In my salad days, I have watched, read and even participated in several debates on 'What ails India'. And this question as well as its answer is still relevant in our society. Many of us have no doubt that corruption is a major cause of the economic and social malaise buffeting us even as we go global flaunting our democratic credentials.
And one of the remedies, I would advocate, is strengthening the hands of honest and courageous officers like Durga Shakti Nagpal, who was summarily suspended from office by the Uttar Pradesh government some days ago.
It is indeed a familiar story as we can narrate a plethora of instances where conscientious and upright IAS officers having been punished for doing nothing but their duty.
This is not to shut our eyes to a whole lot of high-ranking bureaucrats who work in cahoots with ministers or other top-flight politicians. To a great extent, we are responsible for such a sorry pass. We tend to support the vote-bank "politricks" of the politicians, not least when it comes to tokenism, where we, as individuals or as a community, are the apparent beneficiaries.
It is indeed high time the civil service was depoliticised and given autonomy. Unfortunately, we know that it is a long shot, considering that even the nation's prime investigating agency is still under the thumb of politicians who happen to be in power.
All the major political parties cry hoarse against corruption but when it comes to parting with power to control key institutions that help get rid of this menace, they are most reluctant. Take for instance, the idea of making the Right to Information Act applicable to political parties. Almost all parties have opposed the move fearing their funding sources would be known to all.
It is safe to conclude that political parties are wallowing in black money and no election can be won without its help. We all know this sad truth, but when the parties come under the RTI, they have to give a blow-by-blow account of where the money comes from and how it is spent.
Small wonder, there is an amendment bill prepared by the government for this monsoon session to exclude political parties from the ambit of the RTI. To be sure, this will be passed without any objection whatsoever by a House that is wont to obstruct the proceedings at the drop of a hat.
It is a slur on our system of governance that 28-year-old Durga Shakti was punished ostensibly for "ordering" the demolition of a wall being built for a religious structure on government land. It is however alleged that the real reason was the relentless campaign of Durga Shakti, the sub-divisional magistrate of Gautam Budh Nagar, against the sand mafia there who have been brazenly engaged in sand-mining along the banks of Yamuna and Hindon rivers.
According to reports, she formed a special flying squad to pull the plug on the illegal activities of the mafia. Durga dared take on the mafia who have strong links to politicians, putting her life at risk — she survived an attempt on her life recently.
The Akhilesh Yadav government has alleged that the officer was causing communal tension by razing the wall of a religious structure and has claimed that a communal flare-up was avoided by her suspension. However, a report of the district magistrate who probed the matter has given
her a clean chit.
According to Durga's version, the wall under construction was dismantled by the locals themselves after she had told them that it was being built in violation of the Supreme Court's orders.
Reports suggest that the state government tried to give a communal colour to the demolition of the structure to gain brownie points ahead of the parliamentary election. It is the truth, apart from an earnest officer, that has become the victim of vote-bank politics.
The central government, at the urgings of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, was reported to have sent three letters to the UP government on the issue. Sonia has made known her displeasure at the summary suspension of Durga for doing her duty. This, no doubt, raises the question as to why she kept mum when Ashok Khemka, another earnest officer, was shunted out by the Haryana government for doing his duty.
Much as the UPA government has asked for the revocation of Durga's suspension, it cannot apply even a smidgeon of force on this matter as it needs the support of the Samajwadi Party for passing several bills, not least the food security bill which is supposed to be the game-changer for the Congress in the forthcoming election.
The writer is a freelance contributor based in India. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman.