A scenario of a complete policy paralysis has come to be recognised as ‘Behura syndrome’ in bureaucratic parlance. The entire bureaucracy in power corridors seems to be afflicted by this syndrome which dissuades civil executives from taking any decision. In effect, the bureaucracy's new mantra is "no work, no mistake and nil risk".
Behura, of course, refers to former telecom secretary Siddharth Behura, the 1973 batch Uttar Pradesh cadre IAS officer, who has had to spend time in Tihar jail in the aftermath of the 2G spectrum allocation scam. Most bureaucrats in the centre as well as the states have learnt their own lesson from the episode. When Governance Now spoke to a cross-section of officers, they expressed the fear that if their decisions or their signatures – part of their day-to-day work – come under the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) scrutiny, who knows, they too may end up facing the same fate for no fault of theirs.
A senior bureaucrat, speaking on condition of anonymity, rued the “weak political system and weak political leadership” for the state of affairs. He said the CAG was acting like an activist, which was not possible in the previous government. “We are here to give our best but I am sorry to say that in such a vulnerable atmosphere we cannot deliver anything because one wrong decision can ruin our career. Bureaucrats working as secretary or additional secretary will never want to get involved in any type controversy in the final phase of their service,” he said.
Another senior bureaucrat said, “In every decision there is a risk of controversy. We usually take a decision on the basis of the current situation and information. What will happen after five years, we cannot predict neither can we assure results.”
He further said, “Decisions of even brilliant bureaucrats can be challenged by CAG because when a bureaucrat has to take a decision on a government policy, usually he or she does not have any fixed parameters for that policy.”
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