State of vigilance: Usually dormant, selectively active

The Central Vigilance Commission observes the Vigilance Awareness Week every year in the last week of October. It is more like an annual ritual with a few functions in which retired senior officers, members of the Central Vigilance Commission get a photo opportunity.

At the state-level, the vigilance and anti-corruption department, vigilance itself is largely neglected. The department is activated to ensure political functionaries toe the line or before elections to trap lower-level functionaries who harass people. Earlier, the vigilance department was also used to settle scores among officers. This has been curtailed over the years. In rare cases, financial propriety is sought to be achieved.

The advent of the Lokayukta system raised hopes of a vigilance set-up independent of the political executive especially at the statelevel only to have them disappear into thin air.

At the Centre, there is a semblance of an independent system of vigilance and anti-corruption supervised by the Central Vigilance Commission, which is the apex body.

The Lokayukta’s role overlaps with that of the CVC. So far it is the CVC which has been functioning. The CVC has chief vigilance officers (CVO), drawn on deputation from the All-India and Central Services and on deputation from other sister public sector organisations. The CVOs are assisted by vigilance officers especially in central PSUs (CPSUs).

In practice, the Government of India uses the management mainly the chairman and managing director (CMD) as the accelerator while the CVO is used as the brakes of a CPSU. Both are pressed into service as required. The service conditions of the CVO, apart from the salary which is fixed by the CPSU, is determined by the PSU to which they are deputed. This gives a lot of power to the CMD of the CPSU. In an extreme case, where the CMD was powerful, the CVO, a senior IPS officer was given a salary cut on the slightest excuse. The Annual Confidential Report (ACR) of the CVO is written by the CMD. This is a contradictory and anomalous position, making the CVO’s position perilous. If he reports anything adverse about the organisation, he stands to incur the wrath of the CMD, who is often close to the political executive and bureaucrats – the deep state.

CVOs also pay a price in terms of their career long after they leave the post. In an instance almost a decade ago, an IAS officer was posted as CVO in a CPSU where the management treated him as the third wheel. The CVO did a professional job and took some action on some irregularities as instructed by the CVC. But it was he who was to pay the price in the future. The CVO was reverted back to the state in due course. Though he was rated outstanding during his tenure by the CVC, he was not empanelled as additional secretary and no reason was given. A rule was made to keep him out. This was known after his retirement through an RTI.

The CVC’s annual report, 1999 submitted to Parliament stresses that the post of CVO is a difficult and risky one and there is a need to attract talented officers. At least 25% of the posts remain vacant. It has to be given special concessions monetary and non-monetary.

A senior retired DGP of Tamil Nadu who had served as director of vigilance and anti-corruption felt the above narrative reflects the ground reality. The vigilance is an unwanted department for any government, but it is maintained for public exhibition.

(The writer is a former additional chief secretary, TN)

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.


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