Friday, December 31, 2010

Year 2011: Will bureaucrats be forced to disclose their assets?

IF YOU are an Indian bureaucrat battling hard to argue why your assets should not be disclosed in public domain, you are probably fighting a lost battle. Have a reality check. Sooner or later, Indian bureaucrats may have to place the movable and immovable assets in public domain in the same way as Indian politicians currently do. No one knows whether that could take place in 2011 itself, or it may take a few more years, but the reality is that the bureaucrats’ lone battle to get their assets outside the purview of the RTI is becoming increasingly difficult.
The latest salvo has come from Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar who with a renewed mandate is determined to bring in transparency and accountability to administration. Remember Nitish Kumar is the flavour of the season, and his direction to the state’s IAS officers to declare their assets and those of there kin by January 31, may have ripple effects in other states too.
During the beginning of 2010, senior bureaucrats in Delhi sat together to deliberate at length whether bureaucrats should compulsorily disclose their assets or not, but the consensus was a firm “no”.
In February, 2010, BoI reported how Madhya Pradesh government was keen to bring assets of about 300 IAS officers of MP cadre under the ambit of RTI after a series of I-T raids in the MP and its neighbouring Chhattisgarh. For the record, I-T department does not hand over personal details of any citizens including bureaucrats. But an order of the Central Information Commission, pronounced by Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi said that disclosure of information such as assets of a public servant cannot be construed as an invasion on the privacy of an individual. The order said, “...If people who aspire to be public servants must declare their property details, it is only logical that the details of assets of those who are public servants must be considered to be disclosable”.
During the year, the same debate came up in other states like Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat too. In Gujarat, for example, the issue is being sorted out in High Court as Arvind Agrawal, a 1984 batch Gujarat cadre IAS and MD of Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation, took up the case of bureaucrats in the court and challenged the CIC order asking the state government to furnish Annual Property Returns of its senior bureaucrats.
But Nitish Kumar’s dictate could finally be the game-changer. His government said that the asset declaration of IAS officers should also include the details of their ancestral property besides that of their wives and close relatives. What’s more, similar intructions could be drafted for the state’s IPS and other officers too.
So, does it make it a sense to presume that Indian bureaucrats would be fighting a lone battle in defending their reluctance to disclose properties and other assets? Maybe, the year 2011 may bring more clarity to this intricate issue.

Action and Appointments
a) Pankaj Sharma, a 2000 batch ICAS has been appointed as deputy secretary in the department of economic affairs under the ministry of finance.
b) Biswanath Dhar, a 1989 batch ITS who was appointed as Assistant Director General (director level) in the Unique Identification Authority of India under the Planning Commission at Guwahati, has been debarred from deputation for a posting under the Central Staffing Scheme for a period of five years with effect from September 3, 2010 as he failed to join the above mentioned post.

1 comment:

  1. yes surely it is a very good move that will bring transparency and may our bureaucrats will become more efficient