The Rs 20,000-crore irrigation scam has not only dragged Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar into a controversy and made the NCP leader put in his papers, but also jolted the government enough to fish out the files on corruption cases against 80 bureaucrats and several ministers from where they lay gathering dust in Mantralaya all these days.

Taking the first step in what is a long process, the Home Department on Wednesday sought details from the Anti-Corruption Bureau of the corruption cases against the babus and ministers that are awaiting the mandatory government nod for further investigation.

These files were tabled before the government on several occasions in the past. Timely reminders were also sent. Yet, bureaucratic red tape ensured the files did not progress an inch in 10 years. A corruption case against the late CM Vilasrao Deshmukh is still awaiting government approval.

Even as investigations remained at a standstill, the babus concerned continued to enjoy plum postings.

It is also important to note that corrupt babus do not attract as much public attention as corrupt politicians. Unlike the politician, who is always in the public glare and has many enemies and competitors within and outside his party, the corrupt bureaucrat remains protected by his political masters. While the politician is always guarding his image to safeguard his vote bank, the corrupt bureaucrat is fearless as he does not have to face the public at large and is not worried about winning elections to remain in the job. Between the two, it is the bureaucrat who is the bigger traitor and India needs an effective mechanism to bring him to book.

The time has come for the government to take stern measures. Those found guilty should be treated as criminals, and suspended without pay for a significant period, at the least. Only such steps will deter others from taking undue advantage of their position and power.