Corporate espionage: 'Permanent bureaucracy not politics is to blame'

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The corporate espionage case has blown the lid of several corporates and officials within the ministries. The one main issue that stares right into our faces is the vulnerability of these ministries and how bad the security set up was.

While the Delhi police goes about its job of investigating the matter, the time has come to find permanent solutions to plug the leaks. One would need to identify whether this is a political or a bureaucratic problem.


V Balachandran, former special secretary, Cabinet Secretariat and member of the two-man 26/11 enquiry commission says that the problem is more bureaucratic.

In this interview with OneIndia, Balachandran says it is our permanent bureaucracy which is the source of the problem.

Is this the biggest corporate espionage case India has witnessed?

It may be one of the biggest, but India has faced this issue since the past 35 years. Scams such as these have been engineered by both corporates and also foreign powers. One must recollect the Coomar Narain case of 1977 which was detected onlyn in 1985. Every bit of paper marked classified was photocopied and taken away by a big network led by industrialist Yogesh Maneklal, Coomar Narain's employer and agent Chittur Venkat Narayan.

Investigations found that the beneficiary was France, but it was also discovered that documents marked classified were also sold to Poland and Germany.

Was security tightened after this case?

We have seen many such cases and since the past 35 years the country has always been told that security has been tightened. However it was the public that suffered the most.

Access to central government offices for the public had become extremely difficult. Rules mandated that visitors could only meet with officials of the rank of under secretary and above.

As a result of this accountability vanished and officials never gave appointments easily. The public suffered as they could not speak out their grievances with the bureaucrats.

Did such stringent measures affect the corporates and their power brokers?

It certainly did not affect them one bit. They could easily approach government officials at their residences. The power brokers remained the same irrespective of the party that was in power at the centre.

What steps are being taken to plug the leaks?

There were some steps that were taken which included the positioning of Central Industrial Security Force at the government offices in a bid to restrict entry of unauthorized personnel. This according to me a wasted exercise of manpower. The CISF should be positioned for higher security duties.

What role do vigilance officers play in such cases?

The basic problem is that the vigilance heads in all the ministries are attached to the same office. They ideally should be reporting to the Chief Central Vigilance Commissioner.

However the problem is that they depend on the departmental heads of where they are posted. This would mean that their promotion and perks are dependant on the departmental heads.

We need to have vigilance heads from outside as this would help introduce an outside perspective. Scanning of documents and checking leaks would happen by an outsider and not someone attached to that ministry.

This way the vigilance heads would be able to work better as they would not be at the mercy of the insiders in the department. I would also like to point out that the terms of these vigilance heads should be for a fixed terms as long durations in one place could lead to complacency.

How does the system work in the United States of America?

There is an inspector general system where outsiders are appointed as watchdogs in each department. The Inspector General reports directly to the President and the Congress. This way there is no dependency on the department he is posted at and this helps a lot in curbing problems such as documents being leaked.

Can India adopt a similar pattern?

India could have a person from the police or the Intelligence Bureau working as the vigilance officer. He should not be dependant on the department he is posted at. However his tenure in each department should be for a fixed term.

Who would you blame for such cases, the bureaucracy or the politicians?

Politics is not responsible for such incidents and as I pointed out earlier that power brokers remain the same irrespective of which party is in power. It is the permanent bureaucracy which is to blame for such cases.

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