Tip Of The Iceberg

Updated: May 24 2003, 05:30am hrs
Full marks to the Central Bureau of Investigation for catching red-handed an official of the Union finance ministry for accepting a bribe to facilitate the transfer of an income-tax officer to a destination of his liking. Under its present leadership, the CBI has been showing a greater degree of professionalism than in the past. However, it would be interesting to speculate whether the CBI would have so readily pursued the personal assistant of a more influential minister, for Mr Perumalswamy is more the rule than the exception in such matters. Despite the protestations of innocence of his boss, the Union minister of state for finance G N Ramachandran, rarely do PAs to ministers open a transfers shop without sanction from above. The needle of suspicion must point upwards and Mr Ramachandran should go. There may be a silent resistance to this idea within the ministerial class because so many ministers and officials, both in the Union government and in the states, run such job rackets that they may not want to be made culpable for their PAs lack of cleverness in operation. Cynics may take the view that Mr Ramachandran is dispensable because he belongs to a tiny alliance partner from Tamilnadu. Will the CBI investigate and arrest and will the Prime Minister then seek the exit of someone less dispensable

There are job rackets galore in so many ministries and in every state government. Even in the best governed states, transfers are ordered or stopped for a consideration. Ministers and officials are known to initiate transfer orders to then seek gratification from the affected party to cancel an order arbitrarily issued. The finance ministry scam is only the tip of a humongous iceberg of petty corruption. But as in every line of criminal activity, the important thing is to punish those caught red-handed with the hope that this will have a salutory effect on others similarly engaged but as yet not exposed. While the revenue and customs services are more prone than others to such racketeering, a transfer and appointments racket thrives in almost every area where rent-seeking is possible. A transfer racket is a means of organising the distribution of such spoils. In the finance ministry itself there are other divisions where this racket thrives. Transfer of teachers in government-funded institutions is a source of income for men in authority in education departments across states; transfers in government hospitals in the medical department; transfers in the police department are a racket familiar to every moviegoer even if they have not encountered the problem in real life. Why, there could be racketeering in transfers within the CBI!