“PONDER” PLEASE! – Why Top level officers are immune over actions

published on December 10, 2008

Dear  Friend



Last week Maj Gen
Joshi called on me. He was an esteemed instructor during our Degree
Course days, and EME officers would remember him as one of our finest
engineers. Indeed, he spent most of his time with the DRDO.
He was commissioned in Jun 1960 and was in the Eastern sector during
the 1962 debacle. He has analyzed the event very systematically, and
his study reveals the following :



  • Pt Nehru, the
    architect of modern India suffered a severe stroke of depression from
    which he never quite recovered. He died in May 1964 at the
    comparatively young age of 73.


  • VK Krishna Menon was removed from the post of Raksha Mantri for his incorrect assessment of the situation.


  • Gen Thapar, the COAS was sacked. The careers of Lt Gen Kaul and scores of other military officers took a “U” turn.


  • A few thousand soldiers died; many more were wounded and some were taken prisoners.


  • The psyche of the country received a severe blow. It was considered a ‘National Shame’


The question he asked me was, “Who was the Defence Secretary? And what was the punishment meted out to him?” 



I have asked several friends and also surfed the Internet but I am unable to find an answer. In all probability nothing was done to him, because he had no role in this!


Joshi then took this discussion a step further. He observed that during
the recent attack on Mumbai, dozens of soldiers and policemen have been
killed. The whole nation is shaken. Mr Shivraj Patil has lost his prestigious job. The CM of Maharashtra has been axed and several heads in the government are likely to roll. Can some one tell us as to what action has been taken against the Union Home Secretary or the Chief Secretary of Maharashtra? (Thomas tells me that they will all be “promoted” soon though he does not know why).


Having spent many years in and around the South Block, I marvel at the way our government has been structured. The Civil Servants rule the roost. In terms of promotions and status they are ahead of every one else by miles. They are central in the Pay Commission and the Cabinet Secretary
is involved in every major decision making process. Yet, when things go
wrong, they wash their hands off so clean that one wonders how!


A slightly closer examination reveals the secret. I have figured it out this way:



  • They
    never do anything themselves. They always find some one else to be the
    head, and they know how to reduce him to be a ‘figure head’. (In the
    Pay Commissions, they  have a retired Judge). However they place
    themselves in a spot which has the maximum opportunity to influence


  • After the event, they never face the Press or the Media. Their role is amorphous.


  • The
    senior amongst them rarely sign a letter or order. Our pension letter
    is signed by a Director, who is not directly recruited IAS
    officer. Only rarely do you find a paper signed by a Joint Secretary. Officers above that level do not sign any document.


  • They have a strong association. It protects the interests of its members dutifully and diligently.


we have our Defence headquarters in which the postings, promotions,
rewards and punishments of all senior officers are controlled by the
civil servants; and they also have the final say in the process of
procurement of weapons and eqpt, but they are not “responsible” if
things go wrong!

It is authority without
responsibility. (For those who may not know, a lowly officer in the MoD
can have a Deputy Chief posted out, but a Service Chief can not get
even a Desk Officer moved)


When Gen
Joshi left, I found myself perplexed. What sort of system have we
evolved? And how has it survived all these years? It is a bit like a
unit in which the clerks are running the unit and the CO is so
dependent on the Head Clerk that he can not move without their help!


Can some one give a cogent answer to the questions raised by Gen Joshi?

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