Leadership & Dereliction of Duty

Leadership Means Doing One’s Duty,  Accepting Responsibility & the Consequences that go with it!

Vikram Vetal (Phantom) Story

Subject: An Old Vikram and Vetal Story in today’s context. Is our PM culpable for dereliction of his office duty or for direct gain of staying in office by accepting DMK pressure and …..

Once there lived an old and pious man, renowned for his honesty. One day his neighbour, a rich merchant comes to him with a request. The merchant was leaving on a voyage and requested the old man to safeguard his wealth, until his return. The old man agrees and, with God as witness, promises to protect and safeguard the merchants wealth.

The old man then entrusts the safe keep of the merchant’s wealth to his son, from whom also he takes an oath of propriety and honesty. However, slowly the son starts dipping into the merchants wealth, people notice this and warn the old man of the sons misdeeds. The old man calls his son asks him to explain, he also reminds him of his oath on following the right path. The son rubbishes the accusations as rumours and the idle gossip of jealous people, who could bear to see his prosperity. The old man accepts the son’s explanation and things go on as before.

The merchant returns and demands his wealth. The old man calls his son, who hands over a quarter of the merchants wealth saying that is all there was. The merchant realizing that he has been cheated approaches the King. The King listens to the merchant’s complaint and summons the old man. The old man comes to the court with his son and handing him over to the King says, “Your majesty, the merchant is right. My son has confessed to the crime. Please punish him.”

The king has the son flogged and imprisoned. He then praises the old mans honesty and dismisses the case. But the merchant demands punishment for the old man saying, “I have still not received justice. I had entrusted my wealth to the old man which he sworn by God to safeguard. The old man’s integrity is intact, but what of me? I have been robbed of my life’s savings, and made a pauper. It was the old man’s decision to entrust my wealth to the son for safe keeping. As far as I am concerned the old man is the culprit, and should be punished.”

The king is astounded by this demand. The old man, was neither a party to the theft nor did he benefit from it. In fact, he had sent his son to jail. Yet, the merchant was asking for the old man’s punishment.

The Vetal asks Vikramaditya, “What should be the Kings decision?”

Vikramaditya replies, “Though the old man is innocent of the actual theft, he is guilty of ‘dereliction of duty’. The son’s crime was a straight forward one, the old man’s was a graver crime. He did nothing to protect the merchant’s wealth. Far from being vigilant he failed to take action even when he was warned of his son’s misdeeds. Because of his laxity the merchant is condemned to a life of penury. He should be punished.”

Circa 2010, India, Dr. Manmohan Singh, esteemed economist, former Governor of RBI, Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission, former Finance Minister, a man whose personal ethics and integrity are unblemished, takes oath to protect and safeguard the Nation and its assets. He appoints Raja, as his Cabinet Minister for IT & Telecom.

Unlike the story, this heist of a precious national asset is carried out in full view of Dr. Manmohan Singh and his cabinet colleagues. Newspapers across the country, opposition parties cry out at this outrage in front page headlines.

The Indian Constitution grants the Prime Minister absolute power in running the country. He is the head of the Government and the Union Cabinet functions at his pleasure. As per the Transaction of Business Rules the Prime Minister has the unrestricted right to demand and get any file, any record from any Ministry. Dr. Manmohan Singh could have at any time stopped this heist of a National asset, yet he chose to remain silent. The Prime Minister’s failure to exercise his constitutional rights has caused irreparable loss to the Nation and the citizens.

Dr. Singh did not profit personally from Raja’s shenanigans, but his failure to act, to honour the oath of office, to protect and safeguard the nation and its wealth is unforgivable. Like the old man, he has sacked Raja from his ministerial berth, but does his culpability end there?

The people of India had entrusted their faith and the future of the Nation in Dr. Manmohan Singh, believing him to be a man of integrity and honesty, and not to Raja. Does dismissing Raja absolve Dr. Singh or like the old man is he guilty of dereliction of duty and failure to safeguard the Nation and its citizens? Does he deserve punishment?

A big thanks to Mr Rajeev Raje for sharing this story.

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