IF YOU are an IAS, you automatically hold positions of immense importance. But you may not necessarily need to be an IAS to influence the system and implement things the way you wanted. Outgoing CBDT chairman Sudhir Chandra has demonstrated how an allied service officer can emerge as an independent power center, an implementer of big ticket ideas and a real mover and shaker in corridors of power.
In his written farewell message to fellow IRS-IT officers dated
May 31, 2011, Chandra said, “As a service we are not emerging, we have already emerged”.
During his five months stint as chairman of the direct tax body, Chandra took up issues which an ordinary bureaucrat would like to pass quietly. He decided to refund dues of lakhs of taxpayers in the country in the current fiscal year itself and forced his juniors to work on Sundays. The result: over 32 lakh taxpayers were surprised to find their money in their bank accounts. And Rs 30,000 crore was disbursed in the months of April and May alone.
It was not easy task as many finmin honchos wanted to block the initiative citing reasons of overdraft and fiscal deficit. But, can you rein in fiscal deficit by holding on tax payers’ dues, Chandra fought back.
Despite odds, Chandra was instrumental in fighting against the menace of black money and the I-T department seized unaccounted money worth Rs 30,000 crore in the last two years. The IRS-IT officers’ role during the last assembly elections was appreciated by none other than chief election commissioner SY Quraishi in a letter dated
May 23, 2011.
But what’s about the accountability of his own I-T officers who go for raids and surveys? Chandra who came into prominence as Member (Investigation) issued an order in May this year saying that survey teams visiting taxpayer’s premises would, before the commencement of survey proceedings, provide to the taxpayer the names, designations and contact numbers of their chief commissioner, commissioner and additional or joint commissioner of Income Tax. And he sent a written message to his fellow IRS-IT officials saying it was necessary to “bring transparency in survey operations and obviate the possibility of any grievance to the taxpayers”.
But it was not a smooth journey for Chandra. Many objected to his declaring independence when CBDT and CBEC chairmen (at the rank of special secretary) were firmly placed under revenue secretary who is always an IAS. A high-powered committee of secretary had recommended striking down of CBDT’s powers on phone tapping after the Niira Radia episode. On his last day as chairman, Chandra told reporters with pride that CBDT’s phone tapping powers remained intact.
For Chandra, the bottom-line is clear: IRS officers are definitely not children of lesser God!