A Short Biographical Sketch Of Arun Bhatia
This bio-data is a three decade long story of attempting to enforce honesty in a corrupt third world bureaucracy. Almost from the moment of joining service (IAS) it became clear that the real enemy was the establishment in India.
I paid the price of denial of promotion, frequent transfers (26 transfers in as many years of service in India), numerous charges and enquiries, bad assessment reports, ridicule by peers, seniors and subordinates, lack of support when giant offenders like Glaxo or senior officers and politicians were prosecuted by me, ugly threats from the Bombay land mafia and so on. See the section on CORRUPTION FIGHTS
But there was another side also. I made friends with good people outside the system who stood by me and was able to help those being oppressed by corrupt officials. Awareness about corruption was enhanced, many were punished. Unfortunately, many were protected. When things became too hot with Chief Ministers gunning for me I managed to get a break by being selected by the United Nations for assignments. This happened in 1984 after I lodged criminal cases against builders and officials as Collector, Bombay; then in 1994 when I closed the Glaxo factory in Bombay and began the inspection of the Nasik factory as Commissioner, Food and Drugs; and again in 1999 when I prosecuted the reigning Chief Secretary and corrupt officials of the Revenue Department and the Pune Corporation.
Some might say that this picture is too black. But if we agree that generally the country is corrupt and mismanaged then it won't do to say that only the IAS is honest. More accurate it is to say that the top echelons lead and facilitate the corruption.
In 2004 I contested the parliamentary election as an independent candidate from Pune and received over 60,000 votes without any infrastructure or organisational support and without adequate time. This time things will be different.
Honest Indians will get this country back.
- B.A. History (Honors) - St. Stephen's College, Delhi University, India
- M.A. History, Economic History and Political Thought - Peterhouse, Cambridge University, England
- Training in Development Economics, Law, Public Administration, Land Reforms etc. - National Academy of Administration, Mussourie, India
- Training for Public Administration in a Welfare State - Administrative Staff College, Bombay, India
- Training in Community Development and Decentralized Planning - National Institute of Community Development, Hyderabad, India
- Training in Management Skills (1994) - UNOPS (United Nations Office for Project Services), Thailand
Summary Of Work Experience
Management experience (Asia, Africa) in United Nations multi-disciplinary rural development projects included monitoring, report writing, training, liaising with NGOs and national governments and the formulation of funding proposals for UN agencies.
In India, appointments were at secretariat and field levels and in rural and urban local bodies. Work pertained to physical and social infrastructure (watershed improvement, health etc.), rural employment, tribal development, land reforms, anti-poverty schemes, famine relief, drought recovery, resettlement of urban slums, project displaced persons and political refugees, and governance reform.
There was a focus on creating mechanisms for client participation in planning, execution and monitoring. Detected wide spread corruption. But the continuous effort to combat corruption met with limited success in the long term.
Main areas of interest :
- Social Mobilisation
Appointments In The United Nations ( Long Term )
1999-2001 : CONSULTANT, UNOPS, (United Nations Office for Project Services), Asia Office, KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia.
Supervision and evaluation of multi-disciplinary rural development projects in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangla Desh, Laos and Vietnam financed by IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development of the United Nations). As Team Leader, prepared monitoring and supervision reports, recommendations etc. for the UN and the national Governments. The projects covered minor irrigation, watershed improvement, forestry, micro-credit, income generation, agricultural extension, animal husbandry, rural employment, gender mainstreaming, social mobilisaton and health service delivery.
The emphasis was on development of participatory methodologies in planning and project implementation.
1994-96: CTA (CHIEF TECHNICAL ADVISER) (LAOS)
Worked as the CTA in the Xiengkhouang Highland Development Programme. This programme comprised of three projects which were supervised/managed by me. The main project, funded by IFAD, covered crop, irrigation, livestock and credit sectors. The other two related to rural development (health, education, water supply) and labour intensive road construction. These were funded by UNDCP (United Nations Drug Control Programme). The main functions pertained to preparation of budgets and work plans, procurement of supplies/equipment, report writing, monitoring, liaising with the Government and UN funding agencies and co-ordination/supervision of six international experts.
A certificate was given by the Government of Laos for good work.
1985-1988: PROJECT ADVISER (BOTSWANA)
Worked for three years as the Project Adviser in an IFAD funded project for small farmers in Botswana (Arable Lands Development Programme). Provided management support to the National Project Co-ordinator.
Short Term United Nations Assignments As a Consultant
August 1991: Maldives
Worked as a UNDP/OPS consultant to expedite implementation of the IFAD-funded Atolls Credit and Development Banking Project, Maldives, and assist the project to prepare the Annual Work Plan.
February, 1992: Bangladesh
Worked as a UNOPS consultant for a Follow-up Mission for the Special Assistance Project for Cyclone Affected Rural Households in Bangladesh. The main concerns were to identify implementation bottlenecks and recommend instruments to overcome them.
March, 1992: Maldives
Worked as a UNDP/OPS consultant to supervise the Atolls Credit and Development Banking Project, Maldives.
December, 1992: Laos
Worked as a UNDP/OPS consultant for reviewing an IFAD funded Rural Credit Project in Laos. Assisted the Project to develop an M and E Plan.
October, 1993: Laos
Worked as a UNDP/OPS consultant for using PRA methods to help the Rural Credit Project in Laos to define the poor and for assisting the Government in preparing the loan withdrawal applications.
October, 1994: Myanmar
Participated on behalf of UNOPS, in a Project Formulation Mission for Myanmar for the second phase of the Human Development Initiatives Programme.
Appointments In India
2002: Commissioner, Tribal Research and Training Institute, Pune, Maharashtra.
Published reports on malnutrition related child deaths, and implementation of schemes pertaining to watershed development, small dam construction, financial assistance to tribal women, distribution of agricultural inputs, income generation, resettlement of project displaced persons etc. These were critical of government functioning and exposed a high level of corruption, wasteful deployment of resources and poor monitoring and evaluation.
1999: Commissioner, Pune Municipal Corporation
Worked as the Chief Executive of a municipal body covering a population of 3 million. The concentration was on curbing corruption, introducing good/participatory governance and transparency (mainly in terms of giving citizens access to official records pertaining to resource allocation, expenditure, permissions for land use etc.), and diverting funds to priority areas like urban slums and public health. Prosecuted sitting Chief Secretary (the head bureaucrat in the state) for corruption in awarding road contracts. This predictably resulted in a premature transfer but citizens approached the Bombay High Court in a public interest litigation defeating the government and reversing the government order.
The Chief Justice, on 13.4.1999, in Writ Petition 1395 of 1999 observed that "the decision to transfer Bhatia, in the facts of the present case, is so outrageous that it defies all logic and any moral standard. No reasonable person could have arrived at such a decision. We wish to emphasise that during the present days when, unfortunately, corruption and dishonesty are at their peak, honesty and action as per law deserve a pat, rather than punishment. The transfer of Bhatia, in our view, is in the nature of punishment".
1997-99: Divisional Commissioner, Pune.
Supervised and co-ordinated work in five districts. Focused on empowerment of women by entering their names in land ownership records, on providing women access to judicial remedies, on the re-settlement of households displaced by irrigation projects, on waging a losing battle against corruption etc. Conducted enquiries and lodged prosecutions regarding corruption in urban bodies, government departments and the system of rural land management. 102 talathis and circle officers were trapped in cheating cases but I was transferred.
Supervised the preparation of multi-sector annual plans for each district.
1993-94: Managing Director, Maharashtra State Co-operative Marketing Federation.
1993: Commissioner, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Maharashtra State.
Most of the country's pharmaceutical industry is located in Maharashtra State. Drug quality in the market was monitored and action taken against the spurious drug business in numerous cases. Took action against drug companies for manufacture of or involvement in the trade of spurious drugs. Glaxo was defeated in the High Court.
1992: Secretary to Government, Social Welfare Department.
1988-1991: Additional Commissioner, Nagpur Division
1981: Deputy Secretary, Ministry of Urban Development
1977-1983 (excluding 1981): District Collector (Satara, Dhulia, Raigad, Bombay)
1973-1976: Director of Relief and Rehabilitation for Bangladesh Refugees (Chandrapur)
1971: Chief Executive in the local self-government body (Zilla Parishad) in the District (Osmanabad)
Some of the reports prepared during the tenure as the Commissioner, Tribal Research and Training Institute, Maharashtra, in 2002, were -
- Resettlement of Persons Displaced by Irrigation Projects
- Schemes for Income Generation and Distribution of Agricultural Inputs
- The Truth about Malnutrition Child Deaths
- Mismanagement in residential schools financed by the government and run by NGOs (many with political linkages)
- The extent of corruption in development schemes (based upon a physical audit)