Sunday, 30 October 2011

Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal: Not the perfect role models

From Sify

R S N Singh  | 2011-10-24 23:21:21

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A retired police officer who, by virtue of being the first woman IPS officer, was unfortunately treated like a celebrity as soon as she joined the service. In her new avatar as social activist, she is associated with a number of NGOs.

As in most cases, the Magsaysay Award conferred on her served as the critical passport to her post-retirement stardom. She began to be invited for talks and seminars on issues concerning corruption and character.

It is another matter that she is known to have made no difference to corruption while she served in the police.

She was convinced that that she deserved no less than business class air travel for her lecture and seminar tours. Her sponsors always gave in.

Trustee of Bedi NGO quits, claims his reputation tarnished

But she invariably travelled economy class, that too by availing 75 per cent concession entitled to her by virtue of being the recipient of President's Gallantry Medal.

Nevertheless, she submitted the wrong invoice and received money for a business class ticket. The difference in amount in some travels was as much as five times.

Now when the misdoings have been discovered, she is making the preposterous, rather disastrous plea that the superfluous money she made was for the purposes of her NGO. Her patriotic heart had no qualms about bleeding other organizations to benefit her own.

The basic reason for humans with corrupt proclivities is that they are selfish in their make and have little concern for their fellow humans and countrymen.

To serve is not their motive. Such people invoke the interest of some organisation or the country to camouflage their misdeeds. They are no different from politicians who siphon off money in the name of party funds, which in the same vein as the case under question should be considered perfectly legitimate.

Regrettably, this kind of fudging of bills is rampant amongst civil servants. The lady in question seems to have persisted with the tendency after retirement and temptation got the better of her notwithstanding her current national and international prominence as one of the key members of Team Anna.

The lady is none other than Kiran Bedi.

Can she be a role model to the youth in this country?

Consider the second case. An officer takes study leave for a course. He completes his course and rejoins his service i.e. Indian Revenue Service which he joined after being trained as an Engineer at the IIT. Obviously his patriotic heart neither took to engineering nor revenue matters.

After he rejoins from study leave, it is obligatory on his part, as with all government servants, to serve for three years. After a lapse of one year, he proceeds on leave without pay for two years. He then resigns.

His resignation is not accepted on the grounds that his long leave without pay cannot be included in the post study leave three-year mandatory period.

One of the reasons why this three-year mandatory period has been stipulated is that the government department must gain from the knowledge and skill acquired by the individual during study leave.

The government asks the individual to pay two years' salary and the computer loan as a precondition to his release. As is the rule the government does not release any post-retirement monetary entitlements, including provident fund, till all dues and loans are cleared.

The officer ignores all rules and regulations and does not pay. He insists all dues be paid out of his provident fund. His resignation is till date not accepted.

If he were in the Army, he would have been court-martialed. Would you like to have this officer as a subordinate?

Well this man is Arvind Kejriwal, another key member of Team Anna, and is now fighting corruption.

It is significant that Kejriwal's rise, since his stint in the US during his study leave, has been meteoric in terms of number and reach of his NGOs. He got the Magsaysay Award within three years of his return from the US.

The two cases pose some larger questions and are symptomatic of the deeper malaise in the civil services.

What is the symbiosis between Magsaysay awards and social activists?

Is our moral fibre weak in general?

Does the colonial mindset and tendency of according hero-like status to our civil servants spur corruption and make accountability abysmal?
Any country wherein bureaucrats are powerful and lawyers are prosperous is doomed to remain in the third-world. Is India turning into a banana republic?

Is the methodology of selection for civil services skewed?

Most officers in the Police or Income Tax have aspired to join the IAS or IFS and that is why some of them lack motivation to begin with and eventually turn cynical in their attitude to the service and the people. They then decide to use the service as citadel for furthering their financial and political aspirations.

A significant number of such officers have been from IIT or MBBS background. The latest in the list is Sanjeev Bhat, the police officer from Gujarat.

Most of these officers brought no distinction to their profession or service. Their motivation was power and perks. The recruitment pattern produces neither good technocrats nor good administrators. It accords no emphasis on character qualities.

The Late Gautam Goswami (MBBS, MD) a Bihar cadre IAS officer who died young and spent his last few years in jail on charges of corruption was a victim of the same phenomenon. He, too, was recipient of the Magsaysay award.

In many countries, people would find the omissions and commissions of Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal revolting. Nevertheless, they appear pedestrian when viewed in the backdrop of the level of immorality and corruption prevailing in the civil services.

This explains the mute reaction of civil servants, serving and retired, on the misdoings of Kiran Bedi and Kejriwal. Some of them continue to put up a very stout defence on their behalf.

The moot question is that if Anna Hazare cannot get three or four people of integrity in his core team, what would be the fate of Lok Pal?

The problem is not of institutions, it is about 'we the people of India'. It is easy to rally masses and build mob hysteria by creating class enemies.

There will be no change until there is a sagacious leader who has the moral temerity to appeal and challenge the conscience of the people at large.

This appeal to purge individual and collective propensities to corruption will only smite our conscience if it is truly non-violent, all-encompassing and free of prejudice in its import.

Anna's movement, though non-violent in tangible terms, unfortunately smacks of implied intimidation, retribution and violence.
RSN Singh is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research and Analysis Wing, or R&AW. The author of two books: Asian Strategic and Military Perspective and Military Factor in Pakistan, he is also Associate Editor, Indian Defence Review.

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