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How on earth did this happen to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)? A young girl who said she wanted to be a cop when she grew up was severely reprimanded by her dad. “Do you want to end up like Asthana uncle or Verma uncle?" he told her. A mother who used to make her three-year-old son go to sleep by scaring him with the CBI bogey says it’s no longer working. “He stays up till midnight watching TV and when I tell him the CBI will come and take him away, he laughs and tells me Nageshwar uncle has no powers to make policy decisions," she said.

But is this really a true picture? How could a decisive government allow things to drift so much? What is the inside story? To find that out, I turned to a dubious insider.

“Have you heard the phrase ‘Quis custodiet ipsos custodies’?" asked the insider. I said I didn’t know Mongolian. “It’s Latin," he said, “and basically means, ‘Who will watch the chowkidar’?’’ The shady one said what worried the political top brass was how to stamp out corruption in the top investigative agencies.

“How do we ensure that the cops, those who are called upon to catch fraudsters, are themselves above board?" said the insider.

The political bosses thought long and hard about the problem, burnt the midnight oil, scratched their beards and then came up with a brilliant solution. “The idea was to encourage every cop to level allegations against every other cop. That way, they would keep tabs on each other and any rot within the organization would be exposed," said the insider. That was the best way to ensure transparency and good governance within the organization, he asserted.

“We called it Operation Sherlock," he said. “You see, sher means tiger in Hindi and the idea was to lock up the corrupt tigers among the cops." But Sherlock could also mean Sherlock Holmes, the great detective.

“It took us years to come up with such a classy name, which is why the operation got delayed," he said. He added the latest idea was to have a “He-Too" movement in all police departments, where cops could complain about corrupt deals by other cops.

“That is why you now see a spate of accusations in the CBI. It’s all part of Swachh Bharat," he explained. “Gosh," I said, “What a wonderful plan!" The insider thanked me, but said his name was Ghosh, not Gosh.

But surely the CBI is a caged parrot rather than a tiger? A person with special knowledge of the matter said the learned lordship who coined that phrase had made an honourable mistake. “His lordship thought he was dealing with the CPI so he called it the ‘Caged Parrot of India’."

But he was actually dealing with the CBI, which is the ‘Caged Bloodhound of India’," the insider said. He denied it could also mean the ‘Caged Baboon of India’, but reluctantly agreed it could be the ‘Caged Bandicoot’ instead.

Be that as it may, the public must know that Operation Sherlock is widely appreciated. The ministry of corporate affairs is reportedly debating whether to make it mandatory to have squabbling chairmen and directors on every board. “That way, all the dirty linen would be washed in public and we would have maximum transparency," said a corporate lawyer, rubbing his hands gleefully.

Foreign agencies are very impressed, with a member of Trump’s team saying it was just what was needed for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Italian government was in such a tearing hurry to appropriate the CBI initials they renamed their investigative agency the Criminal Bureau of Italy, until somebody pointed out that was the Mafia.

Other government departments are envious of all the publicity the CBI is getting. “Why can’t Moin Qureshi hobnob with our bosses too?" murmured an Intelligence Bureau official plaintively. He said that would open up promotion opportunities for juniors.

The entire country, especially stand-up comedians, are eagerly waiting for this unique governance model to be extended across all departments and ministries. As Will Rogers said, “It’s easy being a humourist when you’ve got the whole government working for you."

Manas Chakravarty looks at trends and issues in the financial markets. Respond to this column at

To read more articles by Manas Chakravarty, click here

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