Despite PM's call, scared babus still sitting on files

Discussion in 'Politics & Society' started by Galaxy, May 5, 2012.

  1. Galaxy

    Galaxy Elite Member Elite Member

    Aug 27, 2011
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    Despite PM's call, scared babus still sitting on files

    NEW DELHI: Last month, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh exhorted the bureaucracy to be fearless, saying, "Civil servants should fight the tendency of not taking decisions because of the fear that things might go wrong and they might be penalized for that."

    The PM was just the latest to express concern about increasing bureaucratic stasis-foreign visitors have remarked upon it and even TOI has written about it earlier. But his words have clearly failed to inspire the bureaucracy. If anything, the situation seems to be getting worse by the day.

    Sitting in his office overlooking the wide Rajpath, around which a number of ministries are located, a top-ranking government official who is due to retire in a few months complained about his subordinates refusing to clear any proposal. "They would've approved the same proposal a few months ago, but now they tell me that they're scared of facing questions after I am gone," he said.

    In a neighbouring ministry, another official drew attention to the government finally deciding against a cut in the import duty of fuel as that would benefit a few private players-never mind that public sector companies too would have gained. No bureaucrat wants even the shadow of a risk. If there's any, the most sensible decision can go to hell.

    That's the mood in the bureaucracy today. Be it a secretary, joint secretary, director or section officer, the entire tribe has turned completely risk-averse. Any decision that can be questioned later won't be taken, be it placing a small order or clearing a mega project. The situation is no longer one of policy paralysis; it's bureaucratic stasis.

    Officers are happy to sit on files, without deciding one way or the other, fearing the worst if their call goes wrong. In babudom, it's called the 'Behura factor': a reference to ex-telecom secretary Siddharth Behura who has been in jail for 14 months as an undertrial. Some officers believe that Behura is paying a horrible price for playing his expected role and doing what his minister wanted him to.

    Not just Behura, some other lower-level officers are also in jail in connection with the Commonwealth Games scam and the Adarsh housing scam. No wonder it's not just top bureaucrats who have turned shy of taking decisions; it's the same down the line.

    So, it's hardly a surprise that decisions involving high-value transactions and contracts are getting delayed. From imposing import duty on power equipment to export of food products, signing fuel supply agreements for power projects to removing last-mile hurdles for several held-up projects, officers are no longer pushing for decisions.

    This state of passive immobility is not a secret. Investors are already giving a thumbs down to the India story. So far in 2012, the cabinet committee on economic affairs has not cleared a single FDI (foreign direct investment) proposal of over Rs 1,200 crore. Companies are deferring investments, with policy paralysis being cited as a key reason.

    A company recently discovered that it was unable to get approvals because it had inadvertently failed to fulfil an earlier commitment. "The officers realised that the company had made an 'honest' mistake. But they refused to clear the application fearing that they may face scrutiny later and be hauled up," said the secretary of the ministry.

    "Everything is now being brought on record and properly documented on files. This often results in prolonged discussions but, at the end of the day, it protects us from charges," said a mid-ranking officer. "There's too much focus on processes. As a result, the focus on outcome is gone," said a secretary-level officer.

    Despite PM's call, scared babus still sitting on files - The Times of India
  3. SLASH

    SLASH Senior Member Senior Member

    Feb 5, 2011
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    The sad truth is that the honest project and companies are being help up, while other where bribe has been accepted are getting cleared in fast track.

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