Most of our gross national product is trapped in black market’
July 27, 2006
An interview from NCR Tribune with IAS officer Mr.Vijay Shankar Pandey
Most of our gross national product is trapped in black market’
His name stands out in the prestigious row of famous bureaucrats like Khairnar and Alphonse. An Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of the I979 batch of UP cadre, Mr Vijay Shankar Pandey, has had an eventful career in the country’s bureaucracy. Right from his first assignment as a sub-divisional officer to the present responsibility as a Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Human Resource and Development, Government of India, he has come a long way.
Presently, he is the secretary of All India IAS Officers’ Association and Administrative Officers of the Shastri Bhavan, where offices of at least a dozen of different ministries are located. He is perhaps one of the very few IAS officers who work even on holidays and weekends. Incidentally, Pandey has always been in the news for some reason or the other. After the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhaya, nobody was ready to take the charge of the district as the district magistrate. Pandey volunteered and according to his peers, did a good job in restoring peace and amity in the strife-ridden district.
He came into limelight on national level in 1995, when Mr Pandey and some like-minded young IAS officers dared to select the three most corrupt IAS officers through a unique voting system. Unfortunately, this exercise could last beyond two years because of immense pressure mounted by the very influential and powerful lobby.
During that period, six most corrupt IAS officials were voted out and publicly humiliated. After the demise of this novel exercise in 1997, he incepted an ‘Action Group’ with the same group of friends. Under the aegis of this organisation, hundreds of grievance boxes were placed at different places in Uttar Pradesh. Local people were encouraged to make complaints against the corrupt officials in their respective districts. After cross-checking the merits of the complaints, ‘Action Group’ would then try to redress their grievances. With this kind of help to the common people, very shortly the group became a household name in the Uttar Pradesh. The group is still alive and planning to resurface in a big way.
In an exclusive conversation with the NCR Tribune, this irrepressible IAS officer recounts some of the important events in his career.
How did your anti-corruption move start?
Since my college days in Allahabad, I had a great obsession for honesty. My father, R. P. Pandey, has been a role model for me. He served as district judge at different cities of UP. Because of the joint family, my father had a tough time in fulfilling the needs of everyone. Despite the financial crunch in my family, he never took a single penny as bribe. He always insisted on honesty.
One day, I went to the court premises along with my father. There I saw one poor hawker was running from pillar to post to get justice, as he was falsely implicated in an Arms Act case. During three-year period of his trial, he was forced to sell all his belongings. A local beat constable had fabricated this case because the hawker refused to give him hafta.
I was so perturbed by this incident that I requested my father to provide some help to the poor man. But my father was helpless, as he had no evidence or witness in support of his innocence. This was perhaps the turning point. After completing MSc in Chemistry, I had already decided to go civil services, as I wanted to bring some respite to these unfortunate people.
How did you realise your dreams after entering the IAS?
Initially, I served as SDM, ADM and DM in different districts of UP. There I found that common people were trapped in plethora of problems, as most of the officials of the state were corrupt.
When I joined as the DM of Fatehpur, there was so much black-marketing of kerosene that it was being sold at many times higher than the fixed rate. Kerosene was the only option to most of the families for lighting and cooking in the area. I immediately summoned the district supply officer and told him that the chaos should be checked in 24 hours, otherwise he would resign. That officer was so afraid of my order that he left no stone unturned in obeying my instructions.
Fatehpur was also a very crime-prone area. There were so many organised gangs of hardcore criminals. We talked to the Home Ministry of the state for extra force and ultimately succeeded in nabbing them. After the completion of that mission, the crime graph of the district had come down drastically. Fatehpur was the constituency of former Prime Minister Mr V. P. Singh. He was so impressed with my work that he gave me an award at a public function in Lucknow. When I was the DM of Etawha, constituency of Mulayam Singh Yadav, there was a group of people who used to do what they wanted in his name. They had a powerful hold in the district administration and nobody was ready to open his mouth against them seeing their political connections. But I dared to arrest them. After their arrest it was found that there were many cases of forgery and cheating against them. When I was the Commissioner of Banda, there was a menace of sand mafia, particularly in the Chitrakut district, constituency of Nanaji Deshmukh.
We initiated intense combing and nabbing drive against them. Few days later, some of them were nabbed. In another incident, when I was the MD of UP Spinning Mills Federation, out of the total 12 mills, only 5 were operational and all of them were in deep financial mess.
In the three months period after taking this assignment, all the 12 mills started working on no profit no loss basis. For this, I had to take stern action against some faulty officials of these mills and suspend more than 250 officials.
What prompted you to initiate the radical move ‘choose the three most corrupt IAS officers’?
After spending many years in the bureaucracy, I found that a large number of senior IAS officers were corrupt and they were in nexus with corrupt politicians.
They used to coerce the newcomers to follow them. Some followed but others refused to do so. However, few like-minded IAS officers decided to do something concrete against them.
Also, it was not easy to oppose those influential officers, as they had strong political connections. Despite this, we were rigid in our resolve. Initially, we were given the list of such corrupt officials to the government.
Perhaps for the first time in the history of Indian bureaucracy, such step was taken. Interestingly, no action was taken against them as they had strong rapport with the government and inquiry commissions. Then we realised that it was not easy to get them punished. Subsequently, we tried to demoralise them publicly. Keeping this in mind, we initiated the move ‘choose the three most corrupt IAS officers’. This move met considerable success and public applause. Six most corrupt officers were chosen and demoralised in two years. But they took the shelter of courts and the drive had to stop.
What are the present activities of your ‘Action Group’?
After the failure of our move, we had incepted this organisation. We had made some changes in this move. Now, we had not confined merely to bureaucracy. We inducted honest people in our group from different walks of life and our focus had shifted towards different departments and different fields. At present, we are going to revamp the group. Some top celebrities have also given their consent to give all possible help to our organisation.
Now we are trying to come on national level in a big way. Also, we are toying with the idea of initiating a unique padyatra-cum-procession from Kashmir to Kanyakumari against the prevailing corruption in different sections of the society. For this, we are talking with different state IAS associations for their support.
If corruption is checked, our country would automatically be in the list of developed countries, as most of our gross national product is trapped in black market.
It is almost commonly held opinion that corruption cannot be curbed. Then why you are trying to go against the tide?
Bureaucracy is the steel frame of our system. If every member of this elite service makes up his mind then it would make a big difference. Without their support even politicians and mafias would be helpless.