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Ashutosh Mishra

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: The suspension of an IAS officer in connection with graft is likely to restore people’s confidence in the government’s resolve to tackle corruption in high places. Chief Minister, Naveen Patnaik, who holds the Home portfolio, has been facing criticism for being soft towards the officers of the elite administrative service while dealing with corruption cases.

Significantly, the step has been taken at a time when his government’s Mo Sarkar initiative is in full swing. The scheme that aims to bring the administration close to the people relies heavily on Naveen’s 5T formula ( technology, transparency, teamwork, time and transformation ) of governance. Transparency is the watchword because transformational changes are unlikely to take place without it.

The government has for long maintained that it has zero-tolerance for corruption. To prove that it means business the government also sought to accelerate the drive against graft with Vigilance officials coming up with a flurry of raids in different parts of the state. However, the raids hardly ever landed the big fish. And in the few instances where the bigwigs did fall into the Vigilance net securing conviction proved to be a Herculean task. Most managed to escape punishment.

The phenomenon of corruption at a high level going mostly undetected and largely unpunished was beginning to erode people’s confidence in the government. It was seen as trying to make an example of the small fry while allowing senior officials to go scot-free. That perception is likely to change with this case of suspension of an IAS officer for allegedly accepting bribe. The government, on its part, has sought to assure people that transparency being one of its important pillars it would not spare anyone indulging in corrupt practices.

It is not that IAS officers in the state have not faced action in corruption cases before this. But such instances have been few and far between. This has engendered a perception that with influence in the right quarters one can escape punishment in such cases. The government needs to dispel this impression immediately.

The catchy slogan of zero tolerance for corruption can be a double-edged sword as it has the potential of landing the government in trouble if it fails to act convincingly and fairly in all cases of graft. It should not be seen as discriminating between people charged with corruption irrespective of their social status. At the same time, there should no attempt to weaponize corruption to silence political opponents or to neutralize inconvenient officials.

With these precautions, the war against corruption needs to be stepped up in the larger interest of the state which has suffered at the hands of venal politicians and bureaucrats for a long time. Chief Minister, Naveen Patnaik will go down in history if his 5T mantra actually succeeds in rooting out corruption from the administration. This is no doubt a daunting task but not impossible. The chief minister should pursue this goal in the right earnest with all the resources at his command.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)

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