Fifth column: Courtiers on the move

If the Prime Minister wants to deliver on his promise of ‘minimum government, maximum governance’ he will have to implement drastic changes.

Written by Tavleen Singh | Published:June 22, 2014 12:23 am
Gopinath Munde dies Prime Minister Narendra Modi

THE sound I hear loudest in Delhi these days is the sound of courtiers scurrying away from the court of the white queen and scurrying hurriedly in the direction of anyone they think is a friend of the new prime minister. Among those scurrying fastest are those who have lived off the patronage of the Government of India. These courtiers have used their skills in sycophancy to gainful effect and made small fortunes out of supposedly worthy causes.

Cultivating favour with the powers that be enables retired judges and bureaucrats to hang on to their bungalows in Lutyens’ Delhi by wangling appointments to cultural, academic and social organisations. Relatives of powerful politicians squeeze vast funds out of the Government of India in the name of promoting Urdu, Sanskrit, ecology, liberal ideas, wildlife, and women’s rights. They are mostly leeches but disguise the largesse they receive in an astonishing smorgasbord of causes.

Having examined their activities carefully in the years I have spent wandering about the murky corridors of the Durbar I can report that these are worthless people who deserve to be sacked and de-housed. But, they have sympathisers in the media so of late there have been many articles advising the Prime Minister to ‘preserve institutions’. Really? But, if the Prime Minister wants to ‘preserve’ these institutions he must ensure that they stop being lucrative parking spots for loyalists of not just the last government but his own.

If he examines the last government’s record he will see that the sinecures handed out were so arbitrary that you could promote Urdu and environmental protection at the same time. It all depended on where vacancies fell open and how much money was available. Rotation from one cause to the next was easy. Sadly even think tanks and serious publications became just mouthpieces of the Congress Party. So throw them all out Prime Minister, you have nothing to lose but an army of leeches.

In the view of this columnist, the most useless of Indian institutions is the institution of the Governor. Why do we need this remnant of colonial times at all? Why should taxpayers’ money be wasted on Raj Bhawans of magnificent proportions when the officials who reside therein are just politicians who have passed their prime? Having been a reporter in Srinagar at a moment in history when Indira Gandhi’s chosen Governor played a very destructive role, I feel it my duty to report that when Governors play any role it is usually an insidiously political one. So the best thing that could happen is for the institution to be abolished altogether. If the Prime Minister does not feel able to take so radical a measure then he must change governors appointed by the last government because they have got their jobs only from undying loyalty to the Dynasty.

The Planning Commission is another institution that deserves to be abolished unless it can be reinvented as a commission for administrative reform. There is not a ministry in the Government of India that would not end up half its size if there were to be a serious attempt at reform. And, the officials who inhabit the hallowed corridors of the Planning Commission know this better than anyone else. Some ministries need to be done away altogether because like the Planning Commission they belong to an era when the men who ruled India venerated the Soviet Union’s model of development.

The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting should be first on the chopping block because in these days of instant information a ministry of propaganda is useless. Doordarshan and a Films Division making unwatchable films is what it oversees along with that division for audio and visual publicity that wastes taxpayers’ money on extolling the so-called virtues and achievements of every government department.

If the Prime Minister wants to deliver on his promise of ‘minimum government, maximum governance’ he will have to implement drastic changes. He must be prepared to face an attack every time he makes a change because there are thousands who have serious vested interests in things not changing ever. He will soon discover that Lutyens’ Delhi has long been a private club with a long list of life members who protect their exalted positions by invoking words like ‘institution’ and ‘tradition’. But, if the rules of this club are not forced to change the Prime Minister will find himself sucked into a vortex that will paralyse him.

Already, his ministers are being wined and dined in drawing rooms that till just yesterday were filled with people who swore undying loyalty to the Dynasty. These same people in these same drawing rooms today sing the praises of the new prime minister and behave as if they always did. So the one thing that never changes in this ancient capital city are her courtiers.

Follow Tavleen Singh on Twitter @ tavleen_singh

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    Abhishek
    Jun 22, 2014 at 3:36 pm
    An extremely difficult task.There is no doubt that this 'darbar' would strike back through all its media power and insidious character.
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      better this
      Jun 22, 2014 at 5:11 am
      Madam,Name and with examples,and show how files move,what IAS the steel frame,does and collaborates.How checks and balances are done away with.Without specifics,it will remain a rant,add to confusion and not hope.
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        Albertpinto
        Jun 22, 2014 at 3:24 am
        Fantastic!
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          good citizen
          Jun 22, 2014 at 7:03 pm
          a good advice to the prime minister, hope he may take care of this...
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            an
            Jun 22, 2014 at 1:54 pm
            You have hit the nail on the head. Indians have placed their hopes on Modiji. But it is one against thousand politicians and bureaucrats who are crafty, indulgent , selfish and negative. It is somewhat like Obama against the US congress. Taking advantage of peoples' support and clear mandate, Modi must bulldoze his way through, despite resistance from vested quarters. But will he succeed? We have to wait and see.
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              bobg123
              Jun 22, 2014 at 3:45 am
              I have always wondered, Why we are being ruled by people who have retired (60 age group) when we have 65% potion below the age of 35. This is only because the Dynasty has cultivated the culture of sycophancy and have amply rewarded the leeches.
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                bobg123
                Jun 22, 2014 at 3:42 am
                What we have seen over the last 60 years is Systematic Degradation of Insutions in the name of Liberalisation. Now this Systematic Degradation has to be Systematically Improved and it will take some time, but I am sure it will be done.
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                  Sudeep Kanjilal
                  Jun 22, 2014 at 4:11 am
                  A very good expose on all these good-for-nothing NGOs and 'Cultural organizations' that are sucking India dry.I really really hope Modi closes down this entire racket, permanently - I have absolutely no faith in the rest if BJP, as they are really (nearly) as corrupt as Congress.Tavleen, thanks for this expose.
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                    Girish
                    Jun 22, 2014 at 11:18 am
                    fine if modi removes political appointees from their posts. but if he replaces them with political appointees of his own, what's new then?however, expecting the man who rode a wave of media publicity to disband I&B Ministry stretches credulity a bit too far.
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                      Girish
                      Jun 22, 2014 at 11:21 am
                      she's tavleen, by the way.
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                        isee
                        Jun 22, 2014 at 3:27 am
                        Well said. Merit in the arguments. Lets see how the new government acts.
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                          conviction
                          Jun 24, 2014 at 9:34 am
                          She can be a failed courtier ... ( i dont know) ..... but she can clearly articulate how courtiers and failed couurtiers in particualr operate in the hallowed Lutyens delhi....A bald mans comb ca nstill help others .....so is this advise.. It just requires conviction to implement and a leader who buys into this idea...
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                            Jesse James
                            Jun 22, 2014 at 3:47 am
                            Why are we coy about naming the courtiers or the specific posts they crave. Let's put all the names up on a blog for the people to view and shame.No point just asking the PM to do this & that. Let's create the hawwa for change to happen ...
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                              Jayant Barve
                              Jun 22, 2014 at 4:37 am
                              Ms. Tavleenji, please accept my congrats for constructive ideas once again. I feel you always talk minds of majority, like me.Buying this medicine needs a lot of comitment, even for our new PM than he holds. Most of his ministers, if not all, afterall, have fought election with an eye on quick n big money. Even if he (the PM) might have injected a bitter does through their hardned veins, as I imagine, to enjoy fruits of success in next term of five years after winning hearts of public-in-general in present term, hardly few may carry the devotion he seeks. Then there will be very large troup of earstwhile rulers and regional partis making all out efforts to stop any good move in the name of distruction of tradition, culture, religion and what not.Your articles in pasts have also left no impact despite sancy and appropriety. May be you can rightly blame it on lack of political will and greedy, murky leaders of earier years. I however wonder why not this particular suggestion came from you earler in congress rule.Jayant Barve (Mumbai)
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                                jodharora
                                Jun 25, 2014 at 2:57 pm
                                I agree with you,
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                                  jsdc007
                                  Jul 14, 2014 at 6:50 am
                                  The first thing he needs to do is to sell Lutyens Delhi to the highest bidder. Why should minor MPs, ministers and babus live in colonial splendor in what may be one of the most expensive tracts of real estate in the world? India's rich, foreign corporations, etc., will pay handsomely for the graceful mansions of Lutyens Delhi. In fact, they may do a far better job in maintaining these architectural beauties than the GOI which does a shoddy job at best. What's more, this could raise thousands of crores of rupees.
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                                    kulaputra kulaputra
                                    Jun 22, 2014 at 4:00 pm
                                    It is well said that there is no need for ministry of I&B. Likewise, I wonder how many other ministries are redundant. The job of a ministry is to lay down the law and regulate players so that they obey the law. Do we then need so many ministries ? Many of them seem to be out of place.
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                                      Krishna Kumar
                                      Jun 22, 2014 at 3:31 pm
                                      Again, simply an excellent article. The PM must get rid of these leeches and impose a strict code of conduct in his administration. While I agree the information and broadcasting ministry with its useless film division must be eliminated, this is one area where an alternate must be created. That should be a strong Communication division (not necessarily a ministry). The reason is simple. All media outlet (including the shameless "inglis" media in India) is controlled by Western countries who lie, distort and manite news pertaining to India to suit their requirements and impositions. Living abroad I see this everyday and this includes so called manited Internet news controlled by US outlets. The past couple of years UAE, Russia and China have directly built media outlets to ensure that false or manited news from the western media outlets ( BBC, CNN, NYT, WSJ, Reuters, AP. YAHOO, Google news, Bloomberg, France 24, Guardian etc). They have ensured that US and western cable channels and airwaves carry them in exchange for carrying or allowing western outlets in their respective countries. Do not expect Indian media to to that since they are all servants or in the payroll of western outlets.
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                                        Achu
                                        Jun 22, 2014 at 3:04 am
                                        Kudos to Navleen Singh for your blunt writings !! Modi & BJP know these courtiers of Dynasty fully well & will shunt them out. However, if still there remains any lack of clarity on these sycophants, Navleen's article gives a complete profile of such people. What are you waiting you for, PM ? Please throw them out !!!
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                                          kseshaiah
                                          Jun 22, 2014 at 7:23 am
                                          Many of the divisions of I&B Ministry have outlived their time. Fully support I &B Minister;s view that the Ministry be abolished. That will save a lot of public money.
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                                            Happy
                                            Jun 23, 2014 at 2:11 pm
                                            Governors position should be abolished. It is useless, serve nothing to India except looting India under the name of Governorship.
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