27 April 2006 ~ 0 Comments

Jinxed batch or rough patch?

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Jinxed batch or rough patch? The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) babus these days are hitting the headlines quite frequently, albeit for the wrong reasons. While down South the erstwhile Indian envoy to New Zealand Harish Dogra created a flutter by daring to take on the might of the top MEA babu Shyam Saran, up North in Germany senior IFS babu Rakesh Kumar is the accused for being a facilitator in human trafficking. Incidentally both the babus belong to the 1972 batch of the Indian Foreign Service. Dogra’s story in New Zealand is a clear case of ‘insubordination’. He not only refused to abide by the recall order from the MEA, but instead charged Foreign Secretary with wrongdoing. The IFS babu maintained that Saran was prosecuting him to save another official in the Indian High Commission’s visa section, who happened to enjoy patronage from the ‘top’. He even went to the extent of writing to the Prime Minister and President calling for Saran’s removal. Sensing a serious diplomatic crisis brewing, the PMO babus led by Additional Secretary Pulak Chatterjee lost no time to open their own channel of communication with the recalcitrant babu. One of the Joint Secretaries B Nanda even traveled to Wellington to reason out with the ‘babu on war path’. But seeing that the babu was in no mood to return, the MEA finally took the unprecedented step of withdrawing accreditation to Dogra and replaced him with a 1975-batch IFS officer Kadakath Pathrose Ernest in Wellington. But this certainly doesn’t put the curtains on one of the most embarrassing displays of official misconduct and insubordination. The MEA top brass will be all ready to punish the hapless babu who dared to cross the Laxmanrekha and in the process might have made things too difficult for even his ‘sympathizers’ to rescue his tottering career. As we go to press, it’s reached a sad stage where Dogra may soon be extradited out of New Zealand. If Dogra’s flirting with danger was born out of sheer arrogance and ‘self proclaimed’ righteousness, the charges against the other IFS babu Rakesh Kumar are actually serious with long-term repercussions on the reputation of Indian diplomats posted abroad. The babu, facing charges for ‘illegal trafficking’ of nine Indians to Berlin in the meanwhile is back in India without making much noise. But ever since his return from Munich, Kumar has remained holed up the Himalayan retreat of Rishikesh evading the CBI interrogation on the issue. He however has been stripped off his charge as Special Secretary, Economic Relations in view of the pending charges against him. As his interrogation starts at the CBI more and more embarrassing details are going to come to the fore raising more filth. The present cases against the babus from the premier service may not exactly be isolated cases of misconduct as claimed by some. In fact cases of ‘improprieties’ have always remained part of our ‘revered’ diplomat babus. For instance an envoy to Saudi Arabia reportedly ran a regular placement agency to help his countrymen ‘settle down’ in the oil rich kingdom for a ‘consideration’. The babu’s love for running a ‘placement service’ even continued after his return to the country as head of the administrative division in the Ministry. Finally he had to be packed off to Brazil to put an end to his ‘profitable experimentations’ with human trafficking. In another recent case, the envoy to UAE was reported to have sent out official invites that carried an invitation to his daughter’s wedding. Both Dogra and Rakesh Kumar have raised a stink in the diplomatic circles, in contrasting manner though. But given the expanding role of our embassies abroad in a increasingly globalized world, the scope for corruption in the embassies is not only likely to go up but chance of possible clashes between the envoys and their command in the MEA is also expected to increase further in the days to come.

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