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Demand from babus of repealing of the Prevention of Corruption Act is a sham
After the recent conviction of ex-Coal Secretary of India, HC Gupta and two serving joint secretaries in the coal scam which cost the country losses amounting to crores of rupees, the demand has taken a shrill voice from the IAS babus that the Prevention Of Corruption Act 1988 clause 13 (1) d (111) which relates to causing loss of public property through negligence or collusion without the need to prove personal benefit, should be repealed to facilitate better decision making by these babus.

However, this demand is a total sham.

It needs to be understood that ministers in the government and the babus working under them are two sides of the same coin in the administrative set up. In government ministries, the secretaries and the ministers are the custodians of public property. 

Notably, while a minister comes for just five years, the babu is there until his retirement. So, more than the minister, it is the babu, the secretary, who must protect public interest at all costs. This used to be the order of the day immediately after independence in India when these babus were honest. However, things have changed with babudom all over India due to caste-based reservations and merit being ignored over other considerations.

But today, senior babus crawl when asked to bend and are willing collaborators, conspirators and partners in overall money making game in collusion with their political masters. Political masters also do not mind this willing cooperation and do throw crumbs to these babus in order to keep their mouths shut. 

And, in case some babus are honest, then these political masters have other means to snare them like luring them by offering foreign postings, extension of service or other lucrative benefits. It will be foolish to argue that these babus do not know the meaning of public interest or loss to the public. We should not forget that more often than not, a minister's main job is to distribute favours, repay political debts, speak with a forked tongue to please everybody and maybe secure his financial future for the next five generations.

Ironically, babudom was conceived as a steel wall, a safeguard to ensure that overall governance goes on without blemish.

Scams like Coalgate and 2G during the UPA-II regime cost the nation losses of thousands of crore rupees, perhaps the biggest in Indian history. In the Coalgate scam, before HC Gupta, PC Parakh had been the Coal Secretary. He had written an official letter to the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh against the prevailing system of Committee-based recommendations for allotment of coal blocks which was leading to a lot of corruption with incapable firms getting these coal blocks, who in turn were allotting them to non-bidders. 

HC Gupta might have been a very honest man, but surely, it cannot be said with conviction that he was unaware of this letter written by his predecessor, recommending the auction system for allotment of coal blocks. Gupta should have taken sufficient care with this background information in processing applications to the screening committee for allotment of coal blocks which he chaired.

It would be silly on the part of the Central government to repeal this clause of the Act for the sake of speedy decision making by babus. Albeit, the decisions will still be taken as they are being taken now, but the only problem is that corruption will increase. The need of the hour is that we must have faster courts for disposing of corruption cases within one year. The dictum should be that a babu works honestly, fearlessly and uprightly while upholding public interest.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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