Retired IAS Naresh Chandra Saxena’s memoir What Ails the IAS and Why it Fails to Deliver – An Insider’s View narrates an incident where he had to allegedly ‘bribe’ the Chief Minister of Odisha over two decades ago to get rid of oppressive laws against tribals.
In a report published in News18, Saxena describes how in 1998-99 he discovered that many tribal women in Odisha were jailed for keeping brooms in their houses. The reason: the Tribal Development Cooperative Corporation (TDCC) and its traders only had the legal sanction to process hill brooms. Collection of hill brooms was allowed, but it was illegal to bind them into a broom or sell them in the open market. This prevented them from earning the right price.
“In one particular case, assurance was given by the Collector of Rayagada to a women’s cooperative society that it would be allowed to collect and market hill brooms so that the primary gatherers, who are mostly poor tribal women, could get the benefit of higher prices in the market. The society started functioning, but without a valid licence,” writes Saxena.
But when the Collector was transferred, the women were prosecuted and their stocks were seized. The full stock wasn’t released, even after a court order. This lead to a huge financial loss for the women, he notes.
Saxena took up the issue and wrote to secretaries in the Odisha government for four years. As Secretary of Planning Commission, Saxena was approached by then Odisha CM Giridhar Gamang for funds. Saxena took the opportunity to ask the CM to change this law and in return he assured an extra Rs 50 crore in the plan as advance and the same amount the following year after the work is done.
According to Saxena, being a tribal Gamang was sensitive to the issue. He abolished the system of royalties and long-term leases pertaining to minor forest produce. Thus, Kendu leaves, hill brooms, bamboo etc were allowed for free trade. Gamang was then with the Congress; he is currently a BJP leader. The state legislature passed the bill in March 2000 after the new Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik assumed office.
Saxena, a believer of the economic philosophy of ‘socialism for the poor and free market for the rich’, said the political and administrative system in India has believed in ‘indifference to the poor and control over the rich to facilitate rent-seeking.’
Saxena was topper of the 1964 Indian Civil Services Examination. He retired in 2002 as the Secretary of Planning Commission.