Thursday, June 2, 2016

One Last Time – Perhaps, and Perhaps Not!

(Disclosure: This, of course, wasn’t meant to be uploaded here but on the CGDA website and written accordingly; even there is a reference first up to my last message as CGDA on September 30, 2015. Last week, I had spoken with Shri S.K. Kohli, then Additional CGDA [now CGDA-in-charge from June 1, 2016], when he had visited my office in South Block and mailed it to his personal email ID on May 31, 2016. When it wasn’t uploaded till the evening of June 1, 2016, I spoke to Shri Kohli with a request to kindly upload immediately and sent him yet another email attaching the Message. Nothing happened though. I waited and waited – for another full day and a bit, anxiously awaiting the CGDA to upload. Sadly, that wasn’t to be. Having exhausted all options and not to lose any more time, coupled with the fact that I didn’t wish to leave my extended family of DAD staff and officers without one final Message conveying the contours of my thoughts after being a part of this family all my working years, the same is published here, though not without ample regret and with a stab of pain that one wouldn’t like to carry as a parting shot. I would have appreciated if I were told that the content was too disturbing to carry as a legacy and hence it wasn’t possible for the CGDA organization to upload the Message of the FA(DS) on his retirement, who incidentally also once served as the CGDA not too long ago, and had initiated the practice of communicating with the entire DAD family from time to time through his messages From the CGDA’s Desk (still available in the CGDA website). Hence this clarification, to grant the message the much needed “clarity, nostalgia and placement” – no kinship sought with the Defence Accounts Placement Board (DAPB)’s proceedings and office notes I had put out in public domain for sake of transparency and openness, which everyone is familiar with. Alas! Amen!) 

The last message I wrote was From the CGDA’s Desk, exactly eight months ago when I bid adieu to you all from the Department and joined the Ministry of Defence. Now the time has come for me to bid a final adieu on my superannuation from government service. It’s been a long journey – from Patna to Siliguri to Meerut to New Delhi to Balasore to New Delhi to Pune to New Delhi to Bangalore and finally New Delhi – almost a marathon one trotted and at times cantered along. But all the while it was one change after another that followed in interminable succession, while as years rolled by, the change became the constant. And it was this constancy of change that has stayed with me, and it is this I’m going to take it to my superannuated years.

It is difficult to convince people how happy I am – to retire! In fact, I’ve been getting happier by the day as the day of my transfer to the pension establishment has gotten closer. Now that I’ve reached the finish line I am thrilled to distraction. It will grant me time to relax and indulge my passion that I always strove for but never got in ample measure. I never harboured any ambition of a post-retirement sinecure or even a temporary employ in Committees/Commissions which most retired bureaucrats often aspire for. In point of fact, I have always abhorred any thoughts of post-retirement sinecures because I believe such favours often compromise civil servants’ role as honest advisers in the government (especially in the last years of service when they hold senior responsible positions) and have, over the past several years, placed my thoughts in the public domain in my columns in national newspapers and in my books. Even I have teased and tantalized the favour-seekers tempting them if a more permanent solution couldn’t be found in retiring retirement!

Transparency was – still is, shall always remain – too dear to divorce myself from, even in retirement. In my thinking, all scams and scandals trace their origin to opacity and secrecy. Opacity, born out of secrecy, breeds manipulations. Much hullabaloo is made of in the name of secrecy to shroud things, quite strange in today’s time, when the world thanks to technology pretty well knows what the other person is up to. Transparency is the answer to ridding wrong decisions and illegitimate moves – of corruption, nepotism and manipulation. Sunlight is the best disinfectant available freely and in plenitude. It must be invoked and leveraged. The mere openness of processes scuppers any invidious moves to perpetrate wrongs. Instead, it creates a level playing field. In India today, sadly, the distribution of opportunity has typically become an insider trade. It’s a win-win for networkers! This needs to be busted.

In my own humble way, it has always been my constant endeavour to impugn this system so rife with nepotism, and where I saw opacity ruling like a potentate. Transparency and an arm’s length system I tried to put in place all my life, fully convinced that it was the only way to take the processes of change and progress forward. Of all that I did during my short tenure as CGDA, transparency was at the top of the heap. Putting the processes in the public domain came naturally to me. I saw transparency working its own magic, empowering people all around and granting voice to the voiceless. Fairness and objectivity became the jingle. I tried to set them in stone. I came to realize how powerful a weapon transparency is. It exceeded even my wildest imagination. I carried the same baton when I moved over to the Ministry of Defence. I did whatever was possible on my part, working up a furious pace and in the roller coaster ride if the processes upset the high and the mighty I was as unfazed as ever. So be it, I told myself. And I let it be. As a card-carrying transparency (st) – a cyst that’s stayed with me all my living years – I didn’t care less when the networkers screamed and ranted before scurrying for cover. I enjoyed their disquiet, their discomfiture.

As Father Time moves on, the old order changes, the new takes over, and we must make way gracefully. But the constants of transparency, objectivity and fairness shall always remain, and only because they are a part of human verities. They have always been a part of me and shall always stay that way as lodestar, buzzing about my head and finding utterance at every available opportunity. I shall carry this with me as I begin my second innings and pursue what I always wished to but never was granted in full measure. The reason I say this, as I formally bid you adieu and officially take your leave – you the members of my extended family – is because your battle cry of fairness, honesty and transparency which I realized during our journey together shall keep me going and agog. I will resurface now in a new avatar, in my home turf, in an arena, I’ve always loved so much – my BlogSpot, Babupaedia [] – which dimmed just yet shall light up soon and hover about time and space as one (dis)interested ombudsman keeping a watchful eye over citizen’s sense of right and wrong, battling dishonesty and constantly endeavouring that the righteous have, eventually, the last laugh.

Adieu, then one last official time – perhaps, and perhaps not!

Date: May 31, 2016                                                       Sudhansu Mohanty