Opinion

Where to look for lost files

R. Sundaram | Updated on September 06, 2013

Ask them about Coalgate.

Blame the monkeys of Rashtrapati Bhavan for the Coalgate files.



I must be a nutcase if I make an attempt to solve the mysterious case of the missing files from the Coal Ministry. The leaders of the opposition are certain that the Prime Minister and the Coal Minister are trying to hide something — like they say in Tamil, a fat pumpkin in a small bowl of rice.

At first, the Prime Minister, with his trademark deadpan expression, tried to wash his hands of the matter by saying the briefcase in which the files were encased were not part of his pack of suitcases.

The opposition leaders badgered him in the style of the television anchor who has patented the display of manufactured rage. They painted him into a corner.

Blame the monkeys

The Prime Minister could have spared himself this odious obloquy by putting the blame on the mission of monkeys stalking the verandahs of Rashtrapati Bhavan and staircases of North and South Block particularly during the monsoon season. But then, with the BJP as the main opposition party, blaming the monkeys will be considered sacrilegious.

It is another matter that these revered creatures are always up to tricks like, for instance, snatching tiffin boxes from clerks relaxing in the lawns during duty hours. However, both the troop of monkeys and the collegium of clerks have always managed to escape the consequences of their acts. Further, the collateral damage that may arise from holding the monkeys accountable will be endless harangues from spokespersons for the secular, pseudo-secular and communal.

Inside Government, obviously, the babu in charge of the case of the missing files is clueless. Babus are never known to be either efficient or prompt in locating even infant files, by which I mean files less than six months old, let alone missing files.

At a time like this, while the old-world babu may have rushed to the dingy record rooms, the modern-day babu may have first rushed to his laptop to do a Google search for these files.

If the BJP is sincerely interested in unravelling the mystery, it should hire a detective like in The Odessa File to infiltrate into the deepest recesses of the Government, instead of hollering to file an FIR or registering a criminal case.

Stumbling detective

However, in such matters, the outcome may not be predictable. It is not the UPA alone which can be expected to bungle. It is quite probable that the detective so hired may turn out to be someone like Inspector Clouseau and will stumble upon more missing files from the NDA period before chancing to find some from the UPA times.

A better option may be to appeal to Julian Assange, the Wikileaks hero, to leak the contents, for who knows he may have the files, perhaps an electronic version, in his possession. Unfortunately, however, according to “breaking news” today, Assange’s own files are also missing.

Finally, there is another line of thought. It is not uncommon in our country to find unmarked answer papers of university examinations in the local kabaddiwala’s garage. Maybe, both the babu from the government and the sleuth from the BJP should go look for these missing files there. Finders can be keepers.

(The author is former Member, Ordnance Factories Board.)

Published on September 06, 2013

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