THE CURIOUS CASE OF SANJIV CHATURVEDI

SANJIV CHATURVEDI, AGED 40, an electrical engineer from National Institute of Technology, Allahabad, originally belongs to the Indian Forest Service.  After a series of transfers, he was eventually posted as Deputy Secretary holding additional charge as Chief Vigilance Officer (CVO) of the All India Institute of  Medical Sciences (AIIMS).  During his stint as CVO, Chaturvedi initiated action in about 200 corruption cases.  Punishment was imposed in 78 cases, charge sheets filed in  87 and more than 20 cases referred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for further inquiry.  He has since been removed from the above position and his services have reportedly been sought by the Delhi Administration to be in charge of its Anti Corruption Bureau.

DURING HIS TENURE AT AIIMS, Chaturvedi was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay award for “his efforts in painstakingly investigating corruption in public office”.  The award carries a prize money of USD 30,000 (say Rs 1.98 million) which he promptly donated to AIIMS to be spent on poor patients.  AIIMS however rejected  his donation, reportedly at the behest of the Health Minister Nadda who apparently held a grudge against Chaturvedi for his earlier expose of the misdeeds of officers close to the Minister while Chaturvedi served in the Haryana Cadre.  Surprised by the non-acceptance of his donation, Chaturvedi  sent in the money to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund.  He has also sought an appointment with the Prime Minister for conveying his anguish and anxiety on the plight of honest civil servants in the country (Read Raghav Ohri’s report in The Economic TimesDecember 8, 2015)

IT IS PERTINENT TO NOTE THAT CHATURVEDI  had earlier pleaded for a Central Government deputation in 2010 after he was fed up with the harassment he faced in the discharge of his duties while posted in Haryana. He was transferred as many as twelve times.  The harassment was intense in the extreme to the extent that even his father-in-law filed a case against him and his marriage ended in divorce.  Between 2008 to 2014, the President of India had passed as many as four orders in his support quashing the Haryana Government’s orders that were issued to him.

ONE PRESUMES  THAT THE MEETING between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chaturvedi has either already taken place or will take place soon.  Narendra Modi had cleared the earlier appointment of Chaturvedi while chairing the Cabinet Committee on Appointments and in fact, the Ministry of Environment and Forests proactively pushed for acceptance of his request for deputation to the Central Government when  the Haryana Government was refusing to relieve him.

THE CURRENT CONTROVERSY surrounding Sanjiv Chaturvedi  may take an interesting turn given the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi  himself trusts his small coterie of civil servants that he transplanted from Ahmedabad to New Delhi than his ministerial colleagues to implement  his agenda.  The civil service was once described as the sheet anchor of the Indian republic and although the description was attributed to the Indian Civil Service (ICS) established by the British when they ruled India, it still holds good for the homespun Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and other allied services such as the Indian Revenue Service, the Indian Police Service, the Indian Audit & Accounts Services and the Indian Forest Service – the last mentioned being the cadre where Sanjiv Chaturvedi’s baptism by fire began.

THERE ARE A HANDFUL OF CIVIL SERVANTS LIKE CHATURVEDI  who may carry on with the diligent discharge of their duties unmindful of the harrassment they face while serving their political masters.  India is however critically poised at a juncture where the commitment of its civil servants for implementation of national agendas matters most.  If officers like Chaturvedi are relentlessly subject to  harassment,  the civil service will no longer attract talent that could change the face of India but only draw elements purely for enjoyment of  the power and privilege civil service jobs carry.  Prime Minister Narendra Modi needs to warn his ministerial colleagues to treat their officers with dignity and respect.  Already the secretaries in the key ministries of finance and home were subject to abrupt transfers  and change of postings and this has sent unwholesome signals to the bureaucracy that is not in India’s best interests.

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