The trauma of a bureaucrat
Former civil servant Pradip Baijal’s recently published book, A Bureaucrat Fights Back: The Complete Story of Indian Reforms, is a classic example of how officials are hounded to score brownie points. Baijal, who worked as a top ranking Indian Administrative Service officer in telecom, power and disinvestment sectors, which witnessed massive reforms and controversies, was subject to interrogation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in several cases, including the 2G spectrum scam, years after his retirement.
Initially, when Baijal decided to narrate his plight, no publisher was ready to talk about the subject. Therefore, he first self-published his e-book and later, publisher Harper Collins, decided to publish his book – such incidents are common in our country.
Baijal was the Chairman of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) from 2003 to 2006. When the then Telecom Minister A Raja was accused in the massive 2G spectrum scam in 2010, he and his Cabinet colleagues made a wrong claim that they were just executing Baijal’s recommendations that were made way back in 2003. This not all, the media (with a few exceptions), top officials and story tellers from the CBI too parroted this false version. The truth, however, was that Baijal had given new recommendations in 2005. But this was either ignored or was conveniently hushed up. The then Telecom Minister Dayanidhi Maran got angry with Baijal for giving new mandatory recommendations.
Topping it all was former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who asked Baijal to follow the directions of Maran and avoid frictions with him. When the 2G scam was blown out of proportion in 2010, after the Supreme Court’s intervention, the UPA Government cunningly played tricks and put the blame on the previous NDA Government. The target was Arun Shourie, who served as the Telecom Minister in the NDA Government. To reach Shourie, UPA’s dirty tricks managers decided to fix Baijal.
In his book, Baijal, the retired bureaucrat, gives an account of how he was treated by the officials from the CBI. He says that the officials showed him a bundle of files and accused him for manipulating norms. And when Baijal asked them to show the files, they refused to do so and bluntly told him that he would get the details only after chargesheeting!
The CBI’s accusation was that Baijal had done everything that was within his reach to favour the Tata group. At last, when Baijal reached home, he found from his records that every action was taken as per clearance from the Trai. Next day, when he informed the CBI officials about the details he got from his documents, they had no reply and they allowed Baijal to inspect the bundle of files wherein he found that the same documents were there in the bundle with the CBI. This is the state of affairs of investigation in India, when the political leadership dictates.
Baijal’s book is a must read for every civil servant and those aspiring to become civil servants. He advices them to always keep records of all crucial decisions taken during the tenure and to not take decisions as one’s own. He opines that a Government official must always take collective decision and put everything on record. Otherwise, they can be hounded later on, when the political colour changes.
His book makes some shocking revelations about how the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India was fooled as some documents and files were conveniently hidden during the audit process. It also reveals how various files were hushed up to hide the truth and create opinions. Files were even hushed up from courts and Joint Parliamentary Committee’s probes to create manipulate the findings.
Baijal has in depth talked about the CBI’s style of pick and choose and maligning methods. He says that before finding anything, the media was directed to propagate false ‘breaking news’ during the raids. To tarnish his reputation, raids were also conducted in bank lockers. There were even stories about Baijal hiding Tata group’s documents and his association with the industrial house. Half truths were conveniently planted by the UPA Government managers to tarnish Baijal, to counter their role in the 2G scam. The fact was that as an experienced bureaucrat, after retirement and mandatory cooling off period, Baijal was a consultant to many institutions, which included the United Nations and other international organisations and several corporate houses.
Baijal’s association with controversial lobbyist Niira Radia was the talking point to malign him. Like many retired officers, he also got associated and all forgot how the CBI and Governments were eager to provide an escape route to her.