Saturday, March 29, 2008


This one is more unbelievable than Ripley’s ‘Believe it or not’. Can anyone actually be crazy enough to ask for a salary of, yes, Rs 10 crores ($2.5 million) per month for Indian bureaucrats, when the President of India’s salary has just been raised to Rs 100,000($ 2500)?

The Sixth Pay Commission, whose report was submitted to the government on March 24, 2008, has recommended a fixed salary of Rs 80,000 per month for Secretary level babus, a quantum jump over what they are getting now. A matter of rejoicing many would say, although the salary component is nowhere near what top executives are getting in the private sector. Corporate salaries have shot through the roof during the last few years as India has registered a scorching growth rate thanks mainly to the industry. Not to be left behind anywhere, babus have been demanding similar salaries too for continuing to do what they have been doing for decades to keep India virtually stagnant, corrupt and inefficient, and to turn it into one of the most difficult places in the world to do business in.

But what will come as a total, unexpected shock to you is the justification given by someone for giving a much, much higher salary of Rs 10 crores to babus at the secretary level! No, this gentleman is no crazy pumpkin who does not know what he is saying. Nor is he a prankster playing a practical joke. Hold your breath, for he is none other than former Cabinet Secretary TSR Subramanium. That is exactly the amount he asked for while taking part in a lively debate on the Pay Commission’s report on CNN-IBN’s Face the Nation program hosted by Sagarika Ghose. That he was dead serious was confirmed when he said the same thing in a debate on Times Now too.

During the discussion, it was suggested by a panelist that salaries and promotions of government servants should be linked to their performance. To this, pay attention, the senior most civil servant of the country responded by saying that while performance could be quantified in the corporate world, it was not possible to do so in the government. He added that assessments of babus were subjective and were based on connections and other extraneous factors. Then, almost in the same breath, he said that considering the kind of work the petroleum and commerce secretaries were doing, they should be getting a monthly salary of Rs 10 crores!

Can a former Cabinet Secretary be so ignorant of the work that others in the government are doing to justify a salary which is 1000 times the salary of the President of the Country, even when he admits that the work of babus cannot be quantified and objectively assessed? What kind of “government” is represented by the likes of Subramanium who possibly does not have the elementary ability to understand the kind of work officers of other cadres are doing or have done in the past? Had he even cursorily looked around with an open, intelligent mind, he would have found it impossible to monetarily quantify the salary which would do justice to the kind of work super cop KPS Gill did to save Punjab, or the Army Commanders of Northern Command have been doing for over two decades to ensure that Kashmir remains with India and is not swallowed by Pakistan. Mr. Subramanium, what should Dr. Manmohan Singh have been paid for pulling India’s economy out a mess when he was Finance Minister? What should his salary be now as PM? The examples to which he will have no answer are endless.

It needs to be mentioned here that the same gentleman had appeared on a live show on Aaj Tak a few months back after the channel had done a sting operation on the shady property deals of Maharashtra’s top cop Pasricha. He had then informed the nation live that corruption had become totally pervasive in the government and had in fact begun to be treated almost as a right, adding almost with pride that nothing would come out of such sting operations. Wasn’t he right!

It is indeed shocking that at the very pinnacle of bureaucracy, this is the level of integrity, sense of responsibility and lack of ability to take a holistic, integrated view of the functioning of the government. This pathological fixation to see everything only from a very narrow cadre based viewpoint is perhaps the biggest drag on the forward march of this nation and is also responsible in great measure to the decline in national character and values, whose long term effects may well be very damaging.

What is the kind of work say the commerce secretary does that he deserves Rs10 crores per month? The answer seems to lie to a great extent with the country’s disastrous flirtation with socialism. That is what brought in the stifling and corrupt license permit raj which made babus very powerful and also turned them into fake industrialists running and ruining large business enterprises. While the stifling intervention of the state gave enormous clout and arbitrary powers to babus and enriched them beyond their wildest imagination, it also brought the country to an almost grinding economic halt.

Though things are beginning to change now, the culture and mindset remains the same. Ask any industrialist and he will tell you in private that for every one of the many often unnecessary approvals required to set up a business or to expand/diversify it, babus, top to bottom, make you feel as if they are doing you a favour by allowing you to do something productive with your own money! Even if it is in the country’s interest. And for this, they ask to be paid. Their logic is simple: if my approval or even hastening of the file from my desk is going to help you make money, surely I need a cut!

At the secretary level, a little changing of a rule or a tweaking of policy here and there can make a great deal of difference to the industry or at least to some industrialists, with the amounts at stake running into thousands of crores. Even though it should be the babus’ job to minimize the role of the government in industry, they continue to keep themselves securely in the loop. And, for their “effort” and “help” in easing some mind numbing provisions and restrictions made with one motive, babus think they need to be paid in crores too. And since they officially are not, corruption is fully justified. Right, Mr. Subramanium?

This week, three interesting developments took place in babudom. First was this outrageous demand for a salary of Rs10 crore. Then was the appointment of one more babu as a CEO to run India’s flagship airline, Air India. The third was the framing of a charge sheet by the CBI against a former chief secretary of UP for acquiring huge assets running into hundreds of crores of rupees.

There was also the heartwarming news that the Tatas had acquired the Jaguar Land Rover Group of UK. Everyone, I am sure, has also heard about Indira Nooyi and Vikram Pandit.

At a time when outstanding Indian managerial talent is making waves all over the world and Indian industry is acquiring foreign companies and turning them around quickly, generalist babus will still not let their cash cows slip out of their fingers, no matter what the continuing cost to the country. They still want to pretend to be industrialists, pouring thousands and thousands of crores of rupees of the nation’s money literally into the drain, only so that they can get richer. Indian commies will never understand the damage that this has caused and is causing to the nation in the name of socialism and the “Aam Admi” who is actually the biggest loser.

Who will believe that in the 21st century, government of India is into the manufacture of, yes, socks, shirts, trousers and shoes for troops? It was even doing bread sometime back! But perhaps the crowning glory of the kind of great work babus are doing is that they are manufacturing Tata and Ashok Leyland trucks in their very own factory in Jabalpur!

Over the last few decades, babus have systematically infiltrated every organ of the state, including its “think tanks” to ensure that there is no voice left anywhere to challenge their supremacy. That is how they have deceitfully made themselves the real rulers of this country. More than the politicians whose rags to riches transformations are visible to the public, it is the babus who have silently milked and robbed this country unseen. If India today is not where it should have been along almost all dimensions, it is primarily because of the stranglehold of babus at all points of decision making. It is precisely because of this that the real story and magnitude of the damage that they have caused is not known.

But, mark my words; if babus don’t mend their ways and revert to their functional subordinate role of providing secretarial support to real professionals in various fields and departments, then one fine day, without warning, this whole dysfunctional edifice that they have carefully constructed will collapse. Then the nation will come to know how much salary and how much penalty our babus really deserve for what they have been doing to the country for all these years.

The sooner that happens, the better for India.
Readers may also read:
1. Capital punishment, not gain for the corrupt
2. Corrupt colonial India faces volcano
3. Keeping India safe: cosmetic changes will not stem rot