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Upright civil servant in India prefers NGOs to government service

S. N. M. Abdi

Published: Updated:

Some of India’s brightest young men and women dream of cracking the civil service examination to govern the country alongside politicians. But of late many career bureaucrats are quitting the government to soar even higher.

Vijay Maruti Pingale, a 2004 batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer who has just submitted his resignation, typifies the trend of civil servants walking out on the nation’s notoriously corrupt governance system.

“My resignation is an open secret. But it’s yet to be accepted. Hence my lips are sealed as I am still governed by service conduct rules”, Pingale told Al Arabiya English when pressed to elaborate on why he suddenly quit his job.

Pingale enjoys a formidable reputation as an upright IAS officer of Tamil Nadu cadre. His crusade against corrupt contractors has won him legions of admirers in the southern province where many bureaucrats don’t hesitate to socialize with shady businessmen close to powerful politicians.

According to media reports, Pingale has quit government service to join a non-governmental organization, or NGO. His preference for an NGO over the government speaks volumes about the administration’s standing in the eyes of a civil servant known for his integrity.

Although the NGO has not been identified, it is believed to be engaged in harnessing the latest technology to make governance more accountable and transparent.

Ironically, Pingale had harnessed advanced technology to combat corruption while in government service. As Deputy Commissioner (Works), Chennai Corporation he employed cutting edge scientific methods “to fix responsibility for shoddy work in civic infrastructure projects like roads, bridges, streetlights, and pedestrian facilities”.

A newspaper reported that he came down heavily on contractors who cut corners to book profits and “involved IT companies in developing a digital dashboard for monitoring all civic projects on a real-time basis”.

But his zero tolerance for corruption proved to be his undoing as he was shunted from one post to another to neutralize his campaign against unscrupulous contractors patronized by manipulative politicians.

Pingale, who happens to be a qualified doctor holding an MBBS degree, was also in the limelight for successfully hosting the Global Investors Meet in Chennai as Joint Secretary of the Industries Department.

The Hong Kong-based Political & Economic Risk Consultancy recently ranked the Indian bureaucracy as the worst in Asia, saying its officials are invariably corrupt and rarely held accountable making them villains not only in the eyes of the common man but the root cause of investors’ mistrust towards the government.

Governance and fundamental administrative reforms are badly needed in a developing and over-populated country like India but successive governments have made no headway. The present dispensation wants to experiment with lateral entry into the bureaucracy bypassing the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), which recruits civil servants. But its intentions are suspect in the eyes of many dispassionate observers.