Saturday, October 1, 2016

REFLECTIONS ON DAD-DAY, OCTOBER 1, 2016

October 1 – the DAD-Day – every year is a time of joyous celebration for all DADizens, past and present, of the Department. Meetings and merriment in various hues are a natural accompaniment. The atmosphere is incredibly electric, when everyone seems to be on a high – something reminiscent of a family get-together. After all what’s DAD but an extended family!

What’s often forgotten in this rush of celebration when the spirit is on a high, is that it is also a Day for introspection – to assess how much we have succeeded in exceeding ourselves. This calls for looking inward, of being honest to oneself, in asking hard, pesky questions, and seeking honest answers. Introspection grants self-communing and self-criticism, even self-flagellation, and provides answers that can hit the mind hard. But they are the truth, bald and honest; they are the conscience’s response, embodying one’s internal moral compass that ought to be given free rein; and because they show how much one is true to oneself during such moments of stocktaking. It is also epiphanic. Eureka is not necessarily only Archimedes’s preserve – it is embedded in every human’s wired mind, if only he or she is willing to get a jump on it.

I say this in nostalgia, evoking memories. This, perhaps, the first time in more than three and half decades, I’ll not be a part of the celebration. But my mind is full of DAD-Day thoughts. Inevitably my mind travels back to last year’s DAD-Day, when I had waxed eloquent in my address in Brar Square that our Department has become, among all Departments in the Government of India, the bellwether of Transparency in going completely transparent. The PCsDA and CsDA had been instructed to upload the details of TA/DA claims and Office Expenses with related office notes to ensure transparency in spends from taxpayers’ money. Also, even more importantly, an arm’s length system with Defence Accounts Placement Boards (DAPBs) with IDAS officers on deputation as Chairmen and Members to ensure their independence from administrative authorities (so fundamental to neutrality) had been put in place, to ensure fair and transparent decision-making in matters of transfers and postings. This was in keeping with the Supreme Court’s judgment of 2013.

My mind travels even further back to my days when I worked as the Principal Controller of Defence Accounts at Bangalore. It was circa 2010, and I had invited Justice Santosh Hegde, former Supreme Court judge and then the Lokayukta of Karnataka for the DAD-Day function. I had already begun the practice of uploading the note sheets containing the transfer of staff and officers under the PCDA Bangalore in the office website to ensure all stakeholders are aware of the processes and principles involved in effecting their transfers. An inveterate practitioner of honesty in public life, Justice Hegde was the embodiment of uprightness and probity, and inevitably the discussion veered around the issue of getting rid of nepotism and corruption. “To me, it appears” I said, “the answer to getting rid of these cancers lies in complete transparency. It auto-corrects wrong human impulses and as ombudsman, telegraphs clandestine motivations.” He not only agreed but also highlighted the flagrant wrongs he had seen as Lokayukta. Going back in time he narrated the case of supersession of Supreme Court judges in appointment of the Chief Justice of India in 1973. “But it will take enormous courage of conviction to put transparency and an arm’s length system in place,” he said.

As CGDA and FA(DS), I found out why (more forthcoming in my Memoir). Transparency strips authorities of their (perceived) authority, and complete transparency strips authority completely! And what’s there without authority in a feudal set up like ours – the power to help and reward, to punish and chastise with no reasons cited! As a corollary, the transparency architecture discourages subordinates to cozy up to the powers-that-be – and massaging their uncertain egos and uneasy vanities – for the spoils and favours to befall them. Is this why transparency was replaced with opacity? Transparency has a potential to write finis to the way of life the networked and street-smarts have crafted out, who through manipulation and machinations and by telling yarns, tall and magnificent, have kept going up and up the totem pole without any self-worth. So entrenched and so insidious are they that, let alone eliminating them, even a surgical strike at these networkers’ camps is harder than striking the Pak terrorists in their launch pads. I call them klepto-terrorists – they steal and ransack, they plunder and pillage the system! I’ve seen how culprits (because they are ace schemers and networked) manipulate the system to get away scot-free in typical insider trade and how innocents (because they are na├»ve and un-networked) are pilloried. The system is so infested with this networking instinct that its busting is dire.

Networkers, because of the nature of activity, breed all ills: nepotism, corruption, shenanigan and every evil that we, as common men, confront in our day to day life. Given the obstinate grip of the nepotistic past, we must shout at the deceit of it. And transparency is the way to go in a democracy. It’s time to demand transparency as one of our basic rights. A small beginning has been made in the RTI Act 2005. But it demands more, a whole lot more. It needs muscle, it needs the sun to shine brightly – to disinfect and cleanse putrefaction. Complete transparency is the GPS for fairness, equity, honesty and justice! We must download this app and switch it on – for a better tomorrow.     

On this DAD-Day 2016, as a concerned senior, I wish all members of my extended family a very happy, healthy, peaceful, and wonderful journey ahead – filled with achievements, glory, smarts and happiness – this coming year, and in the years ahead. Let the DADizens blaze a new trail and become the numero uno among all other participating organs of this proud country. Warm wishes and Godspeed!