The recent arrest of a Member of the Railway Board by the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) on charges of “buying” his promotion by paying illegal gratification of 90,00,000 rupees to a conduit on behalf of the minister of railways makes a curious case of ruined public administration under the present government. It is greatly horrifying because the amount was just a part of the agreed payment of rupees 12 crores. The question is: why would a government officer pay or agree to pay such a huge amount unless forced to do so? No government servant of sound integrity is in possession of so much money, nor can he ever arrange to collect so much money by fair or foul means generally. Even the man at the centre of the controversy fell back on the contractors of the railways, who had derived unlawful benefits from the officer or hoped to do so in future also once the officer got the desired position. For the contractors it was simply “investment” and for the officer it was a matter of swimming with the current. Could the promotion come the way of the officer without such a corrupt exercise? Why is it that promotions are denied to the eligible and deserving, whereas the prescribed system lays down these tasks to be performed well in advance. The thrust of the rules governing promotions is that they have to be made in advance, so that the position does not remain vacant even for a day. Since this stout system has been undermined by the UPA-I & II governments, scam after scam are surfacing on a regular basis. Because the system failed, the aspirants fell for corrupt ways like buying their promotions, postings or work allocation.
System malfunction creates desperate situations for every public servant. Candidates having valid claims to promotion seek to scramble unofficial influence to bear on their service matters like promotions or postings. Approach the minister or the cabinet through prescribed channels, but find them blocked. What is a right of every government servant (to represent and be heard by the competent authority) is brutally denied. Small officials show attitude and airs. Harassment breaches all limits of the rule of law- supersession by juniors, supervision by juniors getting undeserved promotion through illegal channels, frequent transfers, non-payment of monthly salary on time and cooked up vigilance cases cross the limits of tolerance for an honest government servant, who becomes a prey to organized crime of corruption. It is a very late experience in a career that a government servant might pick up the threads as to who really rules the roost, who is the real government and whom to approach if promotions , postings or transfers have materialize. It is not visible, but there is a parallel government that runs the system successfully. When the predator strikes a deal with the prey, a visible sign of favorable progress convinces the hapless government servant that everything works if the parallel system is properly tapped. The whole chain of bureaucracy and political executive called the government suddenly starts to work smoothly. What could not be achieved in years gets fructified in hours. Money makes the mare go, nay nay, money makes the minister go! As could be observed, the government servant is coaxed, coerced and compelled to resort to illegal operations to get even his absolutely valid rights. Those resistant to the operations of the invisible system, waste their time in administrative tribunals or media, but help does never come for free. Many a times, such obstinacy not only ruins careers but also personal finances and even marriages. An average government servant does not possess such stress bearing capacity and breaks down ultimately. If doing one’s duty honestly brings so much misfortune, why should anybody stake his life or career or family well-being for it? It is such moments of weakness which compel a government servant to resort to buying his promotion or transfer. Otherwise there is no other alternative. It is not one exceptional case, it is the system. Nothing can happen, nothing can move and functioning is totally crippled. The media calls it corruption, but it is a well-organized parallel government, which alone is the functioning government. The other one is simply a mask. It is the difference of the de jure and the de facto, but that is the hard reality. When it becomes public knowledge, as is the case at the states level and the central government level, corruption grows by leaps and bounds. Merit gets replaced by maneuvering, integrity by dishonesty, fairness by networking. Administration collapses, government becomes dysfunctional, competent authorities turn collection agents. Only internecine feuds occasionally expose the activities of this parallel government. But it does not bring harm to the system, only some individuals. The Railway Board corruption case falls in this class, though the real executive of the parallel government has yet to be exposed. No Congress minister can show the flippancy of operating solo, the system simply does not tolerate individual ambitions, egos or networks.
The case of the Railway Board is nothing unique. The parallel government covers every single activity and agency of the government. It has reached a level where governance is outsourced to the pindaris. Pindaris are soldiers of the parallel government, working for it without wages. But they are happy, rather happier than those on regular wages such as the government servants. They exercise authority over government servants and governance of the same order as the law has assigned to the competent authority. So it is not the railway board or the railway minister or the cabinet, but the contractors who decide which officer shall be promoted or posted in which position. Corruption has been the major topic of debates in the legislature, media and elections in India for almost 55 years, but nothing could root it out. If anything, it has succeeded in entrenching itself as the alternate government or the parallel government. It has the capacity to make or mar governments at the centre. The JMM bribery case or the AB Vajpayee failure to win the confidence vote or the Manmohan Singh led UPA-I buying its trust vote on the strength of cash for vote are proof of it. The change of government in 2004 at the centre was by the power of corruption as was the success of the NDA government. When corruption switched loyalties to the NDA, it formed the government; when corruption ditched the NDA, it stalled the UPA-I. Any leader, who attacked corruption and boasted of rooting it out, has been politically finished by corruption: should LK Advani have carried on with the livid anti-corruption rhetoric even after having been a part of the government? Opinions, especially the media Moghuls, are saying that the BJP lost in Karnataka elections because of corruption. Were it so they would not have chosen the party of Veerappa Moily, unless they have forgotten the infamous Moily Tapes and Radia Tapes. The success in Karnataka is not because of corruption but BJP’s ugly feuds and BSY’s arrogance in the face of exposed cases of corruption coupled with social re-engineering of a dangerous kind. Organized operations of fundamentalist elements of diverse orientations financed liberally by foreign forces acting against a largely disorganized society divided on caste lines are responsible for the success of one and defeat of the other. It is a price that a static society pays because it blocks all new ideas, some of which could upgrade it beneficially.