When 80 Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers were sent to the USA on their first-ever mid-career training programme in 2006, the Left Parties had smelt an "imperialist" rat. Some detractors might now find solace that these IAS officers were taken through a case study of Bolivia on how to fight corruption.
Bolivia — being synonymous with the cult of Che Guevara, who fought imperialism — might not be a wrong place to begin. The case study, which the babus studied at the Kennedy School of Government — Corruption in La Paz: A Mayor Fights City Hall —tells the story of how a first-time mayor, Ronald MacLean Abarora, fought the odds to turn the city around.
The officers, many of them district collectors, from the 1999, 2000 and 2001 batches of the IAS on a compulsory training programme, were explained how the mayor weeded out excess employees on roll, acted against corrupt officials and streamlined tax collections. The mayor avoided the "ethical approach" against corruption, arguing that the "for 2,000 years the church was doing the same" without much success. He, instead, devised "incentives".
"It was an interesting case study. And it can be replicated everywhere," said a district collector from south India. An officer from north India says at a water treatment plant they were taken to after the case study he was "stunned to know treated water has zero bacterial content there and does not work on the principle of permissible levels".
This was the level 3 of the training programme for the IAS for officers with 7-14 years of experience. They spent four of the allotted six weeks at the Lal Bahadur Shastri Academy of Administration, Mussoorie. The cost of the programme, in association with US universities — Duke, Syracuse and Harvard — is Rs 45 crore.