B S Raghavan

Alarming charges, vitiated atmosphere

B.S.RAGHAVAN | Updated on October 21, 2012

There are certain aspects of the emerging pattern of relations between ministers and bureaucrats that old timers, who had been part of administration in the first three or four decades of Independence, would find unsettling.

Going purely by reports carried by the print media and TV news channels, the picture about the relationship that is coming to the fore is either there is outright collusion between the minister and the bureaucrat for mutual aggrandisement or the discord between them is brought into the open in a bitter battle of words, egged on, and often lustily cheered, by the media. There are some developments, questionable in the opinion of the orthodox public servants, that are complicating the situation.

The first is the free and indiscriminate recourse to media appearances by the bureaucrats with a grouse against particular ministers or the Government as a whole.

The very fact of a bureaucrat venting his charges through the media is instantly taken by the public to be unassailable proof of the alleged misdeeds.


The second is the flaunting of apparently true copies of notings on files, classified documents and even Cabinet notes by anchors of TV news channels, who proudly hold them up for all to see at close quarters.

It is obvious that they could not have found their way to the media except by any or all of the following means: The tacit encouragement, if not deliberate effort, of the aggrieved bureaucrats themselves, or their cohorts; sections of officialdom with their own axe to grind, directly or indirectly passing them on to the media; the media personnel themselves procuring them by employing methods best known to them.

The third is that anyone who tries to take what appears to him to be a sober view on the actions of ministers or bureaucrats is castigated and vilified in the harshest terms as being a stooge, accomplice and the like, if his view runs counter to the worst possible assumptions already given currency. Almost all the participants in the TV debates that I have watched reflect the prevailing trend of spot condemnation, and the odd persons out who try to put forward, what to them is an unbiased and balanced view, get pummelled without mercy.

In short, the whole atmosphere has become poisoned with vicious accusations and witch hunts, followed by daily trials by media. It has become impossible to separate the chaff from the grain.

God knows that politicians who are venal and wicked are ubiquitous.

Since the people at large have the most to suffer from the misconduct of politicians and ministers, it is but right that they should be subjected to strictest standards of accountability. People certainly have a right to demand that their functioning must be transparent and above board.


At the same time, let us not forget there are also politicians who are trying to do the best they can to live up to people’s expectations and put up with disruptions to their family and social lives on that account.

Hence, it is not proper to indulge in wholesale denigration of the political class.

Consequently, a great responsibility is cast on the opinion leaders in public life — especially the media whose reach and impact are enormous — to set an example in fair-mindedness and observance of minimum decency so as to avoid damaging reputations. Crusaders for clean politics must also take account of another factor as well: Their grandstanding accompanied by constant and shrill badgering of everyone or everything within sight. who or which does not fall in line with what they hold to be right and wrong, may over time blunt the edge of their crusade itself.

The tempo might soon be lost, leading to a state of indifference and apathy all round.

This was what happened to Team Anna whose ability to draw crowds progressively went down until it was left with only a few stragglers at Mumbai. Immediately, thereafter, the campaign lost its steam, although Arvind Kejriwal is trying to breathe new life into it. But the way he is going about it is least likely to achieve the ends in view.

Instead, he should meticulously document his every case so that it can withstand judicial scrutiny and hit the politician/minister where it hurts him the most.

Published on October 21, 2012

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