Confessions of a Government Committee Member

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“The Government appoints the committee and then dismisses the findings. It does not have the guts to admit its mistakes. Why appoint committees then?”

Committees are set up by the Government when it lacks the will to take action. The Home Ministry appoints a committee even when armed with evidence. There are over 500 committees in Maharashtra alone. Imagine the number for India.

When a committee is appointed there is an unsaid understanding that the Government will reject the findings. However hard you work, you know that the report will lie on a dusty shelf and be forgotten. Many committees are non-starters. They have been appointed merely to appease certain sections. It is funny. The Government appoints the committee and then dismisses the findings. Why appoint committees then?

The acceptance of the panel’s analysis depends on the time left till the next election. The Ram Pradhan Committee was appointed by Maharashtra to probe the lapses during the 26/11 terror attacks to keep public anger down. But now that the report has been tabled, the government is dithering. It will initiate action six months before Assembly polls are due in Maharashtra.

Committees and commissions have become a haven for retired judges. It is part of their retirement plan. Political connections are important to get on a committee. The proximity to elections also decides who should head a committee. Big names blunt public anger as everyone hopes they will deliver results.
What exactly these results are is never known. Every panel has its share of people who believe that their appointment is for a larger good. Often, members do not see eye-to-eye. Perceptions vary and many feel they should be in charge. So while the probe is on, moves are afoot to dislodge the chairman and occupy that chair.

The Government wants to be in the loop during investigations as it does not want to be on a sticky wicket. If anything uncomfortable crops up, it plays its cards to ensure that the findings never make the final report.
Media leaks are willfully done by committee members so that the government does not backtrack. It will take guts for any government to stand up and say that it has erred. The Indian political class is gutless, so don’t read too much into the appointment of a committee.

(The interviewee is a retired bureaucrat and member of various committees appointed by the state government.)

As told to Haima Deshpande