Lutyens should no longer be a ‘safe zone’ for fixers

Lutyens should no longer be a ‘safe zone’ for fixers

By M.D. Nalapat | 2 July, 2016
The Election Commission of India, as with almost all institutions with an all-India zone of responsibility, has always been staffed at the top by “Lutyens lok”. Over the seven decades since 1947, a colonial system continued that ensured safety and comfort (including monetary) for the 5,000 or so hyper privileged within the governance structure and of course those in business and in other fields they patronised. This post-1947 creamy layer is best referred to as “Lutyens lok”, those who have gained exponentially from the Mughal-British-era governance system that got perpetuated in “free” India. The protective wall around them is, of course, at the expense of the rest of the population of this country. They form a weatherproof bubble that has been leeching off the population of this country, while all around them the potential of the rest of India gets drained away into the gutters of underperformance because of defective policies.
The frame holding the governance structure in place is the trio of “high caste” Central services. Doing an audit of the top 500 individuals in the IAS, the IFS, the IPS and those of three-star and higher rank in the military, would be a simple matter for an honest and motivated task force loyal to the transformational objectives of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Such an enquiry would document the top 500 within the pool of officials, detailing lifestyle, including travel of themselves, their spouses and their children. It would look into their contacts, including phone calls made, much in the manner of what has been revealed in the case of arms sales expert Sanjay Bhandari recently, who has been in contact with Lutyens Zone heavyweights on a regular basis. It would find out details of the education of the offspring, especially if this be in pricey foreign shores, and the jobs such offspring enter into after completing their education. For example, it may not be entirely coincidental that the large financial conglomerates responsible for the 2008 crash have recruited several offspring of influential policymakers over the years, even as they operate in India with an impunity denied them in the US or the UK, where they are often made to pay huge fines for actions commonplace in India. Full knowledge of those who are at the core of decision making and implementation in the country is a prerequisite for ensuring that honesty and merit and not the date of joining a service becomes the primary factor in career advancement and enhanced responsibility.
The Lutyens Zone has operated in a climate where transparency got replaced by opacity. Where, instead of looking through plain glass accurately at those who rule over them, a subtle censoring of facts about the privileged means the public see only misleading images of key decision makers , impressions of them that are entirely removed from reality. Few officials have suffered in the slightest for facilitating high-level financial and personal peccadilloes, but such immunity comes as no surprise. In the Lutyens Zone, it is bad form to point fingers at those within the circle of privilege. In that other giant democracy, the US, those in Washington who are part of the Beltway elite dislike Donald Trump, because thus far he has ignored them and publicly pointed out errors they have made in policy. Of course, it may be that should he get elected, Trump may make his peace with the Beltway heavyweights by giving them choice slots in his administration, and adopting several of their policies. Others who have come to power in different countries promising change but persisting with the status quo have done so, V.P. Singh and his deliberately ineffective Bofors enquiry being an example. On the other hand, those personally familiar with Trump are unanimous that he would not compromise with the Beltway grandees, which is why there is an effort even within sections of the Republican Party to back Hillary Clinton, who is as much a part and protector of the Washington Beltway as Sonia Gandhi is of Delhi’s Lutyens Zone. 
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched an ambitious programme of transformative modernisation. His success will largely hinge on the quality of administration. Hence the importance of ensuring that the “high caste” trio of Central services be given the same treatment as the military, which weeds out officers from the system much before they reach 60 or even 55. By the time a high (civilian) official is 50, many within his batch ought to have been made to move out of the government as a consequence of periodic quality control checks. Indeed, after the results come in of the audit of the top 500 suggested earlier, in all except the most egregious cases, punishment for those who have shown clear evidence of misutilising their powers ought to be enforced retirement, plus payment of taxes on discovered extra income. Especially since the 1980s, there are all too many “fixers” in elevated government positions. Indeed, their social and communication skills often result in such fixers moving up the promotion and responsibility ladder far faster than more honest counterparts. All this needs to change, so that the comprehensive change personified by the victory of Narendra Modi in 2014 comes about. The Lutyens Zone must no longer be a safe zone for the major beneficiaries and practitioners of a system of governance that takes away outrageous quantities of discretion from the people and transfers this to a colonial administrative machinery. Such extreme powers are not meant to improve governance, but to amass hidden wealth, so as to better afford college fees in the US, UK and France and of course vacations in Miami and Paris for the families of the officials who have adopted the mindset of the British. This is to (a) consider as permissible all their misdeeds (b) constrict the freedom of citizens to emasculate them and (c) create policy structures designed to maximize the opportunities for bribery. Only genuine accountability, especially at the higher levels of government service, can liberate India from the curse of a governance system that has since colonial days been designed for a small elite, and is comprised of and is run by them.
 

There are 61 Comments

The thought process is clear in this article and appearing to represent the one thought everyone has in the Lyutens today. This article clears the dust on views in the corridors of power that change is imminent. Good or bad, we'll see. And the timing of this piece couldn't have been better. Kudos MDN.

The uncivil attitude of Civil Service Officers thinking except them no other person would know everything; is the main crux of the problem. Having passed the toughest of the exams, these bright officers are crowded in the midst of by and large ignoramus politicos and have become organically gelled lot to loot the nation. Sooner than later the problem is to be fixed. Narendra Modis fresh move to scrap the AP appraisal to promote the Civil Service Officers by grading to a point based system evaluating their performance coupled with integrity is a welcome sign.

Although it is common knowledge that lutyens mafia works for its own interest... it is yet to be known how much difference clearing up of their stables and replacing them with honest people will make.... for the simple reason that it's never been done before. In fact... doing that alone could catapult a lot of changes positive for indian public. Cos... although we know they are all scum... we don't know the extent of loot.. which if diverted to what it is meant for alone ... will be huge. Congratulations on writing about it in a clear and articulate manner. Whistle blowers are being encouraged... which is obvious... otherwise all the stuff that's coming out now would never have come out. Hope it continues...

Surprised that Modi is still taking time to weed out these parasites ......though not shocked that some in his own cabinet cultivate these lootyans. Tyranny of the unelectable. 9

Absolutely agree with the logic in the article. In the Indian Railways, just check out the details of prime postings of the power brokers living for long in Railways SP Marg Officers Colony and San Martin Road Officers Colony. You will find out how the elites have networked their way through the railways bureaucracy. The simple and honest officers were always sidelined and the networkers always had their creamy posts, great privileges, Palm greased and a wonderful paradise on earth for their wives and kids.

Prof Nalapat thank you for this outspoken article your final parting shot "Only genuine accountability, especially at the higher levels of government service, can liberate India from the curse of a governance system that has since colonial days been designed for a small elite, and is comprised of and is run by them" this is a fact I have read about this on many occasion in several newspaper articles since 1980. Apart from the above problem we also get carried away with American educated American working Indian Intellectuals to appoint them in whatever top positions in India this has become a fashion with us. I firmly believe we are obsessed with inferiority complex thus seeking and looking for educated wealth from overseas. We do not evaluate an individual if he is fit for our Indian system of working or if the individual understand Indian economy before appointing such individuals. Thank you for coming out and speaking with authority hope PM will take note of this and rectify the rot in our system.

Well Done Swami ji I agree with you these privileged rascals get sold out to Party in majority & do all kind of Malpractices & corruption t get the favour of ruling class. They lack brains to make INDIAN ELECTINS really FREE & FAIR.

We are expecting good days since Indira Gandhi's Garibi Hatao Andolan. All hopes gone, gone and gone. Now waiting for Modiji's acche din. Still hopes are there. This article does sound a hurdle - solution approach.

I wonder if state level Lutyens exist. If so the PM should have gained the experience to deal with the real one. As some one commented earlier, all hopes gone.. but still hoping for Achche Din..

Well, a thought provoking report. Many a times, a committee is formed within an organisation in Govt to GET a favourable report, upon failure it is attributed to collective failure of capable people due to many unfavourable selective variables which influenced the decision. This is rampant in DRDO labs,ISRO, ATOMIC energy etc. Due to lack of tech knowledge of auditors, corrupt policy makers are never punished. These corrupts generally gang up against a honest person within that system to frame the person with circumstantial evidence to get rid of him. Dr Swamy is as ever sharp and bright in this article too.

Just like bank officers get transferred once in 3 years, don't allow any babu to stay in delhi for more than 3 years & rotate them around different states.

Modi needs to make a start and neutralise the Lutyenites in his party and fast. He has to bite the bullet on this issue. Otherwise he could meet the same fate as Vajpayee. Being decent with crooks will undoubtedly boomerang. History shows what happened to Prithviraj Chauhan. Imagine what Narasimha Rao would have done had he got a majority and mandate like Modi has. Vajpayee and Advani were disappointing.

True.Unless this unholy power structure is demolished, there is no hope for ordinary folks.Dalals have to be shown the door.

Well from the interview to Arnab one feels that Modi has become part of Lutyens log?

While it is a laudable goal, it can be quite a task task the PM. Many a mission has been plan to cleanup the Admn in the past but never heard of later. For a beginning, NaMo's commitment has come into question over his outright defence of FinMin bigwigs under AJ, raising doubts about his commitment getting clouded by expediency even while the charges levelled by Dr Swamy have nowhere been disproved.Much as I admire Modi for his passion for creating a new India, his wavering on election day commitments about doing away with vote banks, politics of appeasement and providing a clean Admn raise doubts of the spirit being willing but flesh being seemingly weak.

While it is a laudable goal, it can be quite a task for the PM. Many a mission has been planned to cleanup the Admn in the past but never heard of later. For a beginning, NaMo's commitment has come into question over his outright defence of FinMin bigwigs under AJ, raising doubts about his commitment getting clouded by expediency even while the charges levelled by Dr Swamy have nowhere been disproved.Much as I admire Modi for his passion for creating a new India, his wavering on election day commitments about doing away with vote banks, politics of appeasement and providing a clean Admn raise doubts of the spirit being willing but flesh being seemingly weak.

Sir excellent article. Why do you think the Non Gandhi prime ministers like Rao and AB vajpayee failed to change the system that the Nehru Gandhi parivar had followed since Independence?

Brilliant piece on colonial era all india service cadre system and power without accountability. The grant of unaccountable privilege automatically as one joins the system has ensured it's continuance. The lure of power and nil responsibility ensures that new entrants even if from villages and small towns who have first hand experience & suffered tbe same system for many years is transformed within 1-2 years. Most evil is their mindset which considers rest as the population as idiots and unworthy of any good. Many have resisted the system but of no avail. This problem was always there but none of the media has ever found it fit for bring it up for discussion. Jai Ho MDN

After regularly reading Ravinar's blog MediaCrooks, I found this on the same scale of truth and initiatives Modi should immediately imbibe

Get rid of IAS system, which is a relic of british raj, things become extremely easy to solve. Only in this country it is possible: An IAS officer who may have zero interest can still run a sports authority, a port authority or a PSU or decide the fate of millions of citizens. Its a big surprise most of these turn into chamcha's of politicians.

forgot to mention, "An IAS officer who may have zero interest can still run a sports authority, a port authority or a PSU without ANY experience or knowledge in that field"

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