Going after corruption in government departments, the Centre has compulsorily retired 22 senior tax officials. This is the second tranche in the clean-up drive. Earlier, in June, 27 high-ranking Indian Revenue Service officers, including 12 from the Central Board of Direct Taxes, were given compulsory retirement after their names figured in corruption cases. It is heartening to note that PM Narendra Modi’s declaration of rooting out corruption from the ramparts of Red Fort on Independence Day is being seriously implemented. When the PM admitted that “some black sheep in the tax administration may have misused their powers and harassed taxpayers,” it showed he intends to go after them as well.
These concerns have recently come to the fore after the death of Café Coffee Day founder V G Siddhartha, who alleged in his suicide note that he had been victimised by some senior IT officials. Others who have highlighted the problem of harassment by the IT department are former Infosys director Mohandas Pai and pharma company Biocon’s chairperson Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw. However, the applause will be louder if similar action is extended to other wings of the bureaucracy as well which have a direct interface with people. While IT officials deal with businessmen, departments such as the police, municipalities and revenue routinely exploit people even for the most ordinary services.
Corruption is a menace that is difficult to wipe out. It has a way of festering like cancer, do what you will. Having said that, by showing zero-tolerance and putting its officers’ jobs on the line, the government can contain graft. Steep fines and recovery of ill-gotten gains should also be experimented with. What is missed though in the discussion is these dodgy government officials are very often not working for themselves, but for their political masters. And often the target is not pecuniary gain but political vendetta. Corruption is therefore a malaise with deep roots. We are not just dealing with a few officials with bad attitude or upbringing. But, well, we have to start somewhere.