A cooling off period for a year proposed by the government and subsequent government permission for retired bureaucrats before they join the private sector is one step forward in eliminating the practice of the private sector providing jobs to babus in return for grace and favour. There have often been suspicions that a particular bureaucrat may have got a plum job for favours rendered while in service. This practice should not stop only at bureaucrats, it should extend to other services as well.
The government has been quick to reward loyalists with posts to public-funded organisations and with governorships. In fact, a former chief justice of India was made a governor within four months after he demitted office. He was in fact the first CJI to be appointed as a governor, a post which is normally given to those who have been politically useful to the government of the day and may continue to be.
A controversial police chief of Delhi was given a post on the Union Public Service Commission board as soon as his tenure ended. In the past, we have seen top defence officials join arms companies when they retire. A former police officer turned politician was given a governorship after having lost a prestigious election.
The government has also made it mandatory for former bureaucrats to make it clear that they had not been privy to classified or strategic information while in the last three years of their service which could be related to their new assignment.
This proposal was clearly prompted by several instances in which officers were found to have taken up jobs which clearly were in contravention of service ethics. A former IRS officer who had applied for a waiver of the cooling period earlier was found to have been offered an astronomical amount of money from a private firm which amounted to a conflict of interest with the position he had held. This was rejected at the time. However, the government’s enquiries into his possible collusion with the firm in question while in service were not conclusive as also the cases of several others.
The 2G spectrum scandal seems to have served as a wake-up call for the government when it was found that the former TRAI chairman had joined a firm which had dubious links in the matter. The real clean up will take place when this applies across the board and not just to bureaucrats, but this is as good a beginning as any.