In today’s The Hindu, in his article ‘Probing the Commonwealth Games mess’, R.K. Raghavan, former CBI director, writes that few bureaucrats, even at the level of secretaries, have the courage to ask for written orders when they believe that they have received illegal or unethical directives from their bosses, notwithstanding the post-Emergency instructions of the government of India to do so. He adds that who do so risk being framed or given inconvenient postings. Raghavan’s sympathy for members of his former tribe is obvious. But I hold that anyone without courage of conviction has no business to be in the higher or even middle echelons of bureaucracy.
The bureaucrats are there to give their considered, independent and impartial views and not to anticipate their masters’ thoughts in their recommendations. Suspecting their bosses’ hidden agenda in their verbal directives or those on ‘post it’ slips, if they make bold and insist upon written orders, in most cases the so-called bosses would panic and retract and a loot of the national exchequer would be prevented. In the unlikely event of illegal instructions being confirmed by the boss in writing, the subordinate must put up a note to him or her on the file pointing out the illegalities in the order, clearly recommending that the order be withdrawn in public interest. Finally, only if the stubborn and by now openly corrupt boss insists in writing that the order be implemented, the bureaucrat could do so. It is not known whether the then Telecom secretary followed this approach when A. Raja was giving out 2G licences on a first come-first served basis as if he was selling milk at a Mother Dairy booth.
And if for performing their duty conscientiously some bureaucrats are transferred to difficult, called Siberian by Raghavan, places, so what? Didn’t they, at the time of joining an all-India service agree to be posted anywhere in
Unfortunately, the fact is that a crushing majority of today's bureaucrats choose to be pliant and subservient to their masters because they know that the latter control the access to a sure pot of gold and, in some cases, an apartment in the Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society's iconic high-rise on the Colaba sea-front.