Vijay K. Saluja – Story of an Anti-Corruption Crusader

20th March 2019 at 8:00 am
vijay k saluja

Thanks to the TRP hungry media that mostly banks on negative news, we only get to watch, hear and read about corrupt politicians, scams, official apathy et al., but, hardly about people who actually are doing a good job. With ground realities worsening day by day, the stories of people who value honesty, integrity, and ethics rather than money and power, are very much necessary to motivate the society esp the youngsters. Media should highlight people who stand for duty, ethics, integrity, professionalism & right values. Fortunately, India has it’s share of anti-corruption crusaders.

          ‘HatkeStory‘ got an opportunity to get in touch with one such anti-corruption crusader, Mr. Vijay K. Saluja. He has done justice to his name, emerging victorious in a long lasting legal battle in the Delhi High Court for a case that he himself filed in 1993, for a look into the unethical & unfair practices that resulted in huge non-optimum utilization of public funds in New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC).

          Vijay K. Saluja, an IIT Delhi (Civil Engineering) graduate joined the NDMC in 1969 as an Assistant Engineer. He believed that his IIT degree would give him an added advantage to do his job efficiently. He took it as a professional challenge to do a good/quality job using fewer funds, in the India’s richest civic body.

However, the bitter truth was obvious from his experience at office, as time passed at NDMC. He thought people who did good quality work by following values and ethics would gain appreciation. Sadly, there was no encouragement from his department for doing his job right.

How did you feel when the conditions were so discouraging at NDMC?

Some of my observations based upon my experience, in my tenure of 35 years at NDMC:

* Existing administrative/political system/bureaucracy is broadly insensitive to fairness, merit & integrity, is generally, egoistic, self-centered & tries to promote the interests of their close-knit group

* There is hardly any accountability of their actions/misuse of powers. Result: There is mis-governance, corruption and delay in projects

* Honest & meritorious dedicated officials [mainly] are badly affected and suffer for years! They have to run from pillar to post for their legal dues and some are constrained to knock the doors of the Courts

* Manipulative, networked, unscrupulous senior officers abuse powers for personal gains. Result: Country`s works suffer. Development funds get wasted due to poor planning, design, award, execution, monitoring etc.

Mr. Saluja, labeled as an idealist for believing in professional values and ethics decided to move the court himself and argued his own case, that lasted for more than 10 years.

Why are court cases so tough to handle?

“Going to the Court is a finance/nerve shattering experience! Despite well-staffed Law Depts., some organizations field top private lawyers of the country to defend their cases in the Courts. It saddens me that so much time is wasted even on service matters. Hapless govt. officers have to fight in court spending their own meager funds. State money/funds, are used for paying huge fees to the engaged lawyers.”

          This standoff between the corrupt system and Mr. Saluja lasted from 1984-2004 until he retired. Since his petition contained more than 1200 pages, some of his friends asked if he could write a book even. Bad performance reports, frequent transfers, harassment, humiliation and even death threats did not deter this man from doing his duty.

“I just wanted to do various civil engg works/projects with no cost & time over-runs & proper quality control in place. Nothing more, nothing less”

How have your co-workers in NDMC responded to your stand?

“Many people tell that they have fond memories of working with me, love/respect me for taking on the right stand and our relationship is great. It gives me great satisfaction”

          After a long lasting legal tussle, he finally became the Chief Engineer of New Delhi Municipal Council in May 2004. Unfortunately, his tenure lasted only for 20 days, as he superannuated on 31st May 2004

A few of the Awards and Recognition for fighting corruption:

* Red & White Bravery Award in January 2002

* Delhi Citizen One Award in 2004

* Giraffe Heroes Award in 2004

* Satyendra K. Dubey Memorial Award in February 2009

* CID Gallantry Award by Sony TV, in January 2010

* Idea Daredevil Award in 2012

Mr. Vijay K. Saluja is presently, a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi and Director of Giraffe Heroes India Program since June 2012.

What is the Giraffe Heroes India Program?

Giraffe Heroes (GH) is a US based nonprofit organization that works with the mission “To move people to stick their necks out for the common good, and to give them tools to succeed”. GH/India tells the inspiring stories of the country’s heroes, motivating others to become heroic too

Learn more at http://www.giraffe.org/global/india

What do you propose?

In case the State loses the service matters case, despite fielding top private lawyers, then state money spent on the LOST CASE, should be recovered from the personal funds of those officers who delayed the matters or did not take decisions, as per the laid down rules, thus forcing the aggrieved employees to go to the Court.

          I believe this would send the right signals to the administrative system, bring about accountability and improve governance. Thousands of crores of State funds per years could be saved. Courts will be less clogged with cases.”

          Everyone has potential. People who are doing good, should address youngsters in schools, colleges and universities and impart value education. Media too, has big potential to highlight in many ways the useful work being done by many Giraffe Heroes.

Watch him talk on YouTube:

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