New Delhi, 03 October 2015
Jay Bhattacharjee is a policy and corporate affairs analyst based in
27 Sep, 2015
enquiry conducted by the PMO, on the basis of a Swarajya article by
this author, seems to imply that.
In the early morning of the 17th August, an innocuous–sounding text
message almost escaped this writer’s attention. It was the Monday
after an important weekend. The previous Friday, the 14th, had
witnessed a new low in Indian public life; Delhi Police had
unleashed their lathis on the armed forces veterans who had
assembled in a legal and peaceful rally at the capital’s Jantar
Mantar to press for their demand for OROP. Even by the deplorable
standards of the desi police, this was a shocking event.
The nation was outraged to see images of the war medals of
octogenarian veterans being torn off by members of Delhi’s mutation
of the Keystone cops. Along with millions of my fellow citizens, I,
too, was outraged, and decided to write an essay on the 15th August
on this grotesque indignity heaped on soldiers and warriors who had
defended our nation so heroically and bravely in all the wars that
India had been compelled to wage after Independence. My article on
the incident and its background (why, in the first place, the
veterans had been compelled to demonstrate) was
published on Independence Day itself.
The Prime Minister’s customary address to the nation on this
sacrosanct occasion, made a cursory reference to the OROP issue and
included a rather half-hearted undertaking that the matter would be
resolved soon. Needless to say, India’s retired warriors (and, I
dare say, the serving defenders too), along with the vast majority
of my fellow citizens and yours truly, were distinctly underwhelmed
by this stand of the PM. Therefore, the 17th August, was truly a
copybook example of Monday morning blues.
When I got around to reading the SMS, I was initially confused. The
message read : “Your Grievance has been registered vide
Registration number PMOPG/E/2015/0065783. Please logon (sic) to:
for any further details”.
Having written reasonably frequently to various errant government
and municipal agencies in the capital and elsewhere on their
numerous lapses in governance, I was wondering what this was all
about. When I opened the URL, it transpired that I had been granted
entry to the Valhalla where ordinary Indians are very rarely
entertained, a sanctum sanctorum that most of us can only dream
about – the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in South Block on Raisina
Hill. I rubbed my eyes in disbelief – the nearest I had ventured
anywhere near this place in recent times was through a number of
open letters (read “articles”) I had penned in various publications,
either electronic or print, addressed to the Prime Minister.
Now, as every commentator / essayist in these shores will tell you,
these so-called “open letters” to the powers-that-be have as little
impact as water off a duck’s back. The Indian establishment has a
skin so strong that it puts titanium to shame. And as every
chaiwallah in Delhi and the nation knows, the top guns in the
establishment are the IAS lot, with a few IFS chaps occasionally
thrown in, to mumble in Mandarin, French or German, in the exalted
corridors of the PMO.
Going through the page that opened on my screen, I learnt that a
“Public Grievance” had been registered in my name by the nation’s
top honchos about the police lathi charge on the veterans on the
14th. The “grievance” was based on the Swarajya essay of mine
published on the 15th. In fact, the entire essay was reproduced in
the PMO’s portal. .
Status as on 17 Aug 2015
Name Of Complainant
Date of Receipt
17 Aug 2015
Prime Ministers Office
Shri Ambuj Sharma
Under Secretary (Public)
5th Floor, Rail Bhawan
Lathi Charge on Veterans on Aug 14th 2015 Cry My Beloved
Country – Military Veterans Assaulted By Police
While all this was quite flattering, the mystery remained. I had
not approached the super-babus in the PMO with any complaint or
grievance or whatever they choose to label it. Having spoken to a
number of friends, the general consensus was that one of the readers
of my essay that was then being circulated quite extensively (as
happens in the age of the internet) had sent it to the PMO, who
registered it suo motu, and informed me so that my readers,
friends and I would be temporarily placated.
This was also the overall consensus in my circle – the establishment
was trying to buy time and attempting to put on a show so that the
hoi polloi would calm down. Nevertheless, my instinct was to give
the whole exercise a bit of momentum, in the faint hope that some
attempt would be made by the GOI to get to the bottom of the
shameful incident of the 14th. Therefore, I decided to take up the
cudgel, as it were, that had been left on the battlefield by an
Even in my worst-scenario exercise, I could not anticipate how
wretchedly these babus would behave. The designated officer, whose
details were mentioned in the portal as Under Secretary (Public),
would never come on the line. Each time, a flunkey, who grandly
announced himself as “staff” and refused to divulge his identity,
would curtly tell me that the U.Secy. had no time to speak to
complainants and / or members of the public. On numerous occasions,
this wing of the GOI, ostensibly set up to attend to citizens’
grievances, took a vicarious thrill in fobbing me off with excuses
that ranged from the bizarre to the obscene. The only relevant
information that the portal disgorged from time to time was that the
matter had been referred to the Commissioner of Police of Delhi for
his feedback. Since the Police top chap was the one whose force had
committed the offence, I thought it was a bit rich to ask him to
look into the matter.
Now, all this is hardly news to the hapless citizens of this
country, who have been used to this type of governance for the last
7 decades or so in independent India and for seven to eight
centuries before that under various versions of the Sultanate and
the Raj. However, there is a new factor being played out here.
In power now, is the NaMo regime, that had been voted in last year
with a massive majority, and whose professed aim was that it would
usher in a new paradigm of governance and public administration.
With just about 19 months in the driving seat, the objectives and
stated agenda of the new occupants of Raisina Hill are being
blatantly sabotaged, obstructed and derailed by the babus. Unless,
of course, and banish the thought, the events of 2014 (the glorious
dawn etc.) were all shadow-boxing. More on this later.
Since the Under Secy (Public) was flagrantly AWOL or absconding or
whatever they do in desi babudom, I decided to contact, whatever it
needed, the critical decision-maker in this maze, the fabled JS
(Joint Secretary in the capital’s parlance). After 10 days of using
the old-boy network et al, I finally succeeded in making the nabob
come on the telephone line. Icily courteous, he explained that the
poor U.Secy. was buried under a mountain of complaints and couldn’t
really speak to every complainant who dared to ring the telephone
number listed in the portal. The fellow’s tone clearly indicated
that I was a mental retard, if I thought I could exercise my
democratic and constitutional rights in ye Olde Ind to speak to
public functionaries. The chap put down the phone after mumbling
that I would be told the outcome of the “case” within ten days or
Like a besotted teenager waiting for my girlfriend to contact me, I
spent my waking hours in the last fortnight for the phone call,
E-Mail or SMS from the burra sahibs, or at least the junior burra
sahib, the U.Secy. There was nothing incoming – a scenario that
was very much like the PM’s undertakings on OROP, parroted
faithfully by the Raksha Mantri. Not even a homily resembling the
periodic sermons from the FM admonishing the veterans for being
naïve enough to claim their legitimate dues. A big blank screen on
my computer and my cell phone, if you please.
Then I ventured to visit the PMO portal on the 22nd. Hallelujah, the
nation’s presiding deity had acted. The words glaring at me on the
screen read :
Date of Action
11 Sep 2015
During enquiry, it is revealed that the anti-encroachment
drive to evict unauthorized protesters, illegal
tents/structures was conducted in a very peaceful manner by
the NDMC officials while as a law enforcement agency Delhi
Police was presented there to protect the NDMC officials
during their drive. Therefore no further action is required
in this complaint.
Now, this is the icing on the cake by the babus – a five-line
statement in pidgin language (“Delhi Police was presented there”)
that attempts to sweep under the carpet one of the most shameful
incidents in the history of independent India. A statement that is a
blatant lie (when it refers to “unauthorized” protesters, whereas
they had all the necessary permissions) is passed off as the
official response of the GOI.
The action-taken-report (ATR in Indian babu language) does not even
bother to clarify the basic details : (a) who conducted the enquiry
(b) what were the terms of reference of the enquiry (c) what
credible evidence was provided to the persons conducting the enquiry
and (d) who were the persons called to testify in the enquiry? The
PMO manifestly feels that these fundamental queries pertaining to
the so-called enquiry are never going to be asked, and if asked,
they will never be required to be disclosed.
If the PM, the RM and the FM, think that this is where the matter
ends they are sadly mistaken. This is something that will come back
as a phoenix to haunt them in the future. The babus, of course, are
having the last laugh. Not only have they and the khakiwallahs got
away with battery and assault, they have also effectively derailed
the entire OROP movement.What can one say? The inimitable Ogden Nash
said it in much better words than I can muster.
I’m an autocratic figure in these democratic states.
A dandy demonstration of hereditary traits.
My position at the apex of society I owe,
To the qualities my parents, bequeathed me long ago.
I remember daddy’s warning that raping is a crime.
Unless you rape the voters a million at a time.