Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has issued a stern order prohibiting disciplinary action by any department in the ministry against officials who write to him to complain of any irregularities or harassment. This direction, which has been termed as “historic” by serving and retired officials, was taken by Parrikar after he learnt that the departments were taking action against “whistleblowers” who wrote to him.
This newspaper has accessed the order which was issued in the first week of March. It reads: “The Rakhsamantri receives representations and complaints from various persons including serving armed force personnel. Based on the nature and the gravity of the complaints, directions of RM are communicated to service HQs for looking into or inquiring into the allegations made in these complaints. Of late, it has been observed that on certain occasions instead of apprising the ministry/RM of the findings of the inquiry conducted, action has been taken against complaining officials including attachment at other formations/establishments.
“The RM has taken a serious note of the matter and has directed that henceforth Services Headquarters shall restrain from taking action against complaining officials. If any action needs to be taken as per procedure, the same shall be furnished to the Ministry for seeking approval of RM when the complaint is addressed to the RM and inquiry has been ordered by him. Compliance of these directions shall be ensured at all levels.” Officials in various departments of MoD said Parrikar’s initiative will go a long way in increasing transparency, checking corruption and helping honest officials. “These directions of the RM are a game changer as now more and more officials within the system will be encouraged to come forward to share details about the irregularities. In my 28 years of service, I have seen countless instances where an honest officer was transferred or harassed for apprising his seniors and the ministers about irregularities in the ministry. This is a historic step and it should be replicated by other ministries too,” a secretary level official in one of the departments of MoD said. According to officials, corruption in the MoD was deep rooted and unless and until the officials working in the ministry were encouraged to “whistleblow”, there was little hope of curbing it. “The CRs (Confidential Records) of an officer who tries to stick his or her neck out are deliberately ‘destroyed’ to discourage them, and others, from being ‘honest’. Transferring him or her, most often to remote locations, is the first step to punish that person. This decision of the RM should be highlighted in every possible way to make sure that honest officers are not punished,” a senior scientist with the ministry said. However, within days of this order being issued, at least two officials, who had whistleblown against irregularities in the ministry, were transferred by their respective departments, raising questions about how successfully the babus will execute Parrikar’s order.