Friday, December 31, 2010

Year 2010 and a Happy new year

As I start writing this, the year 2010 is just ending. A bad year? A year of scams and scams? No, a wonderful year when the scams which had been brewing since years ago surfaced so that people of India could know how deep and widespread the muck was. Courtesy RTI Act? Could be. Let us hope the necessary cleansing takes place in the new year that has ushered in (by this moment). Wishing all non-existent (and existent if any) readers of my blog a very happy new year!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

M for Mamata, M for Metro Rail

Today I learn from newspaper advertisements that Metro Rail will be getting status of a Railway zone. When I was working in Metro Rail, I realized, and all my colleagues agreed, that interests of Metro Rail and Indian Railways would have been served much better had Metro Rail been a division or a sub-division in Eastern Railway. Today's development shows that our momentous decisions and actions are not driven by common sense or common prudence but considerations of self-interest. One could argue that to be driven by self interest is also common prudence. But I hold that to be driven by larger interest is better prudence, as self-interest also gets better served (though we don't realize it). Self-interest is nothing but a subset of larger interest.

The event is also a strong statement that the top bureaucracy, at least in Indian Railways, does not have backbone any more. And why should they have when they know that their very existence as it is, depends on the whims of one individual i.e. the Hon'ble Minister for Railways? Survival must come first. Problem doesn't lie with them but the system that turns men into moles.

If we look back, we find that most of our political decisions are governed by same approach or thinking that has been governing Ms Mamata Banerjee since she took over as Railway Minister. Indian Railways have become Bengal Railways at the cost of the organization. Those in the organization know it but are either not bothered or feel helpless. I know morale of officers is at its all time low, with proximity to Ms Banerjee or her coterie deciding most of top level postings and her whims reigning supreme. An example of how a great political leader, and a greater individual could be a disastrous administrator when keeping counsel of only self-serving sycophants. Driving force~ whether larger interest or parochial thinking~ will distinguish between a Statesman and a neta. Alas! no statesman is around.

Nothing is new under the sun

Every individual is unique, no doubt. At times we also feel doing great and unprecedented things. But hard fact remains - nothing is new under the sun. We just survive in our own way.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Binayak Sen

CWG was a massive scandal- as considered by media and public. CAG report on 2G spectrum allocation, a Rs. 176000 crore perceived loss to public exchequer, made CWG scam look insignificant in monetary terms, though its political significance on account of personal involvement of a seasoned MP continues. Now comes life sentence to Dr. Binayak Sen. This issue doesn't involve any monetary loss while compared with scandal after scandal involving thousands of crores of rupees of public money. But is it not the greatest scandal of all? A well meaning person~ his ideologies may be debatable~ is sentenced for life for sedition on some flimsy evidence, as one learns from media reports and human right activists protesting over the Globe. People say he is free to appeal to higher court and this is not the end. Yes, but why should such absurd miscarriage of justice take place in the first place? Why should he and his family suffer and be miserable till justice is done. No one knows how many years it will take, given our judicial system. We take pride in being a free democracy and here is a soul, being tortured for doing what it thought good for the masses, for the people. Because he dared to raise voice against establishment for its wrong doings. Whom do we deceive saying we are free? We are worse off than in colonial times because now the feudal forces rule in garb, the garb of democracy.

By above I don't mean to sympathize with the Maoists. I condemn, and can't condone violence. But I am not able to understand how could Dr. Binayak Sen be so dangerous or unlawful in his acts as to deserve life imprisonment while perpetrators of such massive scams as referred above not only roam free but rule. Was he in any way instrumental in killing of innocent people? It is an open secret that the State allowed Anderson, the man responsible for killing and maiming thousands of countrymen, a safe passage. Might remains right whether it was English rule or 60 years after independence. Then we got trampled upon expecting so, now we get same or worse treatment, not expecting. May not be wrong to say that we are more a colony now than we were before independence. We, as a nation, are burying ourselves into a deeper hole on daily basis. It is our innate goodness as individuals that is still keeping us afloat.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

India- A free State

Who said India was a failed state? Did I? I must have taken free for failed. Today it is a free state for sure. Free for all. A Minister is clearly implicated in a multi-thousand crore rupees scam and his party comes out openly in his support. Prices of everything keep on spiraling freely. Media feels free in making noises as they like, side tracking or dumping the issues altogether again as they like. The corporates are free to act through Radias. Radias are free to act through top journalists who in turn are free to access and influence the government.

The opposition feels free to raise hell on issue of corruption by the ruling alliance but will allow its own tainted chief minister to continue. The ruling alliance of course is free in allowing or having allowed scam after scam, each bigger than the previous one, to brew and then not be sorry either when the scams surface. They are free to imply that loot became their right as soon as they came to power. They are free to go on repeating false promises. They are free to always talk about welfare of common man and do everything to screw him. Good men are free not to do anything, bad men are free to do whatever they like. The top functionaries are free to be epitomes of incompetence and corruption. The common man is free to find ways and means of his very survival. India is a truly great free country. Even whistle-blowers like me are free to blow the whistle and then get screwed by very those for whose benefit they blew the whistle.

PM Sh. Manmohan Singh

As a citizen of India I feel really indebted to our beloved Prime Minister. First because he made a great sacrifice in accepting the premiership knowing fully well he would be nothing more than a puppet whose strings would not be in one hand but in many hands and he would be dancing to many tunes. The movements of his neck would be under control of UPA chairperson. The strings of his eyes would be drawn by the allies like Rajas and Pawars who would make them remain closed. Then Radias would come into play and control his hand movements. There would be opposition always pulling his legs. Please don't take it as satire, giving whole body control willfully to so many diverse forces must have not been an easy sacrifice.

I feel further indebted to him because when he had become so comfortable with such an arrangement, the others started demanding their pound of flesh and he came out of stupor to oblige them as well. When media would persist and not budge, he took strong action against one Mr. Kalmadi and started ignoring him. He was quite comfortable keeping his eyes closed for years but did open those when forced to do so by one Supreme Court to be able to see affairs of one Mr. Raja at last. Not only this, even when so handicapped he was always worrying about 'aam aadmi', the common man, and ensured that he didn't have to take daily tough decisions as to what to buy and what not to buy, by allowing prices to rise for everything such that he could buy nothing, not even onions. When it was made to dawn upon him that if only one item, the onions, could remain in reach of common man then also he would not face the ordeal of choice in buying, he took a few fingers out of grip of Radias and took great trouble in writing a letter to his Minister asking him to bring down the onion prices. Tell me, which PM could take so much trouble or do so much for aam aadmi.

More than PM, Sh. Manmohan Singh, I feel indebted to the big-wigs of Indian society from all fields for always singing praises for Dr Singh's integrity, his political acumen and his statesmanship. Because it was this support of theirs that continued giving Dr Singh the encouragement and strength to keep going and doing his wonderful bit for the common man in such adverse circumstances.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A rleased open letter

I reproduce below an open letter released by me about a fortnight back, resulting from my recent experiences. It is self explanatory and gives a true picture of Indian society, reconfirming whatever has been said in my earlier posts. Doesn't mean, though, that there is nothing good left.

An Open Letter

To All Concerned Dated: 30th November, 2010

Sub: Continuing colossal leakage of upwards of Rs. 5000 crores per year, increasing year after year, through procurement of material in Railways, having caused an estimated loss of Rs. 50000 crores in last decade and estimated to cause further loss of above Rs. 100000 (one lakh) crores in next decade to public exchequer.

Necessity for this letter: Issue of this letter has now become necessary because Railways instead of attending to the issues fairly and objectively have launched into my all-out victimization and character assassination.

How the issues stand out in comparison to various scams rocking the nation: The issues being talked about are much more important than the CWG and Adarsh Housing Society scams recently having stirred the consciousness of the nation for the sheer volume of leakage involved. These are more important than the 2-G Spectrum scam in the sense that it is not about making noises about a colossal loss after same having taken place but about preventing even greater loss in the coming decades, same being continuing with abandon as of now. The implication will be of the order of Rupees 10000 crores per year within next couple of years. I never raised the issues as a cry about corruption or for holding individuals responsible but for necessary systemic corrections. But media at large, unfortunately, has not taken much interest probably since the issues, howsoever important these could be, have been raised by an ordinary citizen of no-consequence and don't have any political force or money-bags behind to pursue these.

Issues and Media so far: I had brought out two important and major issues-interrelated- to the notice of apex Railway Administration through a well documented letter dated 24th March, 2010 (the crux of the issues was first raised by The Statesman in year 2008 as mentioned in my letter, and followed within the organization by me since then).

1. Leakage of Railway and public revenue to the extent of about Rs. 5000 crores year after year through cartels of pre-approved vendors as per existing material procurement system in Indian Railways, continuing for over a decade.

2. Non creation of the posts of Member Material Management and Member(S&T) by the successive Railway Boards for last ten years in spite of same having been mandated by the Government on recommendations of Vth pay commission and various parliamentary committees, and having been ordered for creation by various Railway Ministers in the interim.

The two issues are inter-related as has been brought out in my letter. Since procurement in Railways suffers from being under control of one of the consumers i.e. Member Mechanical and not being under control of a professional head i.e. Member Material Management.

These issues were then brought to the notice of whole nation through a series of reports in the national daily 'The Statesman' based on documents and data available and past CAG reports, in end June, followed by my interview dated 11/08/2010 and a strong editorial ‘Mamata Must Act’ soon after. The simple possible corrective measures were also suggested. In the meantime, 'Rail Samachar' published from Mumbai reported the first issue and continues to report in the matter.

In mid September, only the first issue was highlighted by a prime English news channel, 'NDTV 24x7', using my bytes and was quickly forgotten. On 15/11/10, a major Hindi daily of Northern India highlighted the issue effectively but misquoting me in a way I had never intended. They then promptly followed it up with my character assassination at the behest of the Railways, finding it convenient not to mention or publish my rejoinder to the ridiculous and childish efforts of the Railways. Very quickly issue was converted into that of my character rather than the avoidable colossal leakage of the public money. On the 15th evening, in Mumbai, two national Hindi news channels also approached me and took my interview for using my bytes. One of the channels, I learn, started broadcasting the story the next evening and immediately took it off the air. Having become wiser, I requested the other channel not to use my bytes. It appears the implication of a number of journalists in ‘Radia’ tapes is not an aberration.

Understanding the key issues in a simple way: Majority of Railways’ purchases, to the tune of approximately Rs. 20000 crores per year at present, are made from limited private vendors pre-approved by the Railways. And then these sources dictate the prices at which Railways buy from them and allow themselves to get fleeced by astronomical sums, a cautious estimation now being more than 50% on an average of what would be reasonable prices based on cost estimation. It is all so simple ~ to be evident to a teenager ~ but incomprehensible and invisible to the top bureaucrats of a top organization of a top democracy over decades. No organization worth its name in the world will allow it but Indian Railways do so gleefully year after year. Towards that end the Railway Board Members won’t let the post of Member Material Management to materialize even though the same has the mandate of the Government for last one decade. They, it appears, fear that the Member Material Management could bring out evidently necessary policy corrections in Railways’ procurement system, and would dilute their powers. No doubt, the figure of Rs. 10000 crores per year is debatable, but no doubt the leakage occurring is of the order of a good many thousands of crores of rupees year after year, as a result of absurd procurement systems and practices in Indian Railways.

Action/Reaction by the apex Railway Administration so far:

1. My letter has not even been acknowledged by the Railway hierarchy till date as if it does not exist and no one from apex Railway administration has ever spoken to me on the issues.

2. The Railway Minister applauded the reports in The Statesman in June end this year for objectivity and analysis saying Railways had learnt from those reports. Everyone clapped.

3. Vigilance investigations have been initiated, as is the norm, deadline of which has already been shot many times over.

4. In the meantime, pending investigations, though obvious to everyone in the organization, the loot continues.

5. Serious action is on under the very nose of the same Minister who had applauded the reports, on one front, though– to fix the whistle-blower for good for world to see such that no one in future should dare to think of public good and giving suggestions to the infallible authorities.

6. Posts of two more Members- out of question- existing Board can’t allow dilution of powers of existing Members – two hoots to parliamentary committees and mandate of the Government.

What was called for: While bringing out the issues, some glaring examples have been given. My purpose has never been any vilification but to seek systemic corrections. In fact as per existing system and practice, almost each high-value purchase from pre-approved private vendors, must be with some exceptions, is a scam in itself and thousands of such purchases are made over Indian Railways every year. It will be impossible to investigate all such purchases. Therefore the matter is one requiring necessary policy corrections much more than ordering vigilance investigations. Ordering investigations and allowing the leakage to continue side by side is akin to ordering investigation into a razing fire and not taking any action to extinguish it.

The Tragedy: Normally one would expect to be valued by an organization for the courage, intellect and industry required to bring out the issues involving such large financial implications. But the archaic and feudal apex Railway administration instead of utilizing my services for the betterment of the organization, has decided that I had to be taught a lesson. I took up the issues duly anticipating this reaction, at the cost of my own well-being knowingly, since at stake were astronomical sums of public money year after year. Tragedy is not that my well-being remains seriously threatened, but that the ever-increasing colossal leakage of public money still continues.

Summary: A systemic leakage of thousands of crores of rupees every year is currently taking place in Railway procurement. The officer pointing it out and suggesting simple and implementable solutions for its arrest, rather than being rewarded, is not only being victimized but being liquidated in broad daylight, by very those who knowingly or unknowingly are allowing the loot to continue on the other hand. The Minister and the Media ~ always on high moral ground ~ are quite happy looking the other way. The hypocrisy is at its very best. This is real ‘corporate India’ or ‘capitalist India’.

Hope from this letter: I am issuing this letter (shall also be posting it on my blog) not with much hope, as it will be fool-hardy to have any hope after my recent experiences and seeing other developments all around, but for record for posterity.

It is a foregone conclusion that the loot will not only continue but multiply. Media will act its own way, not understandable by ordinary mortals like me. The concerned Ministry will continue to hide behind snail-paced investigations, bureaucratic jargons, officialdom and my character assassination, driving sadistic pleasure at the same time from my liquidation. Mahatma Gandhis will no more turn in their graves as they would have been dead tired of same by now. It is a foregone conclusion that Vinod Duas, Arvind Kejriwals, Kiran Bedis, Arnab Goswamis, Chetan Bhagats and Rajinder Puris will continue to ‘turn’ live on channels and in print while nothing else will ‘turn’ anywhere. The opposition will weigh its own vested interests deliberating whether to be or not to be, and I may soon meet my own end (everyone has to meet one's end one day, so no complaints), keeping in with the fate of many a whistleblower in 'incredible' India. Some murdered, some driven to suicide- unable to bear their sustained harassment and persecution any more by the government of the ‘people’ for whose very cause they stood up. As an optimist, I do hope Yossarian (Catch-22) lives but I don’t feel optimistic.

Apologies: My apologies to my family for having been an utter fool and having let them down. My apologies to the hundreds of suppliers approved by production units and RDSO whose interests, thankfully, were not hurt by my childish attempts. My apologies to thousands of other vendors who couldn’t get themselves approved and couldn’t fight for their own cause. My apologies to the apex Railway administration for having wasted their time and energy for nothing but my liquidation. My apologies to Stores and S&T officers of Indian Railways for having dared to fight single-handed for their cause and having absurdly over-estimated their team-spirit. My apologies to Indian media for having been instrumental in wastage of their time and energy (including this letter) for issues which were ultimately to be decided to be non-issues by them. Last but not the least, my apologies to Indian public about whose money I started bothering.


(Atul Kumar)

(Ex-COS/Metro Railway, Kolkata)


An ordinary citizen of india.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Crruption must be one of the most talked about and discussed subjects, at least in India of 'Haves'. The people of standing in society talk about it no end in order to control it but it goes on increasing exponentially. Stringent laws exist, the powerful enforcing agencies exist, a massive judiciary exists, and yet it goes on increasing. The reason is simple. The powerful ones don't mean what they say and don't say what they mean, and probably they are powerful because they do so. Corruption is also something everyone loves to talk about hardly understanding it. Then it is something almost everyone indulges in or has to indulge in. Those in position of power because they are in power and others because they are not in power (they have to keep or make those in power happy for their survival).

It becomes quite amusing when epitomes of corruption - the real powerful ones- from whom corruption flows, publicly claim in context of scams that 'no one will be spared' or demand that 'no one should be spared.' Very often top politicians, media-moguls, judges or bureaucrats are exposed as having been out and out corrupt. Spare a thought. For years when they were enjoying power, how much they would have been instrumental in shielding and promoting the corrupt and corruption. More importantly, if they were so crrupt, who allowed them to rise to the top position? How did they rise to that position? We very conveniently tend to forget that we only are responsible in electing and empowering our political masters whom we later on call names for their corruption and incompetence. We are entrapped in a vicious circle.

It is a fact that in India the year 2010 has been a year of scams. Commonly by corruption people mean bribery. But corruption also means moral deterioration. It is this dictionary meaning of corruption that renders almost all of us corrupt even without having taken or given bribe. In fact, many of us never ever having indulged in bribe could be more corrupt than the people indulging in bribery. How often we do things out of consideration for our well being, out of fear, under influence of superiors, to pass on or reciprocate favours, to suit our nears and dears ~ things we would have done differently had we been acting with a pure conscience and without any of above or any other influence? To cite a few examples that come readily to my mind- marketing a third rate product knowing very well that it will harm the interest of the target customer, to abandon old parents or relatives, to butter the boss when he is being blatantly unjust to a colleague of yours, to be immune to wretched beggars and starving children around you, to tell lies in public and in private and above all not to mean what you say or not to say what you mean. If we pause to think, we would realise that such corruption, indulged in by almost all of us, is much more injurious to society than mere giving or taking of bribe, and is the foundation for scams. And yet there is nothing in law against this worse form of corruption.

While we find ourselves engulfed by all pervasive corruption, the good men/women doing nothing are equally, if not more, are to blame than the bad ones indulging in bribery. The corruption is now so deep rooted in our society that it is a part and parcel of our lives. The daily expose' of multi hundred/thousand crore scams and discussions and talk about these is nothing more than national pass-time. People who matter are not interested in corrections. If they were, things won't have deteriorated as these have. Even when not motivated by bribes, people only do what they have to. Media brings up the scams to keep itself going and its responsibility ends with informing the public. The big names from different walks of life appear on channels- some talk sense, some take pride in talking utter bull-shit - and their job gets over. Politicians across party lines do everything keeping one eye on party-fund and other on vote-bank. Judiciary remains victim of legal procedures and delays. Bureaucrats take pride in not seeing beyond their noses. Side by side the Swiss bank accounts continue to get fatter.

The daily exposes of scams are like discovery of 'kalas' in 'kamasutra' by Vatasyayan, the intercourse being an inevitable human activity. Existing systems can't even dent existing level of corruption, leave alone uproot it. Only revolutionary changes can have desired check.

A 'sher'

Here is a sher for the lone voices of reason, wherever they are, in the chaotic chaos all around them:

Reink rahe hon jahan gadhe hazaron hazar
hinhinahat ek teri sunega kaun

( Where there thousands and thousands of donkeys are braying, who will listen to neighing of a lone horse)

Monday, December 13, 2010

'I did nothing wrong and acted as per rules.'

So said Sh. A Raja and Sh. Suresh Kalmadi, both accused of being responsible for scams worth multi thousands/hundreds crores of Rupees. They may be proved so in times to come, and in all probability, going by previous experiences, it will be proved so. Yet the fact remains that astronomical sums of public money have been cornered by a few powerful haves from politics, industry and media. And thousands of children continue to die of starvation or become handicapped for life because of mal-nutrition. So, while media is quite happy creating sensations through implication of a few big names, the real malaise lies in the systemic corruption no one has time and will to bother about. The apathy of media to real issues of substance has been amply proved from its interest(lack of it) in the much bigger Railway Rot exposed through my efforts. No one is interested in saving public money. Responsibility of media lies only in making correct noises when a loot comes to its notice. A big big farce is going on all-around.

I blame you, You blame me and let the rot continue

What is happening? The opposition makes a lot of noise about corruption by/during tenure of the ruling alliance. Scam after scam is reported, the government does precious nothing. When persistence by media and/or judiciary becomes inescapable, enquiries are ordered. And the claims start, ' look, how concerned we are about corruption', and the examples where the opposition party making hue and cry failed to act in its own instances of corruption in present and past are highlighted by the ruling party. Nothing wrong per se. But to an ordinary citizen like me, it appears that corruption by ruling alliance is justified because opposition also has indulged in it and that by opposition was justified because they are indulging/indulged in it where they are in power or when they were in power. For corruption, the ruling party and the opposition , it would appear, are answerable only to each other and not to the people whom they represent. Similar thing happened when blasts took place in Varansi very recently. The Centre blamed the State Govt. and State blamed the Centre. That was the end of taking responsibilities. My dear common man, just take care how to survive and don't bother about rot all around you as it is there to continue.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Rotting from the Head?

A few days back, an editor of a national English daily, in reference to 2G spectrum and other scams, wrote a very bold article holding the top political leadership of the ruling party responsible. No doubt, they are responsible and happy that majority of media and nation at large are happy closing eyes to this obvious and simple fact. But what about the rest of the body? It is also rotting except probably the limbs. It is probably the lower and deprived strata of society that are still keeping the nation going and carrying a rotten body. The Radia tapes (about existence or implications of which I had no idea when I wrote 'fastest fingers first') have established that the rot is complete in all critical organs. The effectiveness of money-power in panchayat elections shows how widespread is the rot. Still there must be some hope somewhere.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Another Poem

I reproduce below another poem written by me and published in Asian Age about 14 years back.


Suddenly in the middle of
the night
I wake up
From my vicious dreams
Of the unfaithfulness of
my faithful wife
Multistoreyed buildings
Engulfed in darkness
People sleeping blissfully
unaware of
Yet another
Multi-crore scam
morning headline
I brood over
My own wasted years
Futility of penning these limes
Unfulfilled love
How shall I get back
sleep again?
At that hour
The Muezzin's call to
In the distance-
That symbol of undying
continuous faith
Acts as a lullaby on my
I become a child
once again.


I don't know why a very short poem written by me about quarter of a century ago is coming back to my mind.


A flat breast

Under padded brassiere

Friday, November 19, 2010

Fastest fingers first

Arrange the following pillars of democracy (in India) in decreasing order of corruption and depravity, starting with the most corrupt first:
a) Bureaucrats b) Politicians c) Media d) Judiciary.

Different people will have different answers as per their perceptions. My answer with my logic is as follows:
c) Media: Because media has the least, in fact nil, accountability out of the four. It is their absolute sweet will as to what they show or tell, in what way, and when. No one can question them. And as a keen reader and viewer I have seen time and again as to how they misuse this power in playing to the tunes of the powers. With a responsible media country could have not gone to the depths the media is today projecting it to have gone to. Whatever doubts I could have got on this account were alleviated a couple of days back through my personal experience with a leading Hindi news channel, when it started broadcasting an issue of national importance for which one of its smart reporters, one Mr. Mayank had got beautiful bytes from me in Mumbai, extempore, on the spur of the moment, but took it off the air even before the story was told even once, obviously and presumably under pressure from the implicated Ministry. They take no time in replacing issues with utter non-issues and change colours faster than chameleons.

d) Judiciary: It also has very less accountability, but more than media. And a leading advocate Mr. Prashant Bhushan very recently gave an affidavit that eight of the sixteen Supreme Court Justices he knew were definitely corrupt.

a) Bureaucrats: They are more accountable than the above two. But their accountability is to their bosses and political masters. Though known as public servants, they are not at all accountable to public. In fact, they do act as public masters.

b) Politicians: Contrary to popular belief, they are the most accountable of the lot. For all their actions, they are accountable to the masses and the people they represent. If people reelect them or elect them in the first place inspite of their being corrupt or incompetent or both, it is not their fault. They become the most depraved of the lot for the short or long period they have the absolute power.


So I have finally retired, I hope so. Though I have retired, the event has yet to get administrative or legal sanction, as the organisational victimization for daring the apex authorities continues. Almost everyone I know has asked or asks 'why voluntary retirement?' I might have been giving different answers at different times. But I feel I got the real and succinct answer today while listening to Shivani on Astha channel. Self-esteem.

Monday, November 15, 2010

'Be a Whistleblower'- - at your own peril

'Be a whistleblower', the pamphlets calling upon officials so adorned the government offices all over India during recently concluded Vigilance Week. But what was not said and must have been added in these pamphlets is ' Do so on your own peril.' This is now evident beyond any doubt from my example. Whatever laws may be made, 'Might is Right' will prevail and the all powerful administration will chew you up. So whatever you be, please don't be a whistleblower for sake of yourself and your family. Media will be interested in you as long as you are news. Don't be naive to think they are interested in any cause or that they will be interested in your well-being. Our judicial system may, if you are lucky, give some relief but it will be available, if it is, to your next generation.
So my dear countrymen and women, wherever you be, don't think once, or twice, but continue thinking till you stop thinking of becoming a whistleblower.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Voluntary Retirement

The D-day is nearing. I shall no more be in railway service from 15-11-2010, that is if I don't develop cold feet at the last moment. The authorities won't let me work- they will keep me waiting for orders for months, they will transfer me frequently and unceremoniously. Fine. I tender voluntary retirement from service. But they won't accept even that! Only if there were a psychological test for sadistic tendencies of those entrusted with authority! How could they allow me peace after I publicly called the bluff of their procurement-systems?

But where is the public, thousands of crores of whose money is going down the drain year after year and for whose cause I sacrificed my own well being? Today they are busy indulging in riots over one Sudershan's remarks about one Sonia Gandhi. They are not even aware that someone attempted to save crores and crores of their money. Where is the media that never took notice of the issue in first place, being too busy with things of more national importance like what Rabri said about Nitish or what Nitish said about Lalu, what is the ratio of dogs to bitches in the world, whether Kareena dated Saif when he was dating Katrina when she was dating Sallu when he was dating, who won in fight between cat and crocodile at a place in USA and so on......? And where is the media that took up the issue with interest but by now appears to have discovered that 50000 crores or 100000 crores of Rupees of public money was after all not a significant matter? I don't know where they are but here I am, a first-rated fool, who will soon be out of job and shall be using up his balance life trying to get retirement dues from the organisation he 'dis-served' for 30 years. Shame on me!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


This classical and historical work of fiction was written by Joseph Heller more than a half century ago and got published 50 years back. I was in existence then and might have just started learning A, B, C, D... It is only now, after more than 50 years of my existence, and 10 years after the author is no more that I had the good fortune of reading it, having been forced by my elder son. I completed first reading of the book only yesterday. Full of exceptional and outstanding humour and satire, it is a very serious work. It brings out the fallacies and depravity of the modern human civilisation in no uncertain manner. It clearly shows those who would care to see what a non-sense all our endeavours are. This novel was acclaimed as a great work and tens of millions have read it, yet we continue to be more depraved than ever. This only reconfirms what Heller had to say about the human world more than 50 years back.

Catch-22 ridicules wars, our bureaucratic systems, our trading systems, above all our hypocrisy that manifests itself in all our endeavours. It is a great caricature of modern society. We would acclaim the work but won't follow it or learn from it. Hypocrisy again. For a sane person it is always a catch-22 situation. About my recent and till date failed efforts to free IRSS (Indian Railways Stores Service) from the professional harakiri being committed by my colleagues happily just because it helps them satisfy their wives and bring up their children better, Heller had this to say 50 years back, ".... Someone had to do something sometime. Every victim was a culprit, every culprit a victim, and somebody had to stand up sometime to try to break the lousy chain of inherited habit that was imperiling them all...." These are excerpts from chapter 39 'The eternal city' of the book. But alas! my peers, seniors and juniors probably are not capable of even comprehending it.

No doubt, the book is quite repetitive and boring at times and it was a pain for a lazy person like me to go through 570 pages, but I salute Joseph Hellar for such a great satire and meaningful message about meaninglessness of what all goes around us and thank my son for having made me read this great work.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Democracy in India

Democracy is the government of the people, by the people and for the people. Sounds good. People here must be meaning the people at large, the masses. In india, they all vote to form the government. It is an open fact that the majority, about eighty percent of these people, whose votes become the basis of formation of the governments are the Have-nots. It is also an open secret that the people who have ultimately been governing are the Haves and irrespective of the political party in power they have been governing to serve the interests of the Haves rather than the masses. While we have been continuing to deceive ourselves with the definition of democracy cherished by Abraham Lincoln, democracy in India remains " Government of the Haves, by the Have-nots, for the Haves." So what?

"Matter will be investigated and guilty will be punished"

For how many years have we been hearing this from the men/women in authority, those who matter? What was supposed to be the purpose of non-existent punishment of the guilty authoring one scam after another? How silly we have been in having made multi-crore scams surfacing on daily basis nothing more than a media and national pass time! While we show so much concern, use all words available in the vocabulary, we never bother to diagnose the root causes, let alone attempt to cure those. And if we are not interested in that, why do we make so much noise when scams surface? I am told by the wise people of the society appearing in panel discussions on electronic channels that there are sufficient laws to deal with corruption and the perpetrators. They must be right as they are the wisest of the wise. But as an ordinary or sub-ordinary citizen I do wonder of what use those laws are if scams and loot are increasing exponentially by the day. The scams one after another are clearly implicating the top of the political leadership, bureaucracy and now the defence forces. Concern should not be their involvement and punishing or not punishing them but 'how these people were allowed by the society to rise to the top, the same society that now 'pretends' to be shocked.'

Saturday, October 30, 2010

C for Capitalism, C for Corruption

Can you imagine a capitalist society sans corruption? I can't. A bit same way as there can't be a human society without prostitution. Bribery, a subset of corruption, has to be a part and parcel of a capitalist social structure that we are. Don't worry what our Constitution says or what the founding leaders of the nation had desired or envisaged. We do nothing but make fools of ourselves talking of and criticising corruption all the time, while accepting capitalism as a virtue. Doesn't mean that socialist structure or communism will always be devoid of corruption. Only means that corruption is a necessary evil for capitalism and an unnecessary one for socialism or communism. It will serve us better if we focus more on better and just governance and professional competence rather than bribery and corruption. Let us not deceive ourselves by thinking that absence of corruption will ensure just and competent governance.

My interview as published in The Statesman dt 11/08/2010

Reproduced below my interview as was published.

Bureaucrats are both running and ruining the country’

THE STATESMAN, 11 August 2010

Even as the Cabinet cleared the Whistleblowers’ Bill, Mr. Atul Kumar, a serving Indian Railways Stores Officer (since 1981), spoke in a personal capacity to Shiv Karan Singh, Principal Correspondent, about corruption in the Railway procurement system and the consequences faced by those who blow the whistle. Mr. Kumar has regularly been pointing out problems in the Railway procurement system, resulting in colossal revenue losses. His entreaties have fallen on deaf years, but have led to his frequent transfers. The officer has degrees from the Delhi College of Engineering, IIT (Madras), and IIM (Kolkata), and has worked as Material Managers in South-Eastern, Northern, Central, Western, Eastern, East-Coast and Southern Railways, as well as at Chittaranjan Locomotive Works and Integral Coach Factory (Chennai). Mr. Kumar is presently awaiting transfer from his recently held post of Controller of Stores Metro Railways (Kolkata).

Q: You are amongst the few officers who have a history of speaking the truth about irregularities that dog Railway procurement. How has the Railways’ leadership responded to your efforts?

A: ‘Sachchi baat kahi thi maine, logon ne sooli pe chadhaya’ goes a ghazal by Sabir Dutt, which sums it up. Senior management has treated me as a pariah, transferred me frequently, and denied me my due in the organisation. But, far more importantly, they have not bothered to address the issues that I have brought to their attention, which are in the larger public interest. Rs. 5,000 crore, leaking out just from Railways procurement per annum, is not a small sum that can be ignored for long, especially in a country where 77 per cent of the population lives for less than Rs. 20 per day.

Q: The Statesman published reports detailing Railways corruption that has blown an estimated Rs 50,000 crore hole in the public exchequer in the past decade. While the Board has maintained a resounding silence, the Railway Minister has welcomed the news, stating, ‘we have learned a lot from these reports.’

A: I hope the Minister meant what she said. The media loves to blame politicians. However, it is bureaucrats that are both running and ruining the country. With the present Minister’s credentials of integrity, it is not so easy for the Board to pass the buck to her, as bureaucrats usually do. But the top layer will always try to keep her in the dark. The Minister may say one thing but top bureaucracy does just the opposite. I have further been victimised through unceremonious transfer, a tool readily available with Railway administration, as the Board perceives my detailed letter written to them four months ago to be the basis of your reports. The Railway Board believes it is more powerful than the Minister, and even the Government of India. Look at how the Board has suppressed the posts of Board Members for S&T and Stores for a decade, despite these having been approved by the Government and Ministers.

Q: How do you say you have been victimised?

A. I have been arbitrarily transferred again within just over a year, and the peculiar thing is there is no vacancy where I am going. A large number of suppliers implicated in my letter are based there.

Q: Railways has expressed concern over misuse of Rs. 100 crore that it has pledged for the Commonwealth Games (CWG). Given the immense irregularities in Railways procurement worth thousands of crores, what do you make of this sudden concern amongst Railways leadership for corruption in CWG procurement and commissions?

A: Yes, it is amusing and sad all at once. If Railways are so concerned about their image they should clean their own house first, no? CWG irregularities, even though so blatant, are peanuts compared to the leakage taking place in Railways. CWG is a one-time scam while the leakage reported in The Statesman is perennial. Existing checks and balances in our bureaucratic system have miserably failed.

Q: Why are Stores officers helpless in the face of supplier cartels that over-charge?

A: In one sense they are helpless because of their own volition. If they put their foot down, don't accept overpricing, and speak in one voice, cartels can't dominate so much. However, this can only go so far, because on the other hand, they hardly have any say in development and selection of vendors they have to buy from. The rules of the game are set elsewhere. Stores officers just play the game, like robots acting through pre-programmed software. That too when they are also engineers selected through UPSC at par with officers of consuming departments.

Q: Isn’t the push for a Member (Stores) only a cadre aspiration that will not actually stem corruption?

A: In this context, corruption is not the central issue. The issue is organisational need and professional independence; that the Stores department remains under one user departmental Head is just ridiculous. The need for post of Member Stores was approved by the Government more than 10 years back. It should be beyond debate now. Quite amazing though that the Railway Board has repeatedly succeeded in stalling it. A Member Stores may not solve the problems in procurement overnight but will definitely boost the morale of the cadre responsible for procurement worth Rs 25,000 crore and scrap disposal over Rs 3,500 crores annually, and strengthen them professionally. With good leadership, this will begin stemming corruption also.

Q: Railways still has its share of honest officers. Why do they not speak out?

A: Edmund Burke once said, ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.’ Railways are nothing but a subset of society. Something special to Railways, however, is total arbitrariness in transfers and postings and subjective appraisal of officers. It compels people to keep quiet and is the root cause of all ills in the system. More often than not, lobbying and nepotism govern postings in senior positions. Until this issue is addressed, corruption will continue to flow from the top. The system, checks and balances notwithstanding, allows the corrupt or incompetent to rise to the top positions. The basic problem lies there. We are literally begging for scams to surface all the time.

Q: It is for kickbacks that Railways management has maintained a system that allows for exorbitant prices. Are there ready solutions to stem over-pricing corruption? If adopted, will the high-level committee’s recommendations that ‘vendor approval work at RDSO be substantially reduced’, help?

A: I have not seen this report you are referring to. But, apart from straight-out corruption, bureaucratic apathy and incompetence have a role to play too. Kickbacks exist, but so many officers just conform to improper practices. There is a burning need for revisiting the existing approval system and in fact even the necessity for pre-approval of sources. Cost Estimation Cells headed by Material Managers and the encouragement of more sources for competitive bidding will help. Common prudence demands that tenders should be decided on correctly estimated costs rather than cartel-controlled misleading last-purchase-rates, especially for high value purchases. Total transparency via Railways websites in the entire procurement process beginning from specification changes, vendor approvals, to finalization of tenders is needed. Simple solutions exist, but not the will. Already a very potent clause, i.e. 'book examination clause' exists in our supply contracts (not in works contracts). It has hardly ever been used. By using it, not only can suppliers be prevented from fleecing further, but recoveries can also be made.

Q: India still does not have a Whistleblowers Act. On the other hand, with Rajiv Gandhi’s single directive order of 1988 pasted into the CVC Act 2003, corruption by senior bureaucrats has never operated with such impunity.

A: As you say this, a Whistleblowers Bill has been approved by the Cabinet. The need for an act to protect whistleblowers itself speaks about where society has gone. Organizations and public at large should be saluting our whistleblowers. Rather, we keep murdering our RTI activists.

Q: Your poetry, awarded by none other than the Railway Board, documents loneliness, anger, and occasional hope: Choota peeche raila, yahaan main akela, bahut akela… akela nahin hai tu, tere saath chal rahi hai ek lambi dagar.” Do you really see hope in honest officers usually afraid to speak, or in a public that fails to demand accountability from its own government?

A: It is quite easy to write poetry. Fighting the might of the administration from within is a different ball-game. Even those around you start disowning you. Self preservation and vested interests reign supreme in decision making, especially at the top, common prudence and public interest taking a back seat. Still one can’t lose hope. During one of my train journeys, one very experienced MP averred that it needed one mad person to correct a system. It may require more than one madman to correct the present system. Somewhere along the line they will come or nature will take its own course.

Q: Knowing that you will probably be 'disciplined' further, why have you chosen to respond to these questions?

A: As much as I feel bound to do my job according to the laid out protocol, after being contacted by you, I feel even more ethically bound to speak out in the larger Railways and national interest. What is really wrong is the present apathy to systemic problems in Railways. If my pointing this out, in an attempt to try and push for a better system in order to save thousands and thousands of crores of public money, will result in further persecution, so be it.

Adarsh Housing Society Scam

Yet another scam involving the top strata of society comes to the public domain. Further re-confirms what has been said earlier in this blog. The more perturbing is the fact that the rogues and mostly only rogues have been rising to the top public positions whether in bureaucracy or in politics. Now we can add defence forces as well. Like it or not, that is the 'system' we have developed and nurtured. The degradation of society is complete as this scam has been perpetrated in the name of those who laid down their lives for the society and country to which they thought they belonged. I hope by now no doubt should be remaining in minds that scams surfacing every other day are no stray incidents but a clear indication of the fact that we all are living to compete each other for the 'loot' while number of those starving to death is swelling around us. Let us understand that for every scam surfacing, there are thousands not coming to public domain, and for each such scam there are thousands other continuing undetected. I do feel tempted to reproduce my published interview as this new scam is also vindication of what was said there in.

Coming back to the subject, a much needed breather for Mr. Kalmadi and bad luck for Mr. Ashok Chavan, the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, since this expose' comes so close on the heels of CWG scam also involving his party-men. That has forced leadership of his party to become virtuous overnight and demand his scalp. Poor Mr. Chavan. So many top central cabinet ministers under same leadership have been surviving for years the bunglings worth hundreds times more both in value and gravity. Even the Supreme Court of the country has had to seek solace only in uttering sarcastic remarks every now and then, remarks a wag could utter. The anarchy looks to be complete by each passing day. Is it "time now" for the much needed revolution?

S for Success, S for Sold

Does success lead people to sell themselves off or selling out leads to success? I think both co-exist in this 'kalyug', the former for enabling successful ones to stay that way. Nehru dynasty must be considered the most successful Indians as they have been ruling the country for ages. The present dispensation in the dynasty is sold out to a super power is very obvious, at least that is my perception. The passage of nuclear liability bill above everything else (people maintain that PM is nothing more than a puppet of the dynasty and I see no reason to disagree), even if MP's were to be bought for the purpose, and now first time another puppet, a CM, openly declaring that Pakistan has a role to play in J&K issue or something to that effect, leave no doubt in my simple mind about most successful Indians being sold out to another country. Then the puppets acting as puppets for their continuance as PM or CM means they are also sold out. Going on extending the logic, we shall find that the most of sccessful Indians are those who have agreed to sell themselves out to ones whose blessings are necessary for their success or continuance of same. There always will be some exceptions, but those will be just that- exceptions.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

M for Media, M for Moron

Our great electronic media must being controlled and run by morons to be so effective in making issues out of non-existing non-issues and non-issues out of real issues. Or I must be a moron not to be able to realize the greatness behind their activities. Whatever may be my complaints, a certain Kalmadi must send blank cheques to media and particularly to one media-house as he must be indebted to them for ensuring him next President-ship of any commonwealth country he chooses. His name has been bombarded so much in the consciousness of the people there that they find it hard to remember names of their spouse, children or parents. Nothing matters in the world more than Kalmadi and his brand of corruption.

Kalmadi has another choice. He can start courses for corruption. He can open colleges, run correspondence courses or start global classes through internet. I am sure the competitive exam for seeking admission to his courses in all formats will be much tougher to crack than CAT or GMAT. Even if he limits the aspiring candidates through tough eligibility criterion like at least six months of non-corrupt working experience. I am sure Kalmadi may not be having any special talent for the purpose but he must now encash the greatness thrust upon him.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Marriage- Arranged Marriage

India is an unique country. For me tolerance is the greatest virtue of we Indians, probably the greatest evil as well. Tolerance of the wrongs and injustices has allowed society to degrade. Howsoever loud we may try to shout at the success of having organized CWG, the magnificence of its opening and closing ceremonies, and bask in the glory of the historical medal tally, the hardships and injustices an ordinary citizen has to face and tolerate for daily survival makes me paint India as a degraded society.

Does our degradation stem to a large extent from our marriage system? What marriage should be? It is supposed to be association of two soul-mates for life-time or till it lasts. With homo-sexuality being permitted in many societies, sex of the soul-mates doesn't matter. But let us talk of man-woman marriage. Does arranged marriage fulfill this requirement? If we don't try to deceive ourselves, answer is simple and clear- 'No', more often than not 'no'. At the time of marriage it is a blind whether the two individuals will be successful in becoming soul-mates. They don't marry because they were soul-mates or they felt they were soul-mates. They try to become soul-mates after marriage. I know from my experience and that of those I know closely that very often they don't become soul-mates and continue to tolerate each other with their best abilities. They become miserable for rest of their lives and in many cases life becomes curse. That won't be so if taking marriage as a fate-accompli, they concentrated more on positive aspects of eachother's personality than the negative aspects.

Through arranged marriages we are not choosing the personalities. We are choosing wealth, status , beauty, 'khandaan' (the lineage of ancestors), job etc. We are not choosing the personality and definitely not 'soul'. Life becomes an ever continuing exercise in adjustments. Is it what we want to get out of life or do we want it to be full of intrinsic joy?

Times have been changing and arranged marriages have been giving way to finding of soul-mates by the concerned adults, generally known as love-marriages. It is often said that such marriages are not lasting as arranged marriages do. What should be more important for an individual- a happy marriage or a lasting marriage? Of course, nothing like it if it were a happy and lasting marriage at the same time. It is also true that broken marriages result in related problems, mainly concerned with the children. For welfare of the children it is necessary for marriages to last. Here the problem becomes a bit complicated.

If love-marriages fail and break, it doesn't mean that arranged marriage is a better arrangement. It only means that the two adults hadn't found their soul-mates and had married for some other considerations. The more the adults find real soul-mates for marriage, the happier they will be and better the society.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

"Shame On You"

"Shame on you" were the very words confronting me from a news channel when I switched on my TV set this morning. The words were coming from a devastated father whose young son had committed suicide a few months ago in the aftermath of caning by teachers/principal in his school. The words coming from a man who had faced one of the worst tragedies of life was understandable but still I felt bewildered. For this broadcast the channel had to have supported and approved it and this puzzled me. The day before same and other channels were broadcasting how proud a country we were on having successfully executed and showcased the best opening ceremony ever for the XIX th Common Wealth Games, the organisation of which had been a public lesson in blatant corruption and incompetence. I couldn't understand whether I was supposed to feel proud or ashamed as an Indian.

What puzzled me most was while I was being asked to feel ashamed for this single act of injustice to a citizen, why I was never told "Shame on you" by this powerful media house or other media houses when news came of thousands languishing in our jails without a trial for years. When the news came of thousands of children in the country dying of starvation, when these powerful people came across kids begging on city streets and traffic junctions. When blatant leakage of public money is reported in the media and everyone becomes silent spectator to victimization of one who dared to bring that leakage to light, the leakage still continuing. Why do our sensibilities get aroused for the dead but not for the living human beings, millions of whom face injustice and raw-deal day in and day out of their existence? Only if our leaders (in all walks) could ever harbour that feeling called shame!

Friday, October 1, 2010


Ayodhya verdict from High Court has come. Touch wood, no disturbance whatsoever took place anywhere in the country, though there were widespread apprehensions of same. My salutations to the people of India, the media and the politicians on this count. It goes to show while India is failing as a State, its people are far from failing. What does it mean? While the Haves are looting the country or are allowing the loot, the Have-nots are the ones sustaining its progress and survival. The earlier we Haves start feeling ashamed, the better it will be for the country.

I saw the reactions of those who matter on various channels after the verdict. Without having gone through the evidences judges had gone through and without having read the complete judgement, many felt free to criticise it. This is how we misuse freedom. Sh. Sh. Ravishankar talked real sense but he is a Hindu. Therefore to me the poet and writer Sh. Javed Akhtar stood out as a statesman in what he had to say on the issue. But there were many others including leaders who didn't feel happy from prospects of a solution forthcoming and probably didn't know what they were saying in their efforts for one-upmanship. They included constitutional experts and leaders, all party to relegation of Constitution to classroom material only. Where is equality of citizens, more importantly where is the socialist state?

Let us see what the issue is. There is a place in Ayodhya, Hindus believe to be place where Lord Rama was born. They call it Ram-janamabhoomi and want to build an imposing temple there. Prior to demolition in 1992, a mosque known as babri-masjid existed there and therefore Muslims claim place belongs to them. The three judges bench, two Hindus and one Muslim, has unanimously decided that the place is Ram-janamabhoomi and the idols placed there have to remain. This can be the nucleus for conciliation among Hindus and Muslims. Muslims can now appreciate that place is the most sacred one on earth for one religion of the world. For them it is not that sacred by far. They will earn respect round the world by now coming forward and being magnanimous to offer the place to Hindus for building a temple. They co-exist with Hindus and others in the same country singing same national-anthem. Muslim heroes and heroines are idolised by millions of Hindus. Time for Muslim leaders to rise above parochial thinking and show statesmanship.

But what does one do with the pseudo-secular leaders like Sh. Mulayam Singh who just to get Muslim votes was first to openly criticise the judgement paving way for communal disharmony. Till other day he was the most vociferous among those insisting for a judicial settlement of the issue. And such leaders duly supported by our great media are projected as first claimants to secularism. I only hope Muslims should now be wise enough to see through such ******. Euphoria over peace subsequent to judgement is dying down with disruptive forces now becoming active. I hope they will not succeed in their design and better sense will prevail among all. Statesmanship by Muslims and humility of Hindus of India at this juncture will go a long long way to reinforce communal harmony in the country for decades to come.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

An Open Letter

I reproduce below an open letter I had drafted about month and a half back, much before my first posting of this month but I didn't make use of, as other developments were simultaneously taking place. Now the issue having been covered by prime electronic media and having been forgotten or not ever taken any cognizance of by the nation at large, I post below this letter as it was drafted at that time.
As things stand on date as would be clear from earlier posts, I am a confirmed fool in the eyes of my wife, may be children as well, and my colleagues. I accept. But my example, an unprecedented one if not in the history of independent India, definitely in Indian Railways, has proved some important points.

1. The hypocrisy of media- it projects itself as holier than thou but is simply not bothered about any corrections or real issues.

2. While so many armchair moralists and reformers talk so much about evils and required corrections, they don't mean anything as corrections won't come just by wishing and talking. Real sacrifices and efforts will be necessary. Firstly no one would stick one's neck out for same. Secondly if someone does that at great risk to his very existence- taking on single-handedly the powerful money-bags and the whole establishment, specially the top-most bureaucracy--- those great moralists decide not to give any cognizance. Still they will go on criticizing society.

3. Rot has gone to all pillars of democracy.

4. There still may be well-meaning people and organizations they act in isolation while need is for them to join forces with like-minded people/organizations. Pl see my post 'Good guys, bad guys.'

An Open Letter Dt. Mid August, 2010
(In my capacity as an Indian Citizen and a Public Servant)

The Indian Public

( Special attention: Arnab Goswamis, Rajdeep Sardesais, Barkha Dutts, Rajat Sharmas, Prannoy Roys.........)

Sub: Leakage of Rs 5000 crores or above year after year through faulty Railway Procurement

“Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him.” - Mahatma Gandhi

“An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it.” - Mahatma Gandhi

I wrote a letter to Hon'ble MR dt. 24th March, 2010 detailing how leakage of public revenue worth approx Rs. 5000 crores per year was taking place in Railway Procurement and systemic corrections called for to arrest such a huge leakage were mentioned and implied therein. The copy of letter was also sent to all Railway Board Members (except MT), AM(RS) and the Minister's Adviser (on Stores matters), Sh. Amitabha Datta. I haven't heard anything in response from anyone till date. It did look strange against MR's proclaimed public stance of being against corruption and leakage of public money at numerous platforms in and outside Railways.

What followed, however, was just the opposite. Towards end of April, in a sudden move, the senior most officer heading the Stores Department as AM(RS), an officer having served a good no. of years as CTE in CVC, an officer of known impeccable integrity, was relieved of his post in an unprecedented manner. The things/reasons do unfold in the organization. What unfolded was even more shocking. He was sacked( virtually) because he had taken a professionally correct position in the multi-crore Rly Bd tender for procurement of wagons, contrary to MR's wishes conveyed to him through her advisers. What a shame! But no shame. Such things are accepted in our great country as a matter of routine and so was this (Unceremonious exit of Sh. M. P. Juneja as AM(RS)) without even a murmur of protest from any quarter whatsoever. The people duty bound to protest, the Indian Railway Stores Service(IRSS) cadre, chose to look the other way, ably led by the President and Genl Secy of their association. I am telling it to make a point that the so called educated and intelligentsia are the cowards of worse than the worst order and we owe ills of the society to them more than anyone else.

Probably without Hon'ble MR realizing (I give her benefit of doubt, but her advisers ought to have realized), this act of hers weakened beyond redemption the very department that needed to be strengthened to arrest systemic leakage of public revenue worth thousands of crores of Rs. per year as detailed in my letter. It laid the foundation/ cleared the path for this leakage to multiply easily and become, say, Rs. 10000 crores per year. This from a person, i.e. MR, shouting hoarse against corruption and leakage of public money in newspapers’ headlines. What hypocrisy! What a farce!

Then there was a series of articles in end June in The Statesman. Some conscientious journalist had probably got hold of my letter and did his own verifications and research based on that. This series laid bare the systemic wrongs in the Railways procurement system alleging leakage of Rs 50000 crores to cartels in a decade. The facts quoted were so strong and true that till date, no refusal from the Railways has come, meaning thereby that the published reports in essence have been accepted. This is further confirmed through MR's reported reaction that she encouraged such reports as these reports had helped Rlys in knowing their shortcomings and taking corrective action. How amusing! The reports in the articles only elaborated what contained in my letter. For months my letter was with the top Rly bureaucracy but no one including MR herself bothered to give it any cognizance. When same contents make a news item, suddenly eyes are opened, investigations initiated, politically correct public stance is taken and then? Then nothing done to correct systemic flaws causing wastage/leakage of thousands and thousands of crores of precious public money. Further while the Newspaper is patted by MR for her to be politically correct, the bureaucracy working under her (was it with her consent as well?) targets the officer whose letter formed the basis for the news articles. Nothing strange in a country where whistle-blowers are murdered in broad daylight and everyone remains happy singing the national anthem.. Why should top bureaucracy (with blessings of political bosses?) not murder bureaucratically those as a result of whose actions their wrong doings/mistakes come to light, come to public domain? Who is there to stop them? What worth is Rs 5000 or 50000 crores of public money to those whose only concern is their own career (read postings and promotions), may be kickbacks for some, and well being of their families? Self-preservation and vested interests must rein supreme.

While MR promotes herself as being saviour of public money and the poor, I request her to introspect in what way she has been able to achieve beyond having done only lip-service. Going by above, in journalist’s words- she has only inflicted self goals. Whether she is to blame or the counsel she has chosen, she should know better. But even if later is the case, responsibility lies with her. There is another instance. Acting on her counsel, she had overnight changed ED/RRB and all heads of RRB’s even though they had not completed their tenures. It was understood that this action was necessitated as it was considered that having been installed in the regime of the previous Minister, all existing officers didn’t have the impeccable integrity she cherished and had therefore to be replaced. Though a ridiculous action in the first place, it proved to be a big joke through subsequent developments.What followed must have left MR red in the face. An unprecedented recruitment scam got unearthed, one of her appointees being a party to it. Luckily for her , the media, perhaps too busy with Sharukhs and Kaitrinas, didn't take much notice of these facts.

No doubt, MR is a great leader and I am nobody to belittle her. My purpose is only to make her realize (if she has an open mind) that the counsel she is keeping for administration of Railways is neither doing any good to Railways, nor to her, or to public at large.

The bureaucracy and its working in the Railways remains feudal and archaic. More feudal than archaic. From its feudal character stems the root cause of all scams that surface now and then- a totally opaque and nepotic system of postings and transfers. What becomes visible to public and media now and then as scams are just a few leaves of a big tree, the root of which, the posting, promotion and transfer system, remains hidden from their eyes. The tree of scams will continue to flourish until and unless the root is attacked. Most of the officers find themselves at the wrong end of this feudal system sometime or other in their long careers, but sadly they chose to keep quite and bide their time. Rare like me chose to react wishing corrections in the system and suffer more and more. There is no dearth of good officers and officials in the Railways, most of them must be better than me. But these good people are doing more harm than good to the system by choosing to keep quite. Edmund Burke, the philosopher rightly said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Recently there was a super-hit Hindi film ‘Three idiots”. The Government will do well to screen it for its bureaucracy in an attempt to make it learn a simple lesson from it, ‘the issues and solutions remain predominantly simple and it is only we that complicate the things to satisfy our egos or serve our vested interests.’

I belong to Indian Railways Stores Service, a professional service responsible for materials management over Railways. A major part of this responsibility is procurement of material for Railways’ requirements. Even when a child is asked to buy something, it generally would buy a thing worth five rupees for five rupees as a result of the forces acting in the process. But as paid professionals for doing the job, we do majority of our purchases (value wise) day in and day out for value much (30% to ten times or so, by an intelligent guess) in excess of the cost price and reasonable margin of profit. We have tons of procedures, rules and instructions to carry our job and we feel satisfied that we are doing our job as per laid down rules but look where we end up. Causing leakage of Rs 5000 crores or more of public money per year. We allow procurement of same items at even much higher costs through works contracts in the same organization. We, the cream of the intelligentsia, selected through UPSC, allow ourselves to become slaves to self defeating rules and procedures and leave our thinking cap home while coming to work. Why? Because it suits us. We get our salaries, choice postings, may be the cuts as well, our children study in good schools, wives enjoy the shopping and we enjoy ourselves. Why to bother about professional competence or incompetence? Yet when our child is sick and we take it to a doctor, we expect him/her to be professionally most competent!

Hold on! Don’t think that I am confused as to who is responsible for the mess that is current Railway Procurement System. Where else on earth you will find a massive and powerful organization like Indian Railways first approving sources to do business with it, very survival of most such sources depending on that business alone, and then readily and gleefully getting exploited by those very sources? It is said not for nothing that reality is stranger than fiction. Responsibility lies simply and obviously both with the Board and us, the IRSS officers. With Rly Board for creating the mess and with us for accepting and allowing this mess to continue.

Neither it is that we are totally helpless under the existing rules and procedures. It is that we allow ourselves to become slaves of the rules and continuing flawed working rather than becoming masters of the procedures and rules. All supply contracts over Rlys are governed by IRS conditions of contract. In these contracts, there is a very potent clause- Book Examination Clause. Hardly ever we have used it. Sadly such a clause is not there in works contracts. Through use of this clause, beyond manipulation of their books by the suppliers, not only we can find out the extent of unreasonable profit made by the suppliers, we can also recover the same from them and prevent recurrence of it if the suppliers are regular ones. If someone has some doubt, he/she can consult me for free.

While I am drafting this letter, scam after scam concerning Common Wealth Games is coming to light. The cost overrun has already been 17 times than the originally estimated cost with leakage of thousands of crores of public money. Though there is so much hue and cry in the electronic media about this, the sums involved pale in comparison to leakage taking place year after year in Railways procurement system as brought out in my letter and the reports of the Statesman. Yet till date, our alert and responsible electronic media has either not found it or not found it worth mentioning. And yet they have the license to take everyone else to the task. Coming back to CWG, some cosmetic investigations will be done, a few unfortunate ones without connections taken to task and thousands of crores of public money would have gone down the drain, nay, down the throat of the powerful ones and those in power. The same applies to all such scams media reports with such vigour and then forgets. The percentage of those below poverty line and mal-nourished children ever continues to increase. Who bothers?

Here I would like to share a thought. It was about 20-25 years back that Rajiv Gandhi, the Hon'ble PM of India publicly told that out of Re one spent by the Govt only paisa 14 reached the intended beneficiary. We have simply accepted it and allowed that 14 paisa to become, may be, 11 paisa . Many of us have done wonders in our personal lives- as politicians, as bureaucrats, as film producers, actors, sports stars, tycoons, businessmen, singers, journalists, industrialists, professors, scientists, writers, poets- the list is endless. But what worth is that? Howsoever great we may be- we have failed collectively and as a nation, miserably. The day we realize this hard fact ( whether we accept or not, it is always there from the perspective of the Almighty), probably we shall begin to succeed.

Who am I to say all this and why should I say all this? As my nears and dears complain, “Why could I not be like my colleagues, keep my mind and mouth shut, butter the bosses and get choice postings and promotions and enjoy materially?” I don’t know. Probably I am just doing God's bidding and who am I to interfere in His designs?

The abo

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Chief Vigilance Commissioner of India

Continuing media obsession with CWG not withstanding, the breaking news is that our Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC), who was administered the oath by the President of India the other day, having been appointed by our own Prime Minister and Home Minister, is an accused in a corruption case since 1992. What is so big about it? Was he not a Secretary to Govt Of India prior to this? Was not the husband of our President an accused in a court case? Didn't our Prime Minister once survive by bribing the Members of Parliament? Is not our Home Minister known to be linked to mining mafias? Have not number of Central Ministers and Chief Ministers in states been distinguishing themselves in amassing astronomical wealth through public service and then getting majority support to win elections again? Is not ICC (International Cricket Council) chief, a body managing the biggest corruption on earth, a key Central Minister in India? If so, shouldn't one of the most corrupt perceived bureaucrats qualify to be the Chief Vigilance Commissioner to oversee the functioning of largely corrupt and incompetent bureaucracy. On this account, our great Govt has not failed us, though leading and governing a failed state. It hopes people should now become wise enough to stop sending complaints to CVC. Let us take the cue and at least help the Green cause by saving stationery.

More on Common Wealth Games

Something more for us Indians to rejoice at. We have a Prime Minister with a magical band or touch. He just used it and everything with CWG became alright, the mess just disappeared. This is the message coming through the electronic channels (what I had predicted a day back and what any body would have predicted). Why to bother if it was same PM who had appointed and till date supported the very people who had created the mess. It was same PM who had intervened a few weeks back to appoint a Group of Ministers to arrest the mess and still mess had become so big as to attract international ridicule. Magic is not for day to day affairs, should be used only when absolutely necessary. So our beloved and reverred PM did and lo! country's prestige is back on rail. Hail the PM! Hail the media whose efforts made PM wield his magic band! Hail ourselves for belonging to such a great country!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Common Wealth Games 2010

Time about I also said something about Commonwealth Games, the media are so obsessed with. Few days back I read Chetan Bhagat's article in Times of India on the subject and I couldn't agree more. I don't know how many would act on his advice and boycott the games but as expected, public, specially young generation is being befooled by greater fools in believing and making them do their best to make games a success. All for the prestige of the country. As luck would have it, things have already come to a pass that country's prestige has suffered badly even before start of the games. Now the outcome of games is immaterial, it may only give some solace to the media-mauled organisers, if hailed as successful which in all probability these will be. Media, in the meantime takes pride in continuing to highlight CWG scams, closing its eyes to obvious and known much much bigger scams. When it comes to sense of proportions, our reverred media doesn't have any.

While fingers are being pointed out at a few individuals for the mess, fundamental question remains who gave them this responsibility? It is I and you as a result of our democratic set up, and we are now criticising. When there is total anarchy around, blaming or fixing a few won't help. Over exposure of CWG mess by media with no resulting corrective or punitive action at any level has now made people, even die-hard optimists like me, to realise that anarchy in India is total and here to stay. It has signalled death of public accountability in India that had started taking last breaths with cash for vote scam, and will need a miracle for revival. The other day I was asking if India had become a failed state, the answer has come a bit too soon.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Out of Box solution for J&K

Yesterday evening I was watching discussion on J&K on a news channel wherein a question posed was " Can there be an out of box solution for J&K problem?" J&K continues to be a problem since independence and collectively as a nation we are far from any solution, as we have been even for all other basic problems concerning nation as a whole. Because as I must have said earlier also, our purpose has only been to talk and befool others, but not to find a solution. Simple solutions, any effective solution has to be simple, exist for all problems but not will to find them. Coming back to J&K, I don't know of the problem in depth and have never thought much about it. Watching the TV yesterday, I gave it a try and an 'out of box' solution did come to my mind.

A large number of Kashmiris and leaders talk of independence and self determination which India will never allow as the anchor was correctly pointing out. But are they not already independent as a federal unit? Why do they want to secede from the Union? They should elect a state government that works for them. desire for secession should come only if Centre doesn't give state its due and neglects it. I don't know but I feel that should haven't happened given the special status for J&K.
Then what is the problem? Atrocities by army? Army should be pulled up if so. Development and fair and just administration will assuage the feelings of any people. These require just will, will of those who have the power.

Nothing out of box in above. Kashmiris are cut up with India and a large number wants to secede - this also is fact and something out of ordinary will have to be done to make them feel more wanted and a part of India. What that could be? It occured to me J&K must be sending very few MP's , based on population there, to the Union. I checked up and found it is 6 against 10 from a tiny state of Haryana. Could this number be increased to, say, 12 as a clear message to people of J&K that India cares for them. A larger participation being allowed in the matters of Union will be a strong political action and message, separatists and secessionists will find hard to counter. This has to be coupled with good governance and development etc. Foolish? Out of box solutions have to be like that.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A delayed post

A few months back there was an accident, said to be result of sabotage, of Gyaneshwari Express near Jhargram. Many innocent lives were lost, child twins being among them. Moved that time, I had written a poem that I reproduce below now.

Accident at Jhargram

We were alive, the little twins,

Healthy and kicking

Dreaming the sweet dreams

Embraced in bliss

A few moments ago

Now hovering over the accident site at Jhargram

We see our deflated bodies

Entangled in the mangled wreckage

Of Steel

Crushed under wheels of another train

Wheel of Fate!

the nears and dears so inconsolable

Not so near, neither dear

the babus, the cameramen, the netas

shedding Crocodile Tear

Soon they will forget all

Will remain

only political gain

Some obscure poet will lament somewhere

Over here

We are not alone

Have 26/11 victims for company

They console

For them there were candle light processions

Much public outcry

Governments claimed in no uncertain terms

Culprits will be brought to book

but now look

Master mind of their massacre

Roams free in alien land

And here with a smiling face

some top babu expresses government's disappointment

and back they all go to their partying ways

" We were born we died

Did we ever belong to a country, a nation

For which we sang the national anthem?"

The 26/11 victims do wonder

Our rotting bodies below

gift from our own countrymen

machinations of the disgruntled

slippage of the babus

Greed of the politicians

" Did we ever belong to a country, a nation?"

We little twins also wonder.

A bit childish, but here it is.