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Mayawati & the mysterious briefcase- 2

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Plight of civil servants in the Mayawati regime

Mayawati & the mysterious briefcase- 2

There was a practice in the CM Secretariat that for each day one of the Special Secretaries was to function as the ‘day-officer’ and in this capacity, he was with the CM right through the day. On this particular day, I was the day-officer. As she had recently become the Chief Minister, a number of those who had supported her climb up the ladder, now wanted a piece of the cake. At least at the beginning of her career as the Chief Minister, she relied heavily on the civil servants for advice. On a particular issue regarding a favour to her party men, she sought my advice as I was readily available.

I read the file that clearly outlined why such a favour could not be given. I concurred with the advice given by the Departmental Secretary as it would have been against the rules to provide the requested dispensation. Once I explained to her the implications, she too concurred. I thought it was all over. But it wasn’t.

By the time I came out, another Special Secretary, a couple of years senior to me and considered to be close to the CM, had come over. I discussed the matter with him as well. He too seemed to agree with me. In the meanwhile, I could hear Mayawati talking to someone on the phone (in those days we did not have mobile phones in India). And then she came out. She seems to have changed her mind on the issue that we had discussed a few moments ago. She had the file in her hand and asked the other officer to give his view. This officer was good at gauging what she wanted and advised accordingly.

I was aghast, as what he was now suggesting was not only against the rules but totally contrary to my views that he had agreed to earlier. Mayawati looked at me with suspicion but was happy that her deal was done. The concerned Secretary was asked to get the rules changed to ‘accommodate’ the request. The rules were subsequently changed to ensure that no rule was violated and the favour was dispensed.

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The order came as a surprise to me. Mayawati had returned to power as part of a power-sharing agreement between her party and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). She had become the CM for six months as a part of this arrangement. My predecessor had been shifted out because he was found to be inconvenient by the Minister of the Jails Department. I had perhaps not yet gained sufficient ‘notoriety’ as an upright officer so I was put in the Jail (Department!) that was known to be quite corrupt.

The management of jails was itself a racket. The State had graduated to a situation where the distinction between crime and politics was getting increasingly blurred. In those days there was no disqualification for a convicted inmate to contest elections. The underlying irony lay in comparing the pre-1947 freedom fighters who went on to win elections with the current crop of criminals in jails who also went on to win theirs!

Also Read: Mayawati & the mysterious briefcase- 1

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Even before I could settle down into my new assignment, I was called by the Minister who expected me to do what my predecessor had refused. He wanted me to appoint a few officials in the Jail Department. I tried to explain to him that I wasn’t authorised to appoint them directly as there was a process laid down. He had become Minister for the first time and he wouldn’t believe that there were a few things that he couldn’t order and get done. In his view, the Minister’s word was the law and required to be complied with. I politely dispelled some of his misapprehensions. He looked at me incredulously thinking that I was taking him for a ride. He then threatened me with grave consequences.

He even narrated how he had managed to get my predecessor shifted and hinted that I could face the same fate. He saw that it had no impact on me because I had always been of the view that transfer for civil servants, like death, was inevitable. And I believed in the Hindu philosophy that I would be born again! Hence, transfers didn’t matter to me. However, he carried out his threat by complaining to the Chief Minister that I was not carrying out his order. Sure enough, I was summoned by the Principal Secretary to the CM who sought an explanation. When I did provide an explanation, he couldn’t but agree with me.

There was no way that an Inspector General of Jails could appoint officials directly. The Minister, however, was a powerful one (more so in the context of a minority government wherein each Member of the Legislative Assembly was crucial to sustain the government) and he saw to it that I was transferred out.

As I moved out, in came Balvinder Kumar, a batch-mate and, much to my delight, an upright officer. I subsequently gathered that even he was confronted with the same directive of appointing officials. He too refused. The Minister was enraged with him as well, blaming the entire bureaucracy and the red tape. However, despite all his tantrums, his order was not carried out. It was rumoured that he met the Chief Minister again to get the incumbent out. However, this time he couldn’t succeed. Balvinder continued as IG prison despite not complying with the orders of the Minister. 

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Mayawati gave an identity and recognition to that segment of the society that had been exploited over the centuries. What she accomplished was truly seminal but the manner in which she conducted herself left a lot to be desired. Unfortunately, the civil servants taught her the tricks of the trade and then she became the mistress of such tricks leaving those civil servants far behind.

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Anil Swarup IAS (Retd)
Anil Swarup IAS (Retd)
Anil Swarup is a former 1981 batch, Uttar Pradesh cadre  IAS officer, and was awarded Director's gold medal for "best officer trainee" at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA). He served the Government of India in various capacities for 38 years and went on to become Secretary, Department of School Education and Literacy and the Coal Secretary of India. He also served as Additional Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, Additional Secretary, Labour & Empowerment, Export Commissioner in the Ministry of Commerce & Industry of India and as the District Magistrate of Lakhimpur Kheri. He couldn’t make it to the “elite” Indian Administrative Service (IAS) on his first attempt but qualified for the Indian Police Service where he worked for one year before clearing IAS in his next attempt. He is today an author of several looks like 'No More a Civil Servant,' ‘Ethical dilemmas of a civil servant’ and ‘Not just a civilservant’. The views expressed are his own.


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