other
These fops
In their burning passion to reach the top
Have flopped themselves down so low
Do they know
Or do they not know
They are so small
They are so little
They are so brittle?

krb150 said...

To test your patience here is another piece -

AN EYE FOR AN EYE

Dear Mr. Editor, sir,
From you I beg to differ.
At my hand many suffered humiliation
And some left their jobs in indignation
The rest are bond slaves all right
But one of them is a swine downright
With no sense of self-respect
For everybody did expect
After what had happened
He would go back to his friend
But that son of a bitch
Has burnt his bridge.
He was a rabid Marxist
Almost overnight
A damned turncoat
He has turned a nationalist
And like a neophyte
He is the most fanatic follower of the faith.
His friend a few days ago
Is now his greatest foe
And always on some plea
He spreads his friend’s calumny.
As you advise I began
By thinking him a gentleman
And treated him as such
But in my great circus
He is not even an ass
Nor an acrobat of renown
He is a bluffing clown.
All through his illustrious career
In acrobatic antics he has been a past master
To him conscience is convenience
And convenience conscience.
His burning passion
Is yet one more promotion.
For the paradise of a sty
He is even ready to die.
When none is available
Or others have some scruple
To do for me something nasty
Indifferent to morality
Or even to legality
In utter obsequity
He will do it as his duty
Without any protest
Such is his zest.
This caricature of a creature
This sleek operator
Will always volunteer
To serve as my scavenger
Ousting in a calculated manner
Those who have some sense of honour.
It is he who has formed my habit
Him and his tribe to treat
The way I treated him that day.
But as you say
It was not proper
But dear Mr. Editor,
That swiniest of the swine-herd
Has himself set the standard.
That shameless creature
Finds no pleasure
Unless he is kicked
Or by him I allow my feet to be licked.

So that is the actual situation
And according to my estimation
He is no more than a swine
And to satisfy his governing itch
My feet he will always kiss.
He will fall sick
If at regular intervals I don’t kick
On what itching part of his anatomy
Better not ask me
For continually
He has kept it on offer
In a slatternly posture
Even at the risk of the latest disease
You are welcome to see if you please.

An eye for an eye? Please don’t talk rubbish.
Before you reform others
Please reform your brothers
Specially that degenerate swine
Who boasts he has reformed the land clean.
[Written on an IAS of WB Cadre who was a blue eyed boy to the CPM, now the blue eyed boy Mamata. He has his hands in every pie. He was once very unceremoniously thrown out of a meeting by Rajiv Gandhi and the Editor of the house journal of the WB IAS Association wrote an editorial in his support. This poem was the reply to that editorial. He masquerades as a Land Reforms expert.]

krb150 said...

Here is an exception. Hope you will agree. -

AN EPITAPH FOR APPU

Here lies one
Whom we killed first
And canonized after.

He took it upon himself
To accomplish the impossible task
Of righting all wrongs, avenging all evils,
Of reducing the distance
Between what is and what ought to be
And unable to adjust to its ways
In righteous indignation
Abjured the world itself.
He took his bearings in life
With a sextant set by a distant star
Always looming above narrow horizons,
But the submerged rocky outcrops of the shore
Kept him away from the harbor.
Steering clear of some inevitable collisions
Ultimately he foundered.

He was unlike us, the successful lot,
Successfully navigating following no rules
Excepting those for momentary survival
Diving or swimming along the prevailing tides
And sailing with the current winds
Swerving our course to our convenience
Without caring where we ultimately reached –
The hell or the port of call.
To have a captain like him is sheer madness
It’s much better to drift
Than to row against the tide
Revolting to the galley slaves.
We would rather join the pirates
To plunder the high seas
With a banner unfurled on our foremast
Carrying his clean image
To convince the credulous shippers
We are honest merchantmen.

We would kill him to canonize
Rather than have him amongst us.
May his soul rest in peace
Leaving us to peacefully plunder.
Hang him on your drawing room wall
As a good piece of decoration:
If his ghost frowns from there
Do not care
For we are many, he is alone.
Like one of those clumsy dinosaurs
He is destined to die
It’s we who shall prosper and multiply
And inherit this pigmy world.
To ensure he doesn’t resurrect
By the infallible rule of majority
We shall elbow him out.

krb150 said...

Here is an idiot who does not appear to have belonged to any of the categories - poor chap!

THE IDIOT

Now that he is gone
Let us say only this of him –
He was a jolly good fellow
But a simpleton.
A yokel not altogether ugly
Nor handsome nor frolicsome
Yet a source of great fun.
Neither hulky nor bulky
But a peptic crank
Among eupeptic friends.
Constitutionally weak
Incapable of any show of strength
The length and girth of his person showed
He had no personality.
Impress he could hardly
For his dress
Out of fashion always
And antedated at least by a generation
Was spectacularly drab.
When others confabbed
And in brilliant catechisms
Brilliant arguments advanced
With his low I.Q. he did pretend
He was no less brilliant.
But fortunately he mostly kept mum
Or if ever he cracked
A sample of his wisdom
It was ignored in friendly indulgence
For his friends were kind to him
And men of high intelligence quotient.

That he was not quite sane
Was taken by all for granted
For always he did the most erroneous things,
Things not approved by majority wisdom.
Not portly in his bearing
And lacking in art
Not a modern knight-at-arms
He failed to win a courtesan heart
And when the chance came
That chance of a lifetime
To bid for his worth
He couldn’t bargain.

An eminent drudge
Others bluffed their way he trudged.
This goat got caught
While others escaped.
In the race
Always tripped by friends
He was the last.
Nor he had any patron to back
For over backwards he never bent.
A dodo so dull
Unable to fly or shift his position
He was a sitting target.
Those on the left
Thought
He was on the right
And the right thought him on the left.
He didn’t know this simple truth
To be neither here nor there
Was to be in no-man’s land.
In chaotic crossfires
Others could duck
But out his neck he stuck
In changeful weathers
He couldn’t be a weathercock.

This crazy fool so idiotically brave
Long deserved a grave
And in our favor it must be said
This we never demurred.
He was loved by God
So he fondly thought
But he didn’t die young.
We shall miss a lot of fun
But he will be missed by none
For in this world of intelligence abundant
He was redundant.

krb150 said...

Here is another IAS officer who failed to save his friend, a small scale industrialist, who was killed by the workers of his factory who belonged to the CITU, the labour wing of the ruling party CPM.

Requiem for a Friend

Yesterday both of us were alive
Today I am living but you are dead.
The devil in his vilest mood under your own shed
Raised the rusty rod with his bristled hands
And brought it down with all his vulgar might
On your head held high at least once
In defiance to his relentless claim,
In refusal to be blackmailed any more
By those goons growing from strength to strength
For our cowardice and callousness
Or compromises for petty gains.
Didn’t you also turn a deaf ear or a blind eye
To the helpless cry of your neighbour
When it was his turn to suffer alone and die?
However much we may try
To give a lie to this
Can we deny the devil his due
Having patronized and pampered him so long
To defer our individual doom by a day or two
And estopping thereby our very right
Not to gratify his unnatural greed?
Or didn’t we consider it a piece of quixotry
To take a stand sometime somewhere and say,
‘Thus far and no further, come what may?’
Instead we chose the easiest way,
We joined the devil’s band,
We became his bannermen.

At your tether’s end
You decided otherwise
And took a stand;
With my seeming strength unlimited
I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t even sell my soul
To see the face which launched a thousand ships
And burnt the topless towers of Ilium.
I have mortgaged myself in perpetuity
Not for immortality from sweet Helen’s kiss
But for mere crumbs
And my bondage is a state as complete as death
Yet I am not dead
It is a kind of stupor, a nightmare.
I cannot raise my paralysed hand
To give you succour
And my anguished cry
Is muzzled into a whimper.
Yet your shattered skull and battered body
Should not make me cry,
For whosoever loseth his life shall save it
And afraid to lose it I made myself over
To the safe keeping of the devil
And bound to a wheel of fire
My existence I find
Hardly worth anything
For that perhaps I should cry.

amitabha pande said...

krb150- While I am indeed overwhelmed by your response, would you not consider having a blog of your own in verse?

krb150 said...

amitava pande, Happy to know you did not dislike my intrusive comments on your blog. I post blogs both in prose and verse in boloji.com. You are cordially invited to that site.

krb150 said...

Dear amitabha pande, Each time I give the link to my blog page you remove it, why? Are you afraid or feel shy?

amitabha pande said...

@krb150- I plead not guilty. I haven't done anything to your link, nor am I net savvy enough to tinker with it or remove it.

Gopal said...

The article has certainly captured some issues from an interesting perspective. But I think it is more of rationalisation. In my professional career in the industrial sector in both urban and rural areas spanning over close to 4o years, I have come across a large number of both corrupt and impeccably honest IAS officers and some of them standing upto political bosses without fear and favour. I tried to see if I could type cast them as per the three categories-but could not do so. However, if I may add that in my analysis of about 40 odd officers I have come across,largest percentage of corrupt officers happen to be from two particular States. Simlilarly, largest percentage of honest officers seem to come from a particular region. I do not know if there could be some relationship. But it may be worthwhile for the IAS fraternity to develop more criteria and carry out a more fact based analysis, draw some conclusions and see if something could be done to restore the dignity.

amitabha pande said...

Gopal.The categories I have listed are relevant only to my generation. Many of my generation, on reading this article, have confirmed that their own experience is similar. As I have said that there are many who fell in between these categories ( I include myself in the in betweens) and the distinctions appear sharper in retrospect than they were at that time. Probably. Maybe, those you know belong to later generations when the social composition changed very dramatically. But I will maintain that the IAS as constructed in the image of the rising classes, who now constitute the majority, is far more open to rent seeking and to the assertion of a superior status for themselves than those of us who were almost apologetic about joining the IAS. There is a huge cultural difference in which what constitutes corruption is itself very differently viewed.

umesh rashmi said...

good article to read from insider. good analysis but missed the basics. IAS are not needed as all the rules are discriminatory in nature as these are inheritance from British rules as they wish to control not serve the people. and our so called politician have no idea how to control the beast of IAS culture But sold them at the hands of bureaucrats. MP should make rules minister are there to see the rules and laws, but not orders are followed and guilty to be punished, and no interference in each other work, which makes corruption to grow hence seperation of power is necessary between legislation and administration and judiciary.
it will not be wrong to mention here as legislation can not contact the judiciary it should be that no legislative body members not to contact administration work as well.
Then only this unholy nexus between Legislation Administration and judiciary will break.no transfer as well.
umesh rashmi rohatgi

Nabanita said...

I loved your article. However, I am not sure I agree with the ‘reasons’ for being corrupt. I believe that most of us are capable of misusing the power vested in us, in whatever capacity it may be. Given half a chance we evade taxes, we jump cues to admit our kids to good schools, we pay bribes to traffic cops to ‘avoid harassment’…the list goes on. And when we get an opportunity to hold a position of enormous power and authority, such as that of an IAS officer, the scale of corruption just gets bigger. Yes, I do agree that the nature of ‘crime’ could be determined by our socio-economic and cultural milieu. The guy in your category 1 does it in his own way – he would much rather use his strengths to effect a policy change that could alter the course of a nation’s economy (thus affecting millions), than meddle with a bunch of grubby politicians. Similarly category 3 folks do it within the environment they are most comfortable in – they are adept at dealing with politicians and elected representatives whose appearance and demeanour would make the public school educated category 1 guy cringe. But, hey, they speak the same language and they understand each other perfectly. Between them they have worked out a system of corruption and malpractice that affects just as many and is just as deadly.

I completely agree with the last paragraph of your article – the answer is not in changing the composition of the IAS; it maybe in a complete re-think of the system. Why should an elite class be allowed to ‘rule’ us in a democracy? Indeed, why? Isn’t it the perception of power rather than the actual magnitude of it that makes a difference?

kochuthresiamma p .j said...

am a first time visitor. very discerning piece. interesting, coming straight from the horse's mouth.

amitabha pande said...

Nabanita-The point I am trying to make is that cultural conditioning substantially determines our behaviour. Taking my own case, I found myself incapable of giving in to temptation ( and at one stage I was handling defence procurements, operating the largest spending budget any bureaucrat had ) even when there were virtually no chances of getting caught. It is not fear which prevents us from being corrupt, it is culture. Yes, there are many in my first, elitist category who turned out to be very corrupt, but as I said even their corruption had to have an element of sophistication. Also, purely in terms of scale, very rarely did their corruption reach the levels of the second and third category.

Nabanita said...

Mr Pande, I suppose we will have to agree to disagree here. While I see a lot of depravity around me I am just as surprised by the large number of honest hardworking citizens with backgrounds very similar to those in your third category. Despite their compulsions and opportunities they don’t succumb to temptation. Also, I find it hard to believe that a 25/26 year-old who gets through one of the country’s most competitive examinations to join an elite group of the very bright and capable is na├»ve enough not to discern the lines separating honesty from corruption. Unfortunately today when a seemingly honest and hardworking youth expresses his desires to join the civil services one can’t help wondering about his ‘real’ motives.

Thank you for a very thought provoking article. Since I was born after you had joined the IAS cadre, I suppose it will be a bit of an effrontery to say, ‘may your tribe increase’. But I and I’m sure millions like myself in this beleaguered nation would like to say thank-you to the folks who instilled those values of honesty and integrity in you.

amitabha pande said...

Nabanita- I think you misread me. I have never and will not pass judgement on mere social origins being a determinant of character . My use of these categories was confined strictly to my batch of the IAS, and I was trying to suggest that language and culture rather than caste or class was a differentiator and that each lingual/cultural category had a different construction of what the IAS meant to them. These categories have themselves changed very substantially and may not be valid now. What however is still valid that the vernacularisation of the IAS has meant that when those for whom the IAS is an aspirational goal and whose aspirations have to do with the image of the IAS as a contemporary feudal overlord, get into power they more likely to see rent seeking as a legitimate perk. Why is it that unlike our times when the IFS was the most sought after service and all the toppers had it as their first choice, today the IFS stands very low in the order of priorities of thenew entrants to the Civil Services and it is the Revenue Services which are the most sought after next to the IAS ? The motivations for joining service are very different, the age profile is dramatically different as is the socio cultural background.

conscience of the society said...

I fully agree with Nabanita - -why should DEMOCRACY use POWER as its fuel in country governance ? It is after all a political systems of EQUALS !

I politely invite all of you to our blog link:http://changefuelofdemocracy.blogspot.com/wherein this PHILOSOPHIC theme of REINVENTING DEMOCRACY, with a shift from power to REASON as FUEL in country governance. There are other blogs too,that handles the theme in detail.

conscience of the society said...

Dear Amitabha,

Warm Greetings from CONSCIENCE OF THE SOCIETY, a philosophic non-profit that I run for freelance research into the human faculty of Reason,and REINVENTED DEMOCRACY with REASON, WISDOM and COMMON SENSE of man as alternative FUEL (instead of power) for running country governance. I was looking for such an article from the civil service sector - -thanks a lot for the wonderful article !I would request you to share my blogs, such as:http://changefuelofdemocracy.blogspot.com/ and offer valued comments !

amitabha pande said...

Thank you, Conscience of Society ( wow),

My e-mail i.d is amitabha.pande@gmail.com. I will certainly visit your blog and comment if I feel competent enough.

amitabha pande said...

Sorry, that should have been Conscience of the Society.

krb150 said...

In 1971, the year of Amitabha's joining the IAS, the going rate of dowry for an IAS officer was rupees 10 lakhs in cash plus jewelleries, a house and a car. They were the father of the bride's investments that would yield rich dividends when the son-in-law would get a juicy posting. Such postings were available not because of honesty and efficiency but because of an informal network that operated among officers of some upcountry states. UP was one of them. To which cadre did you belong dear Amitabha? The seeds which were sown in 1971 onwards have now yielded fruits in the form of widespread corruption. Why blame only Neera Yadav. She got caught because she was an idiot - others didn't because they are cunning thieves.

krb150 said...

All eyes are riveted on Neera Yadav but do you know there are many other sleek operators? Another lady, not very handsome but very hot, utilised her God-given assets to the full throughout her career and has amassed fabulous wealth. Your friend Saikia told how this lady managed a UN posting by bedding with her minister from a hill state. Recently in the face of public protests and stiff objections of experts she recommended award of a big mineral concession to a foreign company.

krb150 said...

Another illustrious IAS has been caught. Debaditya Chakraborty belongs to the W.Bengal cadre and the money involved is not much - only rupees 300 crores. Are you listening my dear friends?

Pradip Bhattacharya said...

krb mentions 1 name. govt. is not giving sanction to prosecute him, strangely enough. but the other 1977 batch officer named in the charge sheet goes nameless.