CBI: One of Many Institutions Being Compromised by the Government

by October 26, 2018 0 comments

CBI

CBI is one of the many institutions that are a prime example of how they are being led down a destructive path and compromised by the Government.

In Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty, a wonderful book by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson, the authors examine (as the title suggests) the underlying themes that enable a nation to succeed or fail. The primary focus of the book is on the nature of the political institutions of a particular country and, therefore, by extension, the instruments through which Governments exercise political power. The authors argue that nations which have “inclusive” political institutions that, inter alia, enforce laws, experience greater growth in the long-run. On the other hand, those nations with institutions that have “extractive” political institutions, where power is wielded by a small group of people who subscribe to non-inclusive views and restrict power to a few ideologues, typically fail to grow and eventually fail in the long-run.

Events this past week, where (in a first) the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) raided its own office, has brought to a head the conflict between maintaining credible, independent institutions, and the single-mindedness with which this Government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has compromised the integrity of such institutions. The CBI is not the only victim of this ill-advised approach of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and in this week’s column, I will examine how India’s institutions are being compromised and led down a destructive path by this Government.

At its birth as a nation and the years that followed, India was the subject of great intrigue and interest for the rest of the world. The wide consensus was that it would be impossible for a country as large and diverse as India to emerge from the horrors of its colonial rule and stand in proud company with other democracies. Against odds, India did, however, establish itself into a strong, vibrant democracy. The major contributor to this feat was the wonderful and inclusive Constitution that India adopted and the institutions that our country developed. These institutions were developed with hopes that they would imbibe the values clearly illustrated in the Constitution.

I have previously commented on the uneasy relationship that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological father of the BJP, has always had with our Constitution. Therefore, I am not going to elaborate on this further. However, this backdrop does help better explain the manner in which this BJP Government has sought to reduce the institutions to mere ideologues.

The CBI is the most recent example of the systematic erosion of institutions by this Government. As you may have read on the news, the dramatis personae of the current crisis within the CBI are Alok Verma and Rakesh Asthana. Alok Verma was the CBI chief till, in light of this controversy, the Government appointed Nageshwar Rao as the interim director of the CBI. Rakesh Asthana is a Gujarat cadre IPS officer who was elevated to the No. 2 of the CBI by this Government, and amongst his most high-profile cases was the probe into the Godhra train fire, which led to the riots of 2002.

Various news organisations reported that the ouster of Verma and his team, which was investigating Asthana, is the culmination of Verma taking on Asthana, who is reported to be close to the Prime Minister. Another reason for his ouster that has been reported is because of Verma’s interest in the Rafale deal, which is mired in controversy, with respect to which he may have been initiating preliminary inquiry into the Modi Government’s decision to acquire 36 Rafale jets from Dassault.

While more facts will become clearer in a couple of days, the treatment of the CBI and the latest act of ouster of Verma and his team, is only the most recent example of the Modi Government compromising the integrity and independence of an important institution. This trend of compromising institutions and treating the bureaucracy as the fiefdom of the BJP is visible throughout the tenure of this Government. The CBI is often referred to as a “caged parrot”, and under this Government, if the parroting is not music to the ears of the Government, the BJP will be more than happy to throw the parrot out with the cage.

The civil services is another example that demonstrates the intention of Prime Minister Modi and the BJP to compromise and undermine institutions that are meant to serve all and not a few. Currently, candidates for the civil services are selected based on their scores in a written examination and an interview. It is on the basis of this score that candidates are allotted their service. The change that was proposed by the PMO is to use the current process only to shortlist officers who will be allotted a service and then evaluate these trainee officers in the foundation course (which is compulsory for all candidates) and add these scores to their examination scores. It has been proposed that only after adding this final score will the candidates be allotted their particular service. The reason for this proposed change is obvious. The inevitable outcome of such a proposal would be that instructors will evaluate these candidates not on merit, but on the basis of their ideological affinity to the Government in power.

This would set a dangerous precedent and would run an otherwise independent institution (despite its flaws) into an obvious instrument of the Government. It is hardly surprising though that this proposal had come from PMO. Throughout its tenure, this Government has sought to fill institutions with individuals who subscribe to the parochial world-view of the RSS. The most recent example of this is the appointment of S Gurumurthy, who is associated with the RSS, to the board of the Reserve Bank of India.

The dangerous trend, detailed above, is symptomatic of an extractive political Government. Other than filling important posts with ideologues, this Government has gone out of its way to belittle institutions that even attempt to provide resistance. A clear example of this is the manner in which the Government has dealt with the Jawaharlal Nehru University and its students by attacking them as anti-nationals, lovers of Pakistan et al. A similar allegation has been levelled against the Congress and any person who opposes the BJP. It is ironic then that the BJP Government, through its actions, has sought to destroy the independence of institutions that form the bedrock of successful democracies.

(The writer is Jharkhand PCC president, former MP and IPS officer. Views are personal)

Writer: Ajoy Kumar

Courtesy: The Pioneer

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