INTERVIEWING THE EX-DIRECTOR OF LAL BAHADUR SHASTRI ACADEMY OF ADMINI- stration at Mussoorie, P.S. Appu, just after he resingned over differences with the then Home Minister Gyani Zail Singh, I asked him about some IAS officers being inefficient or corrupt while some were committed and idealistic.
He told me there appeared to be a cycle – some batches at the Academy turned out excellent officers while others failed. It was, I felt, a subject that needed to be researched further, like the phenomenon of IAS officers’ sons or daughters joining IAS.
A brilliant ex-Chief Secretary of Bihar and one of the best directors the Academy ever had, the late Pappu felt there was nothing wrong, unless short-cuts and wrong means to do so. “Don’t doctors’ children become doctors and lawyers’ children follow their parents?”, he asked
We read about some IAS or IPS officers doing commendable work. Some, like the IAS couple of Madhya Pradesh state, get caught in raids with staggering wealth allegedly earned through corrupt means. It is also known that many IAS officers are subservient to the political executive. Some manipulate and dictate those ministers or chief ministers who are weak.
Smita Sabharwal, IAS, the first woman to be made an Additional Secretary to the Chief Minister when Telangana state was recently carved out of Andhra Pradesh, monitors several flagship programs like Mission Kakatiya and Watergrid, won awards as district collector or municipal commissioner earlier and was nominated for Prime Minister’s award..
Smita represented Karnataka in the Under-16 Badminton matches and participated in athletic championships. Daughter of a Bengali army officer, Col. Pranab Das, she studied in several states including AP, and married Akun Sabharwal, an IPS officer who was also from an Air Force family.
She was in the headlines for hitting back strongly when a magazine, in a cover story on her appointment to the CM’s secretariat, described her as an “eye candy” for being very beautiful. Akun, also very handsome, had an excellent record too as a police officer .
Akun Sabharwal heads the Special Investigation Team probing involvement of some Telugu film celebrities’ in a drug racket. The film community there, as in all Southern states, is politically influential, but he did not yield to pressure despite threats to his life.
Akun currently is the Director of the Excise Commission, Director of the Drugs Control Administration, Telangana and the Registrar of the Telangana State Pharmacy Tribunal
Officers doing good work are so rare that posts on them with photographs have gone viral. This gives officers in the administration a choice – do some good work and become popular but face dangers and the ire of politicians, OR follow politicians, save their own skin and make a lot of money after sharing it with the “bosses.”
This reminds me of events some decades ago. As a journalist I had to visit the Naxalite-infested district of Adilabad, then in AP (now in Telangana state) every time there was some ‘incident’ in Indervelly, the district headquarters.
I went so often that I knew a Muslim there who ate snakes ‘live’ (and died of snake-bite after I wrote about him), the keeper of the only hotel in town and a Kannada man who left his engineering studies to become a Naxalite, was disillusioned, and settled down there, marrying a local tribal woman.
There was a Collector, one Shastri, who was very popular, used to walk barefoot into the villages and was really interested in tribal welfare. He protested when transferred and moved only when shifted to another tribal district. He was replaced by one Sharma. (In India, a Collector is the head of the administration of a district.)
On a trip soon after Sharma took over there was an encounter in Indervelli and I went again. I walked into a meeting in the Collectorate, was mistaken for an official and sat through unnoticed. I was surprised to see the very young District Collector, a non-tribal “forward caste” man, saying roads to villages only brought more exploiters, It was just what Naxalites say.
After the meeting I met the Collector, apologized for attending the meeting I was not supposed to, and asked about his idealism. He said, “Sir, in a few years I will be in the Secretariat as an Under Secretary. I will be crushed under a huge pile of files and lost in the red tape. Let me do some good for the people when I can.”
That is the idealism and eagerness to work in some young IAS officers – the good crop Appu referred to. Whether it is nurtured or stifled depends on political leadership in a democracy.
Appu, considered a role model for all IAS officers, had resigned as Zail Singh supported an IAS trainee who defied discipline.
Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had to over-rule Zail Singh when there was an uproar in Parliament about it, but Pappu did not go back. He took voluntary retirement .
Whom politicians support was evident as the Congress later chose Zail Singh to be the country’s President.
What message it sends to honest officers like Pappu is obvious.