Tuesday, May 07, 2013

What's Rs 90 lakh worth for top Rly Board post? A babu "collected" Rs 50 lakh to buy placement in early 90s

By Rathin Das
“Just Rs 90 lakhs ?! That’s not a big price to get such a high post in the Railway Board”, many in bureaucracy would scream. They know Indian republic has a long history of having price tags for several posts that involve interactions with contractors -- first awarding them projects and later clearing their inflated bills, to say the least. The payment made for procuring the post is recovered through kickbacks received from contractors and suppliers, the beneficiaries of the projects at the cost of the exchequer.
No questions are asked about the source and destination of the slush money as the bureaucracy-contractor nexus has for long perfected the system of ‘regulating’ the flow of public money back to the coffers of the officers. In this case of Rs 90 lakhs paid to the nephew of the Railway Minister for securing the coveted post, the officer must have relied on the contractors who would be returned the favour by way of speedy payments of over-rated bills.
But the business-savvy state of Gujarat has one unique example of an officer borrowing from industry owners for paying to get a far-away posting that was of no consequence to their business interests.
A Gujarat cadre IAS officer in the early 1990s had sought “loans” totalling Rs 50 lakhs from industrialists in the district where he was the collector.
Towards the end of his stint as collector, the IAS officer became entitled for a deputation to a posting in his native Andhra Pradesh. He told the small and medium industry owners in the district that he “required” Rs 50 lakhs to get the coveted post of chairman in the Vishakhapatnam Port Trust, the most important port in Andhra Pradesh.
The IAS officer had only asked for “loans” from the industry owners -- Rs three lakhs to Rs five lakhs each -- in order to raise the money he “required” to get the post of Chairman in the Vizag Port Trust.
Knowing fully what a “loan” to an IAS officer actually means, the small and medium industry owners had coughed up some money each as per their individual capacities.
Though the industry owners had no stake in the IAS officer becoming the Chairman of the Vizag Port Trust, they had no option to say no to the “loan” request as they knew he would be back in Gujarat after few years, definitely at a higher post in the State Secretariat.
Despite going to his native Andhra Pradesh with the Rs 50 lakhs collected as “loan” from the industrialists in Bharuch, the IAS officer could become only the Deputy Chairman of the Vizag Port Trust.
But the industrialists in Bharuch had a pleasant surprise as the IAS officer had actually refunded about Rs 45 lakhs within a year-and-half of going to Vizag, though only as the Deputy Chairman of the port there.
Two decades later, a vigilance inquiry found him guilty of embezzlement during his tenure at the Vishakhapatnam Port Trust (VPT) following which he was suspended from service.
But the irony of the Indian system is that no one ever asked who had demanded the Rs 50 lakhs the IAS officer “required” to get the coveted post at the Vishakhapatnam Port Trust.Guj IAS took loan to be port trust chief.
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Rathin Das is a senior journalist, based in Ahmedabad

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