March 30, 2020
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Wanted: Men With Guts

By going after Bihar criminals like Shahabuddin, two officers have redefined governance

Wanted: Men With Guts
Sandeep Adhwaryu
Wanted: Men With Guts
I have never met Chandrakant Anil. Nor Ratn Sanjay. Yet, I salute the 1991 IAS-1998 IPS duo currently serving Siwan. I believe the entire Indian civil service should give them a standing ovation for doing what few in the system have had the courage to do. They have put the common weal before career or even personal safety. They have given us an example of what good governance can mean in the day-to-day life of one of India's most backward states. In fact, if the rule of law had been upheld by the civil service the first time any Shahabuddin tried to raise his head in Siwan, perhaps we would never have seen this day!

By reading out the law to Mohammed Shahabuddin, MP, in his own language, the duo has redefined the lingua franca of governance in Bihar. Raids on the MP's house have revealed tiger and deer skins, night-vision goggles, laser-aided guns and other arms with Pakistani ordnance markings. Photos of Shahabuddin with some of India's most wanted criminals have also been seized. In other words, a man who sits in the hallowed halls of Parliament is a national security threat! And the Union government still gives him Z-category security! What a shame!

Can Shahabuddin explain to the nation why, and how many times, he visited Kashmir in the past four or five years? Did he go there to procure the rocket-launchers with which he fired on SP B.S. Meena? Lastly, where are all the people who have vanished from Siwan? Every child in Siwan knows where these people vanished, and where more than a hundred bodies lie buried. The government should order this graveyard, in the MP's own backyard, to be exhumed, scientific identification done and the pictures displayed for the nation, so that the shame is made public and not hidden. Bihar's chief commissioner, I-T, should seize all properties known to be owned by or captured by him through benami methods, and auction them; reopen his tax returns, freeze his bank accounts. He has violated almost every law of every department and yet no one has questioned him till date!

Despite our feats in other fields, we are reduced to a nation of hand-wringers when it comes to the crunch. The time has come for every right-thinking Indian to stand up and be counted. To support Anil-Ratn and others like them who, in the face of insuperable odds, are saving the system.

To those who are scared to take on Shahabuddin, all I ask is, would they have reacted similarly if he'd targeted their family? Why, then, a different attitude when it comes to the public cause? We often forget we are holding a trust—called the IAS—given to us by the people through the Constitution, not something we've got due to the grace of any individual, no matter how powerful. We owe a responsibility to uphold this trust, conscientiously and faithfully. If we can't, we should resign and make way for someone who can.

The British ruled India with a handful of provisions of the CrPC—Section 133 (public nuisance), Section 144 (unlawful assembly) etc. More powerful laws adorn the modern administrator's arsenal, yet he is unable to control petty law and order issues, forget controlling habitual criminals like Shahabuddin. What an irony of history: too many laws, too little justice; too much government, little governance.

All right-thinking officers must form a collective action group to support those who toil to uphold the law. The time has come to realise that the myriad conduct rules can't be for good officers alone, while those who devour the fence from within and the political executive have none whatsoever. This asymmetry must end. Also, the legacy of administrative impotence that's slowly crept into Bihar (and in different degrees elsewhere), often under the guise of 'remaining balanced', for 'not acting in haste' or some other fig-leaf. True, these are worthy canons of administration, but only if we have a strong, functional state; not after we freeze the state to inactivity and cowardice, like in Bihar. Unless the IAS supports the countless faceless, yet courageous, officers like Anil-Ratn, who are doing a phenomenal yet unsung job, the service will continue to see attrition in its professionalism, execution capabilities and respect at a greater pace.

I appeal to the PM, Dr Manmohan Singh, to withdraw Shahabuddin's Z-security and accord it to Anil-Ratn. To make an example of them and not let Shahabuddin do so. He will thus have demonstrated that officers like them are indeed coveted. This one act would be applauded more than a thousand words on administrative reforms. If this PM, of unimpeachable integrity, doesn't act now, no one else, perhaps, ever will.

Public perception needs to be changed and directed to the fact that India possesses one of the most brilliant higher civil services in the world, which sits on top of one of the most appalling lower civil services, thereby often becoming the object of public opprobrium. Having had the benefit of seeing the IAS, the multilateral world and the private sector from close quarters, I can aver that its canvas, substance, diversity of work, the opportunity for impacting the lives of the common people outclasses all others.

Individuals will come and go. But institutions have to live on forever if we, India's gen-next, aspire to build anything close to a modern, prosperous country. In India's life, the time has now come for individuals to (re)create institutions, so that, someday institutions can create individuals. To stop being a nation of hand-wringers, when it comes to standing up and acting for the common weal. And to realise, that we cannot save the country on a part-time basis.

(A first draft of this article appeared on the website as India's Most Wanted. Krishna——is an IAS officer. These are his personal views. But he hopes these are also the views of India, of every right-thinking Indian.)
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