Let there be checks on babus jumping into poll fray

Quraishi's initiative is welcome, he should now extend it to former CECs too


Prasanna Mohanty | January 30, 2012

One of the scariest aspects of the 2G scam was the discovery that several top-level government officials had joined lobbyist Niira Radia after their retirement. Some of these officers had either directly handled telecom policies before retirement. Though the CBI is yet to complete its probe and find out the precise role they played in influencing 2G spectrum allocations, suspicions about their misconduct lingers on.

It was precisely to prevent this kind of a scenario that the government had framed a policy making it mandatory for officers to wait out two years before seeking post-retirement employment with private firms. In case someone was in a hurry his/her service records were examined to rule out any conflict of interest. But it was diluted in 2001 and the cooling off period was reduced to one year. (It is a different matter that the reverse should have happened, given the liberal post-liberalisation distribution of public resources to private firms.)

However, no such rules exist for those government servants seeking to profit from the electoral politics. Look at the ongoing elections in Punjab. DS Guru, principal secretary to chief minister Prakash Singh Badal, resigned and plunged into election. PS Gill, who retired as director-general of police, is also contesting. So is the case with former hockey player Pargat Singh, who resigned as director (sports) from the Badal government. There have been many cases of this kind in other states going through elections now and also in the past.

The babus may be happy to work for a particular political party running a government at a time with a view to reap personal benefits later but what about governance and public welfare? The chief election commissioner SY Quraishi is rightly worried and has shot off a letter to the department of personnel and training to make suitable policy to prevent this. After all, the babus are meant to serve the interest of the people, not the political parties. In a democracy, people are the masters, not the political party in power.

While this is a welcome initiative, Quraishi would do well also to follow the example of JM Lyngdoh, who occupied the high constitutional office a decade ago. Unlike his predecessors TN Seshan and MS Gill, Lyngdoh has resisted the temptation of political offices post-retirement. Indeed, he should consider a bar for former CECs similar to the one for bureacrats, a cooling period before plunging into politics.



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