An Unintelligent Bureau
How about leaking secret reports on godmen, ind­u­st­r­ialists, smuggling, corruption in the bureaucracy?

It was the Emergency which made many of us aware of the existence of the Intelligence Bureau. The smiling young man visiting our newspaper office claimed to be new to Ranchi and was delightfully vague about the work he did. He was a clerk pushing files and researching on innocuous subjects like mining and the Jharkhand movement etc, he said. But strangely, he kept asking questions about Sudip Mazumdar, an ex-colleague who’d shifted to Delhi and later was Newsweek’s correspondent in India.

People spoke very highly of Mazumdar, our new acqua­i­n­tance told us and asked how closely we knew him. When he persisted with this line of inquiry, we looked at each other and clammed up. After the visitor left, we decided to send an office boy on a scooter to follow him. The boy returned to tell us that the visitor had gone inside a double-storeyed bungalow opposite the Deputy Comm­i­ssioner’s residence. There were no boa­rds but it was a government office, judging by the number of scooters and motorcycles parked inside. It took very little time to discover that it was the local IB office.


“We know it all…we report it all, but who in New Delhi has the patience to read them?” an IB man told me.

Worried, we tried to send word to Mazumdar in Delhi. Sympathetic to both the Naxals and Jharkhand activists, we concluded he must be in trouble though he was at the time covering universities for a daily. The penny finally dropped when we learnt that he had got married to the daughter of P.N. Haksar, an aide of the prime minister. The IB was being used by Mr Haksar to find out details about his ‘accidental’ son-in-law.

The IB, one suspects, continues to render similar services to people and politicians in power. During the mass exodus from then East Pakistan before the 1971 war, the IB helped several families in West Bengal and Tripura get informat­ion about friends and relatives caught in the turmoil. It’s certainly networked enough to collect all information deemed useful by the establishment. But while there’s little doubt about the vol­­ume of its reports, the quality fluctuates wildly depe­nd­ing on who in the hierarchy com­missions them. IB officials, however, believe their rep­­o­rts are rarely read. I learnt it when a senior IB official turned up at home with a prior appointment. He wanted to quiz this columnist on some reports on corruption thriving in the coalfield. After the session, I expr­es­sed my disbelief that the IB did not know what was common knowledge and what I could see for myself on a short visit to the coalfield. “We know it all…we report it all but who in Delhi has the patience to read them?” was his weary reply. Then why the fuss of talking to me, I asked. “Som­e­b­ody’s attention was drawn to your reports…orders came to get the unreported stuff,” he added with a wry smile.

The IB must have a wealth of details on godmen, ind­u­st­r­ialists, smuggling, corruption in the bureaucracy etc. These should be more fun than ‘secret’ reports on NGOs. Per­haps the PMO could do some spring cleaning, release them in the public domain. Or maybe leak them.

Uttam Sengupta is Deputy Editor, Outlook; E-mail your columnist: sengupta [AT] outlookindia [DOT] com


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