Caste and money rule the roost

With the beginning of every academic year, the much-awaited transfer season of Karnataka government employees begins. It also heralds a huge ‘billion rupee industry’ which is awaited with great anticipation by both the government employees and politicians of all hues.

Transfers and postings of its personnel are tools for any employer to effect administrative efficiency and effectiveness. It is also used as a reward and a punishment. The government uses it more frequently as its employees are endowed with the power of the State which, if misused, abused, or disused can cause harm to the citizens. For a smooth administration and to prevent its employees from developing vested interests, an employee is periodically (once in three years) shifted from one place to another or from one desk to another.

As resistance to change is human nature and occupation of a position of power is human desire, transfers are both welcomed and resisted. And this trait has become an easy way for a politician not only to make money but also expand his power base.

READ ALSO: Transfer racket: officials pay in lakhs for plum posts

It is no secret that in order to contest an election, a candidate spends huge amounts of money without being sure of his victory. Even after getting elected, there is no guarantee that he would get a position of power to recoup what he spent in elections. One of the ways that has been devised by him is to ‘help’ government employees in their transfers and postings. It is easy and is without risk. All he needs to do is give ‘minutes’ to the minister in-charge to get an employee transferred.

Tool for politicians

Transfers are also a tool for politicians to extend their ‘power’ in their constituencies and ensure their chances of winning the next elections. Usually, they tend to get ‘trusted’ employees mostly belonging to their caste and community posted at vantage positions. Helping a ‘country cousin’ and also making money in the bargain is irresistible. Those honest officials without the backing of money or caste suffer. The citizens suffer more.

Certain government departments and certain posts within those departments are considered ‘lucrative’ to an unscrupulous government employee and to a politician.

A few decades ago, transfers and postings of officers were decentralised. Those officers having statewide jurisdiction or those of the All India Services were transferred by the government. But with the formation of coalition governments, transfers became centralised. Coalition ‘dharma’ demanded that the requests of the legislators be considered favourably and the ministers incharge of departments gradually started interfering in the transfer process of employees working in their departments. Once this happened, caste and money, rather than efficiency and administrative exigency, came to rule the roost.

This has resulted in government officials ‘bidding’ for posts they desire. And like the politician, an official has to recover the money he spent to get his posting and thus corruption has become rampant. An unholy nexus between the corrupt politician and corrupt government officials has been built.

READ ALSO: ‘Today, there is no end to greed’

Apart from corruption, such transfers result in bad governance and huge expenditure to the exchequer on transfer costs — a rough guesstimate would be
Rs 250 million annually. Even after paying a huge sum, an officer isn’t sure of remaining in his place of posting and completing his term. If a competitor for the same post offers a better bid the incumbent is unceremoniously transferred. Some have been transferred even without completing a year in office and kept ‘waiting’ for posts.

In the past, concerned political bosses and upright officers attempted to set things right by trying to cap the number of employees to be transferred at 6% (of the total 5,25,000) and fixing a time limit for effecting transfers. But they became only window dressing. The cancer was beyond such minor ‘surgical interventions.’ Hence transfers continue throughout the year. Common people get squeezed both ways.

With money and caste playing such a big role, honest and efficient officers have been relegated to sinecures. Those who can fight injustice approach administrative tribunals and courts but many hope for better times when the government changes. The vicious circle of politicians, corrupt officials and maladministration gets bigger.

Is there no remedy for this disease? There are many. The first is electoral reforms. The second is the enactment of laws which would make it virtually impossible for politicians to interfere in transfers of government officials. The third and most important is to have heads of departments who have a steel frame. It is only they who can bring about a change.
Till then Judiciary appears to be the only saviour.

(The author is former director general of police, Karnataka)

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