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Saturday, July 2, 2022

Too frequent a murder of democracy is not good for its health

Only the other day I had pleaded for a political consensus on the number of times democracy could or should be murdered during a year or during the term of a legislature. Too frequent a killing of democracy does not bode well for its good health. More importantly after it has been murdered , the body should be interred, cremated, or otherwise disposed of with greatest dispatch . No matter how vibrant our democracy is , it does not make a beautiful corpse. Like lilies that fester it smells far worse than weeds .
Even the merest patzer hooked on to Agatha Christie or even Jasoosi Duniya could tell you that the recent murder was not planned well enough. It is easy to mock the wisdom of planners which saddles them with the responsibility of dragging the corpse all over the country, leaving tell-tale blood stains and marks of dragging. A murder should be executed swiftly , bloodlessly and the disposal of the corpus delicti must be done with clockwork precision. The sight of the dead body of democracy lends some credence to the rumours about its ill health, because it is only those who are in the great game of politics know that democracy is like the Schrodinger’s cat : it is both alive and dead. Or if you are the type who has literary inclinations, democracy is like the Cheshire cat, the cat has disappeared but the smile lingers on and on .
Democracy is all about deception. A rather crude description of it compares it to a balloon sent up in the air in a village fair, and while you were watching it your pockets are silently picked. I can tell you it is much more sophisticated than that . ‘Free elections’’, says the maverick thinker, commentator and polemicist Slavoj Zizek, “involve a minimal show of politeness when those in power pretend that they do not really hold the power, and ask us to decide freely if we want to grant it to them.” Could a Kafka maintain the illusion of an ordinary voter, in all his phony majesty ,seated on the make believe throne, playing king and granting ruling rights to all and sundry? The art and sorcery of politics lies in maintaining this illusion.
How does politics achieve it? The primary trompe de l'oeil is to make their constituents believe that politics is adversarial, that there are good people and evil people. The good should rule, the evil should go to jail. But it is not a fact. Politics of all shades of morality, from black to jet black , are connected through subterranean capillaries which feed each other . It has a palimpsest identity and masks of good and evil are revealed according to expediency . Whenever there is a regime change people impatiently await the evil predecessor whose corrupt practices stood exposed, about whom copious documents were flashed , will now certainly end up in jail . Have you ever seen any politician of consequence go to jail ? Bergson’s quip, “Stop !Only God has the right to kill his own kind ,” is merely an exercise in rhetoric .
Politics has over the years evolved a very complex code in which it conducts its intra mural transactions. That is how it keeps its followers engaged and constantly enraged because the concept of enemy is central to the political enterprise. They cohabit merrily while their followers are at each other’s throat. Umberto Eco let me in to their secret code , “the politician, when speaking in obscure terms, is actually sending a message in code that emanates from one power group and is destined for another. The two groups, sender and receiver, understand one another perfectly well, and the wittiest of rhetorical turns is not, for the right people, mere flatus vocis but so many promises, threats, refusals and agreements. It is clear, moreover, that in order for communication between power groups to carry on undisturbed it must go over the heads of the public, just like the coded message passing between two armed camps in a war situation, which might be intercepted by chance by a radio ham but never understood. The fact of its not being understood by others is the indispensable condition for the maintenance of private relationships between power groups…. ( I)t leapfrogs the citizen and denies him any room to agree or disagree.” The art of politics is about making suckers of people. The best, the most illustrious conmen of them go down in history as great leaders .
Arthur Miller’s observation that our political life, thanks to 24/7 TV is now “profoundly governed by the modes of theatre, from tragedy to vaudeville to farce”, is now obvious to all . The political actors are past masters at feigning conviction and the television is an accessory to their deception. Instead confronting politics ,collectively, to account for the mess in detail, the TV manages to stage a fixed political reality show and we are reduced to being mere voyeurs of the antics of the fake fighters in political arena.It is a spectacle of the “strange symbiotic relationship between power and resistance.”
I am afraid it is a long convoluted way of getting to the point, but TV is the greatest ally of debauched politics.Together they make suckers of people .

Friday, June 24, 2022

आइएएस/नजरिया: बाबुओं के ठाठ और ठसक मनोज नाथ

सत्ता के तिलिस्म की गिरफ्त में बेचारा कलेक्टर ऊपर वालों की जी हुजूरी और नीचे वालों पर रौब न गांठे तो क्या करे
आइएएस पति-पत्नी युगल के कुत्ते की सैर के लिए दिल्ली के त्यागराज स्टेडियम को नियत समय से पहले खाली कराए जाने की घटना ने राष्ट्रीय चेतना को कुछ इस तरह झकझोरा, मानो कोई अप्रत्याशित घटना घट गई हो। विशिष्ट जनों के लिए आमजनों के अधिकारों या सुविधाओं में कटौती तो हमारे जीवन का ऐसा कटु सत्य है जिसे हमने बहुत पहले अंगीकार कर लिया है। फिर ऐसा क्या कहर बरपा? स्लोवानियन चिंतक स्लावो जिजेक का मानना है, “यह सार्वजनिक मंच की विडंबना है, भले हर कोई किसी अप्रिय तथ्य को जानता हो, उसे सार्वजनिक तौर पर कहने से सब कुछ बदल जाता है!” 

यूरोपीय उपनिवेशवादी अपनी आवश्कतानुसार कैसे देसी अभिजात वर्ग गढ़ते हैं, इस संदर्भ में फ्रांज फेनन की पुस्तक द रेचेड ऑफ द अर्थ की प्रस्तावना में ज्यां पॉल सात्र्र ने लिखा कि होनहार और कुशाग्र बुद्धि वाले नवयुवकों को चुनकर उन्हें पश्चिमी संस्कृति, विचारों और अवधारणाओं के गरम लोहे के लाल छड़ से दागकर चिन्हित किया जाता है और उनकी पहचान अपने देशवालों से बिल्कुल अलग कर दी जाती है। उनके पास अपने देशवासियों से कहने को कुछ नहीं बचता। ब्रिटिश शासन ने आइसीएस के ढांचे में इस बात का खूब ख्याल रखा था।

आइसीएस के करिश्माई करतब सत्ता के निर्बाध प्रयोग के दिनों के थे। एंग्लो इंडियन ऐटिच्यूडस: द माइंड ऑफ द सिविल सर्विस में क्लाइव डयूवी लिखते हैं कि बीसवीं शताब्दी में सीमित स्वशासन अधिकार के मिलते ही आइसीएस में विरोध के स्वर उठने शुरू हो गए थे और वे मुखर होकर काले लोगों को सिर पर चढ़ाने के लिए अपनी सरकार को कोसने लगे थे। भारतीय नेतृत्व ने औपनिवेशिक उद्देश्यों की सुचारू रूप से प्राप्ति के लिए नियोजित आइसीइस को आमूल स्वरूप में ग्रहण ही नहीं किया, बल्कि उससे यह आशा भी लगा बैठा कि अब वह जनोन्मुख होकर लोकतांत्रिक उद्देश्यों को धरातल पर उतारने में अहम भूमिका निभाएगा। सरदार पटेल का मानना था कि स्वतंत्र, विचारवान और मुखर अखिल भारतीय सेवा संघीय व्यवस्था का प्रहरी होगा और देश की अखंडता को सुरक्षित रखेगा। अखिल भारतीय सेवा के पदाधिकारियों के लिए इसी आशय से संविधान में ऐसी व्यवस्था की गई थी, ताकि उन्हें सहज ही प्रताडि़त न किया जा सके।

आइसीएस के भारतीय प्रसंस्करण आइएएस से मूल रूप से तीन अपेक्षाएं थीं। पहला, उनका नजरिया स्थानीय पूर्वाग्रहों से कलुषित नहीं होगा, अत: वे स्थानीय राजनैतिक रुझान और संकीर्णता से मुक्त होंगे। दूसरा, केंद्र और राज्यों में पदस्थापित रहकर संघीय व्यवस्था को सबल करने हेतु वे केंद्र और राज्यों में बेहतर समन्वय स्थापित करेंगे और तीसरा, कलेक्टर के रूप में वे अपनी सरकारों के संकटमोचन होंगे।

लेकिन सरदार पटेल की अपेक्षाओं पर आइएएस कितना खरा उतरा? केंद्र और राज्य सरकार के कटु संबंधों के मद्देनजर पश्चिम बंगाल के मुख्यमंत्री के साथ-साथ मुख्य सचिव भी प्रधानमंत्री की आपदा नियंत्रण बैठक से वॉकआउट कर गए। किसी भी नौकरशाह के लिए यह ‘गुरु गोबिंद दोउ खड़े काको लागूं पांय’ जैसी परिस्थिति में कोई फौरी निर्णय लेना कठिन था। प्रधानमंत्री और मुख्यमंत्री के बीच किसे अपमानित करना है और किस के अहंकार को तुष्ट करना है, इससे बढ़कर असमंजस की स्थिति क्या हो सकती है? लेकिन, पश्चिम बंगाल के मुख्य सचिव सहज भाव से निकल गए क्योंकि दीर्घजीवी सरकारों में आइएएस नौकरशाह स्थानीय शासन के अभिन्न अंग बन चुके हैं। बलराज कृष्ण ने सरदार पटेल पर अपनी पुस्तक में जिक्र किया है कि पटेल और जवाहरलाल नेहरू में निजाम को लेकर तल्खियां चरम पर थीं। इसी संदर्भ में एक सभा में पटेल ने नाराज होकर एक मीटिंग से वॉकआउट किया। वी.पी. मेनन, जो पटेल के सचिव थे, उनके जाने के बाद कुछ देर बैठे रहे लेकिन थोड़ी देर बाद अनुमति लेकर वे भी निकल लिए। लेकिन हद तो तब हो गई जब केंद्र में बैठे आइएएस पदाधिकारियों ने कुछ ही दिनों पहले इस पदाधिकारी, जिसके सेवा विस्तार की स्वीकृति दी गई थी, उसे वापस बुलाने का आदेश दे दिया। फिलिप वुडरुफ ने आइसीएस के महिमामंडन में मेन हू रुल्ड इंडिया में लिखा है कि ‘‘यह एक अलग ही प्रजाति थी। ...ये अत्यंत विपरीत परिस्थितियों में काम करते थे, लेकिन सबसे बड़ी बात कि ये इंटेलेक्चुअल थे।’’ इंटेलेक्चुअल की जिम्मेवारी होती है कि वह सत्ता को सच का आईना दिखाए। केंद्र और राज्य सरकार के बीच टकराव की अजीबोगरीब स्थितियां इसलिए हो रही हैं क्योंकि अधिकांश पदाधिकारी अपनी-अपनी सरकारों को सही, पर अप्रिय परामर्श देने का साहस नहीं कर पा रहे। 

हरफनमौला कलेक्टर ब्रिटिश शासन में अश्वेत लोगों के माई-बाप सरकार का मूर्त स्वरूप था। आज भी अन्य कार्यों के अतिरिक्त स्थानीय स्तर पर जिलाधिकारी को नेशनल डिजास्टर मैनेजमेंट एक्ट, 2005 के तहत असीम शक्तियां एवं संसाधन प्राप्त हैं, लेकिन कोविड आपदा के संदर्भ में राष्ट्रीय स्तर पर जो कुव्यवस्था हुई, वह अवर्णनीय है। ऐसा नहीं कि यह एक असंभव या असाध्य कार्य था। एक-दो कलक्टरों ने गजब की प्रतिबद्धता दिखाई। प्रवासी मजदूरों की घर वापसी की त्रासदी को इतिहास याद रखेगा। लेकिन नौकरशाही की अक्षमता से ज्यादा उनकी असंवेदनशीलता जनमानस को आहत कर गई। सैकड़ों मील पैदल मार्च करते हुए हुजूम में एक परिवार अपने पहिया वाले सूटकेस पर अपने बच्चे को बिठाकर खींच रहा था। इस तस्वीर ने देश के मर्मस्थल को छू लिया था मगर एक आइएएस पदाधिकारी ने चुटकी ली कि उसके पिता भी उसे अक्सर एयरपोर्ट पर ऐसे ही खींचते थे। हवाई यात्रा की विलासिता और खून जलाने वाली धूप में सैकड़ों मील प्राण-रक्षा के लिए चलने की विवशता में भेद न कर पाने वालों के बारे में ही यह उक्ति है कि उनके पास अपने देशवासियों से कहने को कुछ नहीं है। एक वायरल ऑडियो में स्वास्थ्य सचिव ने एक डॉक्टर को अपनी बहुत गंभीर समस्या सीधे उनसे कहने की धृष्टता से नाराज होकर उन्हें जेल भेजने की धमकी दे दी। लेकिन मदांधता और क्रूरता के लिए अगरतला के तत्कालीन डीएम को बहुत दिनों तक याद किया जाएगा, जिन्होंने दूल्हे के साथ बारात को भी जमकर पीट दिया था। जुमा-जुमा आठ रोज सेवा में आए हुए एक प्रशिक्षु आइएएस के तेवर अब तक सबको याद हैं, जो एक अस्पताल में मरीज के बेड पर पैर टिकाए खड़ा था।

खास बनने की ट्रेनिंगः मसूरी की लाल बहादुर शास्त्री नेशनल अकादमी जहां आइएएस का प्रशिक्षण दिया जाता है

खास बनने की ट्रेनिंगः मसूरी की लाल बहादुर शास्त्री नेशनल अकादमी जहां आइएएस का प्रशिक्षण दिया जाता है

कोविड के संक्रमण से ऐसे अधिकारी अनिभिज्ञ तो नहीं होंगे, लेकिन संभवत: खास होने के ख्याल को लाल छड़ से उन्हें प्रशिक्षण के दौरान ही दाग दिया जाता है। आइएएस ने बदली परिस्थितियों के अनुसार अपने आपको ढाला तो है पर उसकी अनुवांशिक विरासत और गुण सूत्र वही हैं। आइएएस में चुन लिए जाने के बाद आम जनता के साथ बराबरी के स्तर पर संवाद स्थापित करना उनके लिए कठिन हो जाता है। देखें तो दोष उनका नहीं, दोष इस समाज का है। पिछले साल बिहार का एक अभ्यर्थी आइएएस की परीक्षा में टॉप कर गया। मुख्यमंत्री ने उसे माला पहनाया और पूरा बिहार हफ्ते भर उसकी प्रशस्ति-गान में लगा रहा। 

दिल्ली के मुखर्जी नगर के ‘तपोवन’ में देश का सबसे प्रतिभावान युवा आइएएस का परम पद प्राप्त करने की कठिन साधना करते-करते अधेड़ हो जाता है। आइएएस वर की प्राप्ति हेतु उनकी तपस्या को सफल बनाने के लिए धन कुबेर, पदाधिकारी, मंत्री या सांसद पिता करोड़ों की थैली लेकर आइएएस के पीछे भागने लगते हैं। सोशल मीडिया पर बस आप आइएएस लिख दीजिए, हजारों फॉलोअर वैसे ही हो जाएंगे। फीता काटने के लिए, दोस्ती गांठने के लिए लोग लालायित रहेंगे। जब तक आइएएस अलभ्य है तब तक वह निंदनीय है। अगर उससे संपर्क, साहचर्य या सान्निध्य मिल जाए तो वह देवतुल्य। आइएएस की उपादेयता घट रही है लेकिन उसके प्रति आकर्षण बढ़ता जा रहा है।

मैं कई बार सिविल सर्विस परीक्षा के इंटरव्यू बोर्ड का सदस्य रहा। इतना क्वॉलिफाइड होने के बाद सिविल सर्विस में क्यों आना चाहते हो, पूछे जाने पर अधिकांश परीक्षार्थी कहते हैं, “मैं जब जिले का कलेक्टर बनूंगा तो अमुक ढंग से जनता की सेवा करूंगा।” तो मैं ठिठोली करता हूं, बंधुवर, बमुश्किल आप कम्पीट कर पाएंगे। अगर कम्पीट कर भी जाएं तो कोई गारंटी नहीं कि आपको आइएएस मिलेगा, अगर आइएएस मिल भी गया तो मुश्किल से एक या दो टर्म कलेक्टर रह पाएंगे। बाकी के 25-30 साल के बारे में कभी सोचा है आपने? सिविल सर्विस परीक्षा का मतलब आइएएस और आइएएस का मतलब कलेक्टर! हर किसी के अंदर एक कलेक्टर बैठा है जो आइएएस बनकर उससे आत्म साक्षात्कार चाहता है।

वह जमीन पर बैठ कर मिड डे मील चख ले तब खबर है, स्टेडियम में कुत्ता घुमा ले तब खबर, उसकी संपत्ति विवरणी में नकदी में एक भी रुपया न हो तब भी खबर और एक सौ पचास करोड़ रुपये उसके सीए के पास निकल जाए तब भी खबर, अस्पताल के बेड पर पैर रखे दे तब भी खबर है, अगर किसी बच्चे के सिर पर हाथ रख दे तब भी खबर! सत्ता के तिलिस्म की गिरफ्त में इस समाज के लिए कलेक्टर ही खबर है। क्या करे बेचारा कलेक्टर?

manoj nath

(लेखक 1973 बैच के बिहार काडर के सेवानिवृत्त आइपीएस अधिकारी हैं। विचार निजी हैं।)

Sunday, June 19, 2022


I held back this post which was written at the height of farmers' agitation and to that extent it is a little dated . But the violent protests over the Agniveer policy has firmed my views and provides me the impetus to share it now .
Initially I was also skeptical about the idea of ultrashort term service in the military but better informed as now I am, I think it is quite in consonance with the trend all over the world. A respected military officer and an objective strategic analyst like general R W Panag , considers the idea worth a try. Of course , it needs to be fine-tuned to suit local conditions but per se it is not something to be dismissed out of hand.
In Bihar, specially, employment in the government sector is the overriding concern of young men. We have experimented with this idea of using the education sector as a generator of mass employment - with spectacular results. Millions of unemployable illiterates employed as teachers have mass produced many more millions of their own kind, so much so that “Educated in Bihar”, has become a statutory warning. But the military is a matter not to be fooled around with .
And yes, dear Biharis , burning trains will not hurt Mr. Modi; BJP can be defeated on the electoral battle field only , not on city squares.
Mr. Modi wields a charismatic authority, in the strict Weberian sense of the term, over his large number of followers. Adored by them as a man of exceptional skills , exemplary in many ways , even infallible, Modi Hai To Mumkin Hai, has been elevated to a gospel truth. As his stranglehold on power becomes firmer Mr.Modi himself has now become the ideology, an ideology without words .
Karl Mannheim thought that ideology acts as an unseen glass that systematically distorts our perception of the social world. Marx holds that it relieves the masses of the burden of thinking for themselves, induces a state of mind in which conviction precedes the validating facts .A basic, constitutive naïveté is an essential requirement ,which Modi’s followers possess in abundance. The stronger the belief in their leader or the cause he espouses the weaker become the rational, critical faculties and the ability to pose pertinent questions. So a very large section of Indians refuse to see the tree for the wood , refuse to see anything else other than what Mr. Modi wants them to see. Strongly held beliefs after a period of time become internalised to such an extent that attacks on these beliefs are treated as attacks on the person . It is not uncommon for friends of fifty years standing to come to blows because of their divergent views on Modi. The Modi ideology is deeply divisive.
His democracy is built around the idea of absolute and unquestioned obedience. New and ideologically compliant forms in name of digital democracy have been built and our civic and even private lives are under ever increasing bureaucratic gaze . His style of governance calls for a voluntary suspension of disbelief, it enforces obligations without explanations. The handling of Covid is an emblematic example. We lighted candles , we clapped , we went into suspended animation because of the most brutal lockdown , marched with suicidal resolve in face of hurtling danger of the second wave of Covid, ignoring Covid protocol to attend election rallies or Kumbh snan but never questioned even once. There is not to reason why , there is but to do and die!
There is a wide, irreconcilable divergence between the reality and the official views on several policies - demonetization, the Chinese crisis , GST and handling of Covid . But of late, notwithstanding their belief, there is considerable disquiet over his handling of Covid, especially the second wave has spread to some section of his followers as well. The truth managers are quite aware of losing many of those who voted for the party in a state of happy mindlessness . So in order to hold them tethered to their beliefs , illusion becomes the chief reinforcer , drama becomes the key, compelling and startling images— “absolute, uncompromising and simple”—that “fills and bests the mind”. As Gustave Le Bon said in his book , The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind, the “art of impressing the imagination of crowds is to know at the same time the art of governing them.” To keep the hope in impossible promises alive, chicanery and mendacity have become an important part of statecraft, propaganda has become the main pillar of government. They are experimenting with an applied epistemology which Theodore Adorno once described as , “a lie experienced as truth.” Hand in hand with this strategy goes the negative PR campaign of tarring those opposed to official point of view , a specific and compelling necessity.
But then Mr. Modi is much larger than that. He not only commands his followers and elicits their responses whichever way he wishes ,he holds complete sway over the minds of even those who are opposed to him , the “liberal, “ left ,” “moderate” thinking section. Opposition to Modi, irrespective of the merit of the case , is their ideology , and finding reasons for all that is wrong with this country because of Modi is the chief reinforcer of the belief of the followers of this ideology.
The farmer’s agitation is an emblematic example. As far its economic benefits are concerned , economist and experts have not been able to find much fault with the farmer policy of the government. It was part of Congress agenda which the BJP had vociferously opposed it, just as Congress was stolid in its defence. So the farm bill is not a farmers’ issue but a political issue. Had Congress been able to pass the farm bill the cue lines would have been different and BJP cadres would have been sitting in solidarity with farmers behind the barricade. Exploiting their proximity to national capital, farmers , mostly from Punjab and Haryana, Western UP are bivouacking for several months on the borders of Delhi and . To this they have added - and carried out on 26th January - the threat of marching to Delhi and holding it to ransom. A national capital under siege would make a global headline any day. As Slavoj Zizek, the maverick Slovenian philosopher said , "The actual pressure must be made more pressing by adding to it consciousness of pressure, the shame must be made more shameful by publicizing it.”
Both the parties employ the logic of today’s populism which can be characterized as “democratic fascism.” Farmers invoke the democratic right to protest, which is fair enough but to claim that democracy and legitimacy is limited to their side is not quite democratic . Their refusal to back down unless the government is brought down to its heels is how “fascism that smells like democracy” operates today.
Critical debate , one of the key components of an open society has now quietly yielded to a phenomenon called guided apophenia .
Apophenia earlier identified as an affliction of a schizophrenic patient who could perceive meaningful connections between unrelated things, has now been normalized as political behaviour. In Indian politics Mrs. Indira Gandhi’s habit of attributing every political difficulty to “foreign hands” and later on to the ISI is an old habit but people took it with a pinch of salt. But now all of us cutting across political divide believe in conspiracy theories with the conviction of a schizophrenic.
The farmers say that the government is sold out to Adani and Ambani and this bill is only to prepare for corporatisation of the farm sector and the immiseration of farmers.( This is quite plausible but where is the evidence?) Government, and the media conscripted to government , have not lagged behind in finding the real reason for the protest : it is financed and orchestrated by Khalistanis and their Pakistani and Chinese masters. Pakistan, China and proponents of Khalistan are enemies of India and anything that can discomfit the country is fair game for them, but where is the evidence?). As Alain Badieu said :“Tout ce qui bouge n’est pas rouge” – all that moves (leads to unrest) is not red. ”
The second example which is an even more convincing proof that those opposed to Modi have embraced the Modi ideology is the anti-vaccine movement which finds its culmination in Prashant Bhushan’s open opposition to vaccine . To quote just one highly irresponsible tweet. “ These mass protests against vaccine madness are now taking place across the world against vaccine mandates , lock downs and mask mandates are now taking place across the world . Despotic rulers are using these measures to keep their people under subjugation after it is clear that these don’t work . Time for mass protests in India too.” The deaths due to oxygen were equally the fault of the state governments but they are missing from the charge sheet against them and Modi finds himself as the sole accused.
At the height of cultural cold war, the non-communist left intellectuals found themselves pitted against another fanaticism of a particular variety, its mirror image. As the American literary critic and essayist Philip Rahv said "Anti-Stalinism has become almost a professional stance. It has come to mean so much that it excludes nearly all other concerns and ideas, with the result that they are trying to turn anti-Stalinism into something which it can never be: a total outlook on life, no less, or even a philosophy of history." Modiphobia becomes a total outlook on life. Mr Modi must be loving it. To become the sole point of discourse in a democracy of 1.4 bn people with infinitely divergent interests is something unprecedented in history.
GS Seda, Shyamal Vinod and 14 others

Thursday, May 19, 2022


"Has the country failed the IAS?" Published in PIONEER On may 15 , 2022

Last evening I posted it on twitter and with in no time I received many messages- from some IAS officers I knew and some others whom I did not - hugely complimenting me for my article but demanding, in the very next breath- an equally trenchant and hard hitting article on IPS . The IAS and the IPS - they are a funny pair: parity is the zest of of an IPS officer's life. He spends the best part of his career seeking this impossible goal. I never knew IAS officers too seek parity in some circumstances . Here is the text of the article.
Officers of the Indian Administrative Service ( IAS) who demonstrate the capability to make money from the system ,and make it fast , inevitably endear themselves to people in power. So , whatever the outcome of the ongoing investigation against Jharkhand Mines and Industry secretary Pooja Singhal, IAS , it will not interfere with the chances of her appointment as Chief Secretary of Jharkhand , when her time comes. In its brief history of twenty years as a separate state, Jharkhand has honoured three such IAS officers by appointing them as Chief Secretaries . Among officers so appointed was a gentleman who was facing trial in two cases related to financial irregularities in purchase of fertilizer. Another one had spent many months in jail on charges of forcing entrepreneurs to donate money to his NGOs and finally won a reprieve from the Supreme Court . A third officer who was convicted in an animal husbandry case, and perhaps died in jail, had two stints as chief secretary of Jharkhand. Jharkhand’s case may be an exception, but in popular imagination IAS officers can make money not only with impunity but with honour .
There are two standard explanations for the steady diminution of the stature and prestige of the IAS . The first consists of playing down the well-founded criticisms of servility and capitulation, corruption and chicanery. Even though sometimes the merit of the criticism is granted , its significant contribution to the polity and society is dwelt upon at great length; distortions and aberrations that may have crept in are laid at the door of the many extenuating circumstances.
"If the IAS has failed it is because the country has failed ( or is failing at an accelerated rate) ," is only the extreme formulation of such an approach. The other strategy is to deflect- and devalue - the criticism by outwitting and silencing the critic with a more vehement self-critical diatribe, an anguished self-loathing of their own, as if the act of advertising could, in itself, absolve the service of all the sins that were being advertised.
The IAS, according to one view, requires a particular kind of society to function to its full potential , something like the idylls of Nehruvian era. The post-Independence leaders and influencers like Nehru, Patel, Rajendra Prasad, Ambedkar, Madan Mohan Malviya, T T Krishnamachari, Acharya Kriplani, Jyoti Basu, Atal Behari Vajpayee, Jaiprakash Narayan ( to mention just a handful); industrialists like JRD Tata, Jamnalal Bajaj, Dinshaw Petit and GD Birla; editors like Desmond Doig, Arun Shourie, Sunanda K Dattaray, Kushwant Singh, Frank Moraes and Russi Karanjia have been mostly replaced by pygmies and carpet baggers. These people may win elections, make billion of dollars in one year or run up huge TRP ratings, but they are incapable of promoting public values or morals, or establishing ethical corporate standards, or writing an editorial ( let alone investigating a story).
But that is hardly the case .The IAS has not only been quick to limber up to the changed political realities, it has scripted an even more indispensable role for itself in the era of “pygmies and carpetbaggers.”
Politics, to appropriate Balzac’s remark , has become like ,“Soldiering, … chiefly a financial undertaking, you need gold in order to do battle, and you need to do battle in order to get gold.” Some governments are( were ) headed by leaders from newly emergent political classes for whom English was not the language of choice, who did not feel constrained by rules, regulations etc and were quite upfront about their intentions to abuse their office for personal gains.
The longevity of governments challenged the myths that the IAS had forged out of isolated life stories of a young collector telling off a CM, a chief secretary recording his dissent in days long gone by, myths that made them intelligible to themselves, provided them with their reassurance during times of self-doubt. Governments were there to stay; they were here today, they were going to be here tomorrow. How long could they wait out in the cold?
Though supposed to be unaligned, personally free and subject to the executive authority only within a defined area, they choose to be incorporated in the apparatus of political power . Commitment to rule based governance , are pragmatically abandoned by such officers . They are for the government , the government is for them.
An interesting example from marine biology will serve as an apt metaphor. In the Bay of Naples, a common sea slug medusa , and a snail, start off as independent organisms but on close encounter become conjoined in such a manner that both the jellyfish and the snail shed off a lot of themselves. A small portion of the snail gets permanently affixed to the ventral surface near the mouth of the jellyfish to become one single organism. They get along nicely in a symbiotic arrangement, exploiting each other’s biological capabilities and yet retain their specific otherness.
A clutch of trusted officers-the drastically edited version of service , the cadre may have hundreds of officers , in an arrangement reminiscent of the medusa and the snail, handle the core sectors of the governments as also the entire range of political purpose. The others are kept in a state of idle splendour. But like an Englishman the IAS is “never at a loss for an effective moral attitude … you will never find … them in the wrong.” It is responsible for the marginalisation of its own service and yet persists with the complaint of political interference.
There is a wide recognition that the creation of the IAS was one of the cardinal follies of the wise. It is irrelevant to the people at large but it has made itself hugely useful to the political class . In an unusual consensus, cutting across their ideological divide , they have found them to be even more valuable after retirement than they are in service. As heads of all the accountability institutions , all those roadblocks to arbitrary exercise of executive power, they render them defunct . In many states you can find officers recruited in the 60s , 70s, 80s making themselves useful to their political masters in a myriad ways. To stand an old saying on its head , “the dead lion is even more valuable than the living donkey .”
The alliance of these two major institutions has significantly altered the balance of power much to the detriment of democracy.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Why Writing A Memoir/Autobiography Is Not A Good Idea

Why Writing A Memoir/Autobiography Is Not A Good Idea My Facebook Post 03 05 2022
My friend James Joyce has now been revealed as Mr. KVK Murthy, a poet of exceptional merit, thanks to the efforts of another outstanding poet, essayist and critic Sumana Roy. Mr Joyce is so well read in just about everything that is worth reading that for the next seven lives he could play ducks and drakes and yet be counted among the leading scholars of his time. His suggestion that I should write my memoir plugged straight into that universal vulnerability; we all believe that we have a story to tell and the world is eager to listen to it. Well, not exactly. Not everyone, but there are a fairly large number of people who would probably want to tell their stories should they have the requisite skill, the time and the logistical wherewithal. In that sense of the term autobiography is the proper democratic genre; it admits to its portals people without any distinction (pun intended). Civil servants and police officers as a class, are as eager to make their contribution to the society known as anyone else.
There are many ways of framing a life. Police officers generally like to be seen as swashbuckling heroes, chasing gangsters and drug peddlers, hunting down terrorists and desperate criminals. Those looking for inspirational or sensational literature of this kind will find their expectations undone. To them, it will not quite appeal as a readerly text. As an IPS officer, I did not kill anyone in hot pursuit nor in the heat of battle; custodial interrogation to the accompaniment of aesthetic torture was never a part of my professional repertoire. Never admitted to the first circle of power, never enjoyed the confidence of chief ministers, nor lent my services to Mafia dons, therefore, never performed tasks in the stealth of night for them - the cloak and dagger stuff - which should be now ripe for sharing.
An autobiography must be a frank, bare all document, to get the monkeys off your shoulder. But I do not have any confessions to make. I never felt called upon to atone for my sins and to find solace in spiritual activities. Salacious stories of secret liaisons, scandals, or adultery, would also be found missing from this account. I am afraid I have nothing to confide by way of intimacies or intrigues. So, of what interest will be the career of someone who had simply walked through life ‘without a horse, a saddle, or a sword’ ?I feel honoured but I feel mystified too.
But there is another style of policing. It is less spectacular, affords no drama, has no climactic moments; it is the determination to act, and go on acting, strictly according to the dictates of law. It is a lifelong painful grind, the humdrum of the routine, the refusal to accept the law of the implicit and unstated “exceptionalism” that colonial police was grounded in, and has become part of the unstated ethos of Indian police as well.This ultimately becomes the brick and mortar in which the strongest pillars of a society governed by the rule of law is rooted. But the formula that clever professionals apply in their pursuit of that bitch goddess called success, is to recognise the special rights of people who matter, by recognising their enclaves of privilege marked by crossed bone and skull. Their lives become easy, their reputation in circles that matter soars and they have the best of both worlds. You have to make your choices early, changing horses midstream is not the best bet. The effect of your routine quotidian effort begins to show in the confidence and respect of the people you serve. If you are consistent, if you persevere despite reverses or setbacks then your reputation travels by word of mouth which is much the more durable and authentic.
My father was a lawyer, my grandfather was a lawyer too and my great, great grandfather, Munshi Chatrapat Sahay, was a judicial officer who, according to the family folklore, stood up to the British dictate of using law as a weapon of revenge in 1857 and paid the price for it. So the belief in the supremacy and majesty of law was imbibed with my mother’s milk.This belief, what Kafka’s Zurau Aphorisms defines as “a belief like a guillotine, as heavy, as light” began to gutter as I grew in service .
My forty years in the IPS was a painful journey from innocence to experience. Layer after layer of the myth of law being the weapon as well as the armour of the policeman has frayed, has become a patchwork of rags, until the grand deception clothed in its phoney majesty of Latinate expressions like Fiat Justitia Rauta Calum (Let justice be done though heavens fall) has come off revealing it in its in complete nakedness and those who put faith in law it at the mercy of powerful offenders .
I could make a game of my suffering, I could flaunt the elegant scars from my wounds like badges of honour. But I was troubled by thoughts which gnawed at my deeply held beliefs. One single pain would be multiplied in many hearts of all those close to me, my wife, my children. The cross that should have been mine and mine alone became a family burden. Those were the occasions that all this seemed like a moral self-appeasement , an illicit indulgence. But if you have good samskara the self-doubt is transient.
I have been meditating intently on the last few years of my career, on the desirability of sharing my experience of how a police officer committed to acting in accordance with law becomes a quixotic figure, an object of mild derision as well: whether there is any value in memorialising the sharp decline from rule of law to rule of men. Evolution , it is said is a barbed arrow in time. A biped cannot regress to be a quadruped, vertebrates- those who develop spines over a period of time cannot descend the evolutionary ladder to become invertebrates. For ten years I have waited, equivocated, felt alternately enthused and deterred looking at my own story through critical, even hostile eyes but I have not been able to gather enough courage to present my case to an audience mesmerised by the exploits of Singhams. It is not worth it. As the Bhojpuri saying goes, “ का पर करूँ मैं सिंगार पिया मोर आंधर.” Who should I bedeck myself for, my lover is blind.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Mr. Ramachandra Khan , IPS , (1968 , RR , Bihar) died a week or so ago .He was an honest and upright officer, conscientious , courageous ,brave and bold .But he was not the garden variety cop with just the necessary policing skills and attributes suited to his trade; he had a keen mind and an unbounded intellectual curiosity. As SP Begusarai he distinguished himself for his anti-crime crusades against the infamous Kamdeo Singh . As Dy IG Bettia he left a mark but a career full of great promise in police was eclipsed by circumstances which were as bizarre as bizarre could be.
Mr Khan’s career was doomed by one fatal flaw in his personality . He was out spoken in his opinion and the truth of his opinion was rendered doubly lethal when delivered in a waspish tongue. He was by no means a votary of sagacious advice सत्यं ब्रूयात् प्रियं ब्रूयात् , न ब्रूयात् सत्यम् अप्रियम् , प्रियं च नानृतम् ब्रूयात् ( Speak the truth but speak it sweetly, refrain from speaking hurtful truth but don’t speak a lie calculated to please.) A cold fire seemed to be running under his skin and it seeped through in his animated discussions ,arguments and left many an interlocutor singed. It was a talent which was not calculated to please and dearly did he pay for it.!
The most significant fact of his life was that he was charged for some irregularities in the so called uniform scandal. There were credible stories that the case which destroyed the top leadership of Bihar IPS was built around a petty pique which arose out of a wordy duel that Mr Khan had. It was a matter which could be handled departmentally but perhaps as the first example of ‘extraordinary rendition’ , a term which gained currency after the infamous Guantanamo Bay, (extraordinary rendition is the transfer of a detainee to the custody of a foreign government for purposes of detention and interrogation) the CBI was called in a trifling matter of poor inventory control and some irregularity in purchase of uniform items. The sum involved was paltry but the CBI cast its net far and wide.
Many IPS officers figured in the investigation and were banished to that moral -no- man’s- land , in that twilight zone between guilt and innocence. A few may indeed have acted malafide but most young IPS officer were negligent and put too much trust in their subordinates – sergeants and sergeants majors. At the end out of the day a dozen or more officers were put on trial ; except two or three , everyone was exonerated and they got all that was due to them during their service , as if there had been no case against them. A reprieve which was no reprieve at all because nothing remained to be salvaged . Mr. Khan happened to be the officer controlling the budget so he was held constructively liable for the act of every single officer in the field. But while others were resigned to their fate and vagaries of legal process he fought, as was his wont , undaunted and unintimidated by the situation putting it across to his tormentors and got acquitted in all the cases but one. But much the more credible judgement in the court of public opinion had already been passed; the verdict of not guilty was unanimous .
I will permit myself one brief reminiscence. I was SP Chapra but I was prematurely transferred just before the by-election. Public outcry however led to its cancellation. My Dy IG was at daggers drawn and refused to have anything to do with me . Gautam my predecessor at Chapra has already mentioned in his memoir the reason for the Dy IG’s displeasure- and how the Dy IG himself came to grief - with both of us. In a situation like this Mr. Khan was deputed to Chapra . Those were pre T N Seshan days and the Election Commission was but a distant rumour which parties in power did not believe in. Yet there were norms and rules and one could enforce them ,if one had the guts.
I received a message on my wireless , that a minister was moving around with a convoy of six or eight cars in gross violation of norms . On my orders the convoy was intercepted and taken to the police station . To boot many of the vehicles did not have proper papers. The minster stormed in the Rivilganj police station and was bullying the local police and zonal magistrates. I reached there in in no time .The minster was a marvel of miniature , less than five feet in his socks, but his rage was towering .VIPs in abbreviated or diminutive versions throwing their weight seem more like caricatures and my encounter with him was interesting but must await some other occasion .
The minster raised hell with Patna and Mr. Khan was despatched to the police station at the behest of government. He was believed to be close to the CM , so he was there in double trust- as the man from Patna and as the trouble shooter for the CM . To cut a long story short I explained to him the situation. The law he knew and I made it known to him that the writ of the election law will prevail. Like an elder brother handling an obstinate younger one he humoured and cajoled me . He was politely persuasive but in the end gave up . I witnessed none of his famous flashes of temper that I had heard about.
The minster stomped his foot , got up to go but tarried endlessly . I had shown my willingness to stand up and see him off but after I had made the appropriate gesture I sat down . The minster could take it no more and left . I followed at the tail of small procession that saw him off to his car. His cavalcade stayed behind till the voting was over. On his way to Patna we went to my house for a cup of tea . Mr Khan was so forthcoming, so self-denying and so warm in his approval of my actions that he earned my respect and gratitude for life . He said that he had expected me to behave exactly like this but he did not seem to be seen to be lacking in effort.
We often bumped into each other during the days when I fancied attending seminars, lectures etc but soon I got tired of what Koestler called the “intellectual call girl circuit.” The last I met him was in 2011, at a social gathering. I had severely burnt my fingers with the electricity board case and generally found myself lonely and shunned at such venues. He walked up to me and said in Hindi कितना लड़ोगे ? कब तक लड़ोगे? (How much will you fight ?how long will you fight ? ) On an impulse I said “जब तक है जान( so long as there is the last breath in me.)Actually it was a line from a very famous song . We had a hearty laugh and I lingered a while with him before making good my escape.
I visited his house day before yesterday , and the presence of the absence was unmistakable . Books , magazines , papers all bore testimony to the fact the active life of the mind of the man. Tuhin was organising the treasure that the man had left behind . I could not meet Usha jee , his illustrious wife, a Padma Shri recipient for her bilingual writing, because she was attending some Shraddhanjali – one of the many that were held in the honour of the departed soul. His children all distinguished in their own fields bear the impress of a highly literate and cultural upbringing .The man had become a memory and shall always be treasured in our thoughts .
Stride like a colossus , Mr Khan, wherever you are because no other mode of being would suit you .
This photograph of a trainee IAS officer inspecting a hospital ward was so appropriate to an article that I had written sometime back but which was published in The National Herald on the 19th April 2022 that I could not but help retweeting it. You can find the article here "Do we need the IAS? The myth of the DM or the colonial ‘Collector’While the country continues to be ruled by the trinity of PM-CM-DM, the colonial ‘Collector’ continues to be an instrument of oppression . "
Below is the text of my above article Do We Need the IAS ?
The British colonial administration in India bequeathed to its successors, the Indian National congress , along with their independence, a fully fitted out colonial state with an administrative machinery, the ‘steel frame’.
In an inexplicable state of mind for which later generations found a name, ‘Stockholm syndrome’, the founding fathers fell in love with this very apparatus of control, domination and subjugation that had thwarted its striving for independence with iron hands and retained it lock, stock, and barrel. The new term of endearment for the fabled service, created in the very image of the mythical ICS, was IAS. It was expected to perform the feat that it’s precursors, the ICS, had been done for their colonial masters: hold the new country, with its wide diversity, together. They were supposed to advise their political masters at the centre and in the states, and help them steer the ship of the state.
Sardar Patel believed that “You will not have a united India if you do not have a good All-India Service which has independence to speak out its mind”.
To ensure that they were not lightly trifled with, Article 311, a politically self-denying provision was introduced to inure them from arbitrary punishments. The then government of India shared the belief of their colonial predecessors that deliverance could only be had at the hands of the District Magistrate and Collector. PM, CM and DM were the three forms of loco parentis in which the mai-baap sarkar of our democratic polity manifested itself.
The fears of the founding fathers about the threat to federalism seems to be coming true, but their faith in the service as the defenders of the idea has come undone. The unseemly incident in which the CM of West Bengal walked away with her Chief Secretary in tow, from a meeting convened by the Prime Minister to assess disaster caused by cyclone, has created some sort of an impasse. It was a situation no civil servant would like to be in: an IAS officer is bound in obedience to both the CM and the PM, but for a situation in which he has to choose to obey one and show willful disrespect to the other, there are no precedents. Anyone else would have agonised but the CS, WB, found it easy, because there is a general belief that all India Service officers in West Bengal, and many other states, are long used to behaving like party apparatchiks. What followed was even worse: the decision of the central government to recall an officer who had been granted an extension, a few days back, was churlishness of unthinkable proportions. As Stalin famously said, they are both worse. Instead of steering the ship of state away from choppy waters of state-centre confrontation together they have charted a collision course.
The Indian Administrative Service, consciously modelled itself after its more illustrious predecessors, the ICS, whom Philip Woodruff described as, “a ruling class, a class apart. They were hard working in a debilitating climate, incorruptible in a society riddled with bribery, celibate until middle age in a subcontinent which married at puberty. Above all they were intellectuals.”
Being an intellectual brought in its wake the responsibility to speak "truth to power", in the famous phrase of Julian Benda. It is a clear case where the IAS on both sides of the fence failed to speak truth to power they were serving, the independence to speak out their minds notwithstanding. The threat to federal structure, as always, seems to have been subordinated to personal career interests. (On this point those interested can see my The Rusted Steel Frame).
Ironically, at this very juncture the other article of the faith of our founding fathers, deliverance at the hands of the District Magistrate, has also been tested and found to be totally misplaced.
After the Bengal Deewani the East India Company began to fancy itself as a state. To make its unconscionable plundering look like a respectable vocation, Warren Hastings was tasked to produce a piece of machinery that English officials could operate and English opinion tolerate. Collector, the emblematic figure of British imperialism, the king pin in Hastings’ plan for the better administration of Bengal, was the answer. This instrumentality of collector was such a roaring success in fulfilling the objectives of the company, while satisfying easily satisfiable British opinion, it was consistent with British “ideas of justice and the proper discipline, forms of deference, and demeanour that should mark the relations between rulers and ruled, “that it was replicated in Southwest Pacific as well (Bernard Cohen). Collector was the man on the spot who knew “the natives,” who was to represent the forces of “law and order.” “Law and order” became the magic mantra and the Superintendent of Police became the magic wand – that he could wield. After the creation of the ICS the office of the District Magistrate was manned by the members of the service.
The successors to the British administration, quietly supplanted themselves in the place of the rulers. The office of the collector, created solely for legitimizing exploitative profits of the Company Bahadur, remained the king pin of the administration which was now supposedly centred around people. It was thought that what was sauce for the colonial goose would be sauce even for colonial gander.
The DM, heads the disaster management authority created by the National Disaster Management Act of India, 2005, at the district level, while the national and state level authorities are headed by the PM, CM and DM respectively. The DM as the head of the authority at local level enjoys unlimited financial powers and huge immunity. Of course, he cannot command the elements, he cannot ask the storm to stop raging or sea waves from lashing the shore, everything else he can. On pain of punishment, he can mobilize every resource and seek almost everyone’s cooperation. NDMA, SDMA, also have retired IAS officers, some representation form retired military officers and a retired IPS officer as well.
The management of Covid-19 by the DMAs, the unplanned migration of workers and the management of the second wave, especially the supply of oxygen and other lifesaving materials, has led to untold misery, an unmitigated disaster. It tested the premise of IAS officers acting in their capacity as DM to deliver, and they failed miserably. As a counter factual it may be noted that a doctor acting in his capacity as district magistrate in a remote district of Maharashtra managed the crisis so well that it became a national success story. There were some others too, I name Rahul Kumar DM of Purnea in Bihar about whom I only heard good things, who acquitted himself very well, which point to the doability of the task. But impersonality and indifference, the defining characteristics of bureaucracy have overshadowed every requirement and trait, in their handling of this crisis. A District Magistrate quipped in face of the shattering image of a child riding a suitcase which his mother was dragging on her long haul back home, that he also similarly rode his father’s suitcase. An audio tape that went viral has a doctor on 24/7 duty in a Covid ward pleading with the health secretary, for some arrangements to be made for his accommodation so that he is not forced to go home and endanger, his wife, his children and his parents. The health secretary asked him to resign and threatened to send him to jail for arguing with him. But the image of rampaging Agartala DM, who bet up the bridegroom, humiliated the guests under the garb of enforcing Covid curfew, will for a long tie represent the public perception of a DM. The production of moral indifference in its handling of Covid was an absolute shame.
I have been a member of the UPSC interview board for civil services for a couple of years. Year after year, the procession of candidates would begin by spelling out their vision of how would they serve the people when they became the collector. No one saw himself as an officer of any other service, no one envisaged any other role for an IAS officer other than that of a collector. I loved to rile them by putting across the proposition that they would be lucky if they got into the IAS, lucky if they became Collectors for more than a term of a year or two, they would have certainly thought about the remaining thirty odd years of their service. They obviously had not. The civil service examination which has been identified with the IAS, and the IAS with the office of the collector fuels - and provides the outlet for - the private little feudalistic fantasies of every eligible candidate alike, even highly qualified professionals earning phenomenal sums of money.
Hasting’s gift to the nation has the potential of turning, has in fact turned - many administrations on the model of East India Company. They are run on the lines of profit-making corporations for their political masters and many of these officers have enriched themselves to become “the King of nabobs”. But that is a different story to be told another time.
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