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Grease On The Lens

The CBI’s arbitrary ‘rewards’ to its own is wastage of public funds

Grease On The Lens
Grease On The Lens
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Tokens Of Appreciation

  • Jamiruddin, Constable, Calcutta - Rs 7,000
    For good work. No details given on the reason behind the cash reward.
  • Satya Kishore Singh, Constable, Jharkhand - Rs 1,250
    For good work on holidays and beyond office hours and valuable assistance during visits of senior officers.
  • R.K. Jha, SI, Anti-corruption branch - Rs 750
    For good work done during visit of the CBI director.
  • N. KrishnaConstable, Bangalore - Rs 1,650
    For “accident- free” driving of vehicle.
  • J. Ravichandran CBI Special Crimes - Rs 500
    For attending courts of the judicial magistrate.
  • R. Valavan, Inspector, Chennai - Rs 1,500
    Good work done in connection with inspection of DIG, CBI, New Delhi.
  • S.K. Sinha, Inspector, Ranchi - Rs 1,000
    Good work, staying in office beyond working hours.
  • K.K. RamachandranInspector, Chennai - Rs 1,500
    For packing, loading, transporting and handing over of arms, ammo to CBI, Delhi.

***

Ten years into its placid existence, the MDMA, the much-vaunted body set up by the CBI to investigate Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, is still to make much headway in that case. So the agency—or the Multi-Disciplinary Monitoring Agency, to give its grand-sounding name in full—has to find other ways to congratulate itself. Hence the need for its top brass to dole out cash rewards to its own personnel. And, as a recent application under the Right to Information Act (RTI) has revealed, the MDMA is not the only one to dispense such favours liberally. The whole CBI has been quietly giving out cash rewards to junior officers on the most frivolous of grounds. This, when the agency is under a cloud for its lack of autonomy and inability to successfully prosecute high-profile cases.

Take the instance of Inspector K.K. Ramachandran, probably one of the most “cash-rewarded” officers in the CBI. In 2007, he was awarded Rs 1,500 for doing “good work” during the visit of a DIG, Rs 1,000 for locating and examining a person in Sivaganga and Chennai, Rs 1,500 again for doing “good work in packing, loading, transporting and hand over of arms and ammunition”. And then, inspector Ramachandran gets another Rs 1,500 for “proper maintenance of office records, malkhana and the vehicle during the visit of the DIG”.

“Why should an officer or a constable be rewarded for good work done during a senior official’s visit?”

Obviously, the inspector in question is a most talented CBI officer, at least where multi-tasking is concerned. However, if cash rewards are given for driving vehicles, cleaning the office or ensuring the successful visit of a senior CBI official, it raises serious questions about the use of public funds by the investigation agency. And don’t be fooled by the small individual sums. While it is difficult to put a fix on the total money doled out thus, collectively it could run into several lakhs every year.

“Ideally such cash rewards should be given only for outstanding work. I have a reply from Dr M.M. Oberoi, a DIG in the CBI, where he specifically states that only outstanding work should be rewarded,” says Maj Gen Singh. “However, replies from others show that it is being given frivolously. Why should an officer or a constable be rewarded for good work during the visit of a senior official?” he asks.

There are all too many frivolous cases for this to be a minor, jokey issue. Constable K. Balaraman from the MDMA, for instance, has been routinely bestowed with cash rewards for—hold your breath—“driving his official vehicle well”. Even a small unit, such as the anti-corruption branch in Ranchi, which has operational jurisdiction over Jharkhand, spends nearly Rs 80,000 a year doling out rewards to its personnel. Inspector S.K. Sinha got a cash reward of Rs 1,000 for doing “good work and for attending the office beyond working hours”. Now visualise the few other hundred CBI units spread out across India and we see lakhs being shelled out. And all these come even as the CBI’s conviction rates continue to plummet.

B.R. Lal, who retired with the rank of DGP and also served with the CBI, discussed the issue in his book Who owns CBI? The Naked Truth. Lal defends cash rewards to drivers saying it proved beneficial but points fingers at officers for misusing the rewards provision. “My book has a whole chapter on how a former CBI director tried to corner Rs 38 lakh by diverting cash rewards.”

There are also issues about how some officials keep hogging the bulk of the cash rewards. For instance, the CBI’s Special Crime Branch in Calcutta paid Rs 98,800 in 2008 to its personnel. Some, like constable Jagadbandhu Pal, got Rs 7,000 for “good work done”. What the “good work” was, how relevant it was to an ongoing investigation, is never revealed. Interestingly, while the CBI spends lakhs on its personnel ever year, almost no other government department follows the practice. “Our soldiers do so much of sterling work, but most are never recognised. In fact, while the police have a system of cash rewards, no such thing is ever given to our soldiers,” says Gen Singh.

At a time when the CBI faces criticism for taking contradictory stands in the Mulayam Singh Yadav disproportionate assets case, the mess in the Aarushi Talwar murder case and other slip-ups, it can ill afford to be seen in such poor light regarding its own personnel. But the free flow of public money, it seems, is as routine as a top official visiting.

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