|Gods of Corruption; Pramilla Shankar; Manas Publications; Pp 232; Rs 595|
The book Gods of Corruption narrates the experiences of Pramilla Shankar IAS as a Civil Servant in UP.
Written by an independent-minded civil servant belonging to the Uttar Pradesh cadre, this book is divided into two parts with the first part focusing on the problems she faced during her career and the second on the lessons learnt and how some of the problems confronting the country can be handled. Written in the first person, the author brings out the inane trivialities, petty politics and corruption that is prevalent in the state, where the system is neither professional and nor are the officers and masters. Senior officers evade responsibility and try to implicate their juniors while attempting to sweep unpalatable issues under the carpet. They pretend that things are running smoothly when there is rot underneath and with no inclination to rectify it. She says all sectors of administration suffer from the same malady, be it the administration, police, the judiciary or the press. Nepotism and favouritsm flourish, rules and regulations are openly flouted, corruption is rampant among ministers and caste lobbies work in the interest of officers of the same caste. What she says has to be the truth because she has worked in several departments of the state government and knows how misgovernance and corruption are rampant in this most populous state of the country.
Narrating an incident on newly joining the service, she refers to the Akali attack on the Sant Nirankari Bhawan at Kanpur. She describes how on her first field duty, she earned the wrath of the District Magistrate and the Additional District Magistrate when she refused to play ball and not go along with them. Citing her own frustration despite being devoted and hardworking, like the relatively few civil servants of Uttar Pradesh, she regrets that she “could not make much of a difference” because “whenever I tried to make a difference, I was shunted out unceremoniously and even if I did manage to bring about some changes, they were soon revised after my shift from that department.”
In another incident at Kanpur in DAV College, where students went on a rampage for not being allowed to cheat in their exams, she gave orders for use of force to the Deputy Superintendent of Police as the situation could not be contained. But, to her dismay she came to the conclusion that junior officers have to fend for themselves and may even be implicated by their seniors who want to save their own skin. She narrates how she was harassed by the District Magistrate A P Singh, who was later voted one of the most corrupt officers by Uttar Pradesh’s IAS Officers Association. She says with tongue in cheek, “He broke all rules and regulations and expected others to toe his line. He was one of a few of this kind then. Unfortunately things in UP have changed dramatically and there are many officers like him today.”
In the second part of the book, Pramilla Shankar narrates her experiences reinforcing the fact that the way bureaucrats and politicians indulge in petty politicking, rather than thinking of the broader issues of growth and progress, governance is relegated to the background. Governance basically means to act according to rules and regulations quickly and promptly and punish the law-breakers without fear or favour, but Pramilla finds nepotism, favouritism, vested interest, fear and corruption rampant in the state administration. She says, “Political parties engage in divisive and sectarian politics, destroying the very fabric of good governance.” Her suggestion is that both the government and the people have to work in tandem to improve governance.
She is highly critical of the administration in UP as it is “fraught with problems with the simplest of orders going unimplemented”. She blames the headquarters of the state government “from where the lack of system or administration in UP ironically starts” and the unwieldy government machinery in the Secretariat “is lackadaisical about decision making with the same files going back and forth many times.” She adds, “Nothing gets done routinely. Every small issue has to be pursued; there are serious inter-departmental coordination problems, confusion in the Secretariat.” She very pithily sums up, “UP is one of the filthiest states in the country. The traffic is chaotic and we are an undisciplined people with no fear of the rule of law and that everything can be managed with money, power and connections.”
Manju Gupta (The reviewer is former editor of NBT)