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     Volume 4 Issue 1 | June 25, 2004 | 8th Anniversary Issue


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Betrayed by


A government servant, (not that they always behavelike one; rather they often acquire the habit of being served) has been defined as a three-naught-three rifle with an out-of-order trigger pin because the gun won't work and you can't fire it.

Over the past fortnight, however, the nation has witnessed just the reverse. A hitherto unknown cohort of big guns was actually overworking and the government did fire at least one, charged among others with driving erratically on the information highway.

Ever since being invented, most probably by the British, few have understood why civil servants have to exist, and yet they do. Read the following story and I will be back after a short break: A civil servant sits in his office and out of sheer boredom, decides to see what is in his old filing cabinet.

He rummages through the contents and comes across an old brass lamp. "This would look nice in my living room," he thinks, so he takes it home with him. While polishing the lamp, a genie appears as usual and grants him three wishes as usual.

"I wish for my wife to become the principal of the biggest college in town right now!" POOF!

The phone rings and his elated wife informed him that she had just received the letter of appointment. Now that his wife was in cloud nine, he could be a little selfish, so he states his second wish to the yawning genie; he has seen it all. "I wish to be on an island with three subordinate women staff of the ministry whom I have desired for long." POOF!

Suddenly he is on a busy traffic island with the three females. The cars start honking, a sergeant is making his way towards them, the civil servant makes red eyes at the genie, and the genie says, 'Thukku! No practice for long time, sir!' POOF!

This time though he is on a remote island, palm trees, white sands, lazy waves and all the three lady friends intact. He then, half-closing his eyes, tells the genie his third and last wish: "I wish I'd never ever have to work again." POOF!

He's back in his government office. Welcome back after the break. Thanks for being with us.

Although denied of having instituted an investigation proper, the very fact that the Prime Minister's heavily promoted secretary sent letters to at least five ministries in reference to an anonymous complaint letter is de facto admittance that an investigation had begun, albeit arbitrarily.

Deputy secretary Nurul Islam was appointed private secretary to the PM immediately after the BNP-led alliance government took office, was promoted to the posts of joint secretary and additional secretary in a year before being made acting secretary to the PM. (DS, 4 June) Obviously these were rewards for his efficiency.

The previous AL government introduced a provision making it mandatory for officials to inform the prime minister before initiating any investigation on the basis of anonymous letter. But Islam did not inform either the prime minister or other high-ups at the PMO and unilaterally ordered a probe into the allegations. (DS, 4 June)

It would perhaps not have mattered had he been just another civil servant. But then just 'any civil servant' would not have dared to send letters to five relevant authorities -- the ERD, finance ministry, LGED, industries ministry and power division to check the authenticity of the sender and the project. (DS, 7 June) Nor would he have been short-sighted not to have seen the last name in the list. It mattered because the civil servant in question was one of the most trusted officers of the PMO; that is why it was so humiliating for the government and hurt BNP the most.

In ordering the check what Nurul Islam, or for that matter two other officials also involved in the action, missed is that at the very bottom of the letter, (PM's son) Tarique Rahman's name was mentioned as a party to the graft. (DS, 7 June) According to the Daily Star, "It was a long letter and Tarique's name was mentioned only once at the bottom and so it missed the attention of all who dealt with the file," a source said. That's a mighty sloppy job by highly privileged civil servants who pride themselves to be the cream of the society.

The ministries and divisions replied that the sender of the letter does not exist as WASA does not have any engineer by that name. Moreover, the project was still under discussion and so allegations of corruption do not arise. (DS, 7 June) If this is not an investigation, what is?

The fuss about the 'lost discs' having digitised summary of all decisions taken since 2001 (DS, 7 June) is naïve, not unexpected these days of the civil service. People now know more why they are in the mess that they are.

The news (DS, 5 June) that the Bureau of Anti Corruption team seized twelve CDs from Islam's desk and that they were deposited with the new secretary of the PMO is at best laughable. If there is one CD there can be more copies, so seizing one set does not seal the leak, if any; and the government or for that matter those who have a reason to believe that there was some foul play have nothing to cheer about.

It was not a question of whether the name of the PM's son was in the corruption complaint. It was a matter of being a thoroughbred public servant, of loyalty of a servant to his master, of following set down rules. A civil servant deserves to be in the dock if he has failed in any of the three. Failure in all three is why a fast-track servant, promoted twice in a year, was shown the door.

Islam was not alone. He is now. The Daily Star reported that the BAC chaps went to his house the night he lost his job and saw him at a meeting (what a bad word) with some top officials and former bureaucrats, including Planning Commission Member Fazlur Rahman and former education secretary Shahidul Alam.

He is since under virtual house arrest. They are not. They have their job, he does not. They can save their jobs, not his. That is because while in office very few bureaucrats realise that when a bureaucrat's job is axed, neither the public nor his colleagues, neither his 'friends nor his well wishers' can remember who he was, what he did or why he was even there in the first place. A new bureaucrat, perhaps more powerful, is born.

Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2004