WHEN HAS THE BUREAUCRACY TREATED PEOPLE WITH RESPECT?
There is pressure from the government officials in Delhi that Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal should apologize for the alleged assault on Chief Secretary Anshu Prakash inside the CM’s residence by Aam Admi Party Members of Legislative Assembly. Two MLAs Prakash Jarwal and Amanatullah Khan have been arrested whereas there has been no action against employees who beat up minister Imran Husain and Delhi Dialogue Commission chairperson Ashish Khetan inside Delhi Secretariat earlier. Quite clearly this is yet another attempt in a series embarked upon by the Central government to discredit the AAP government. It appears that the Bhartiya Janata Party is not able to swallow the comprehensive drubbing it received at the hands of AAP in Delhi elections till now.
It appears that such an unpleasant situation arose because the officials of the Delhi government were not paying heed to the ministers, skipping their meetings and sitting on their files. Lieutenant Governor was requested to intervene as services were a matter in his control but nothing changed. The resulting frustration and a sense of having no control over the bureaucracy probably created an emergency where CS was called to a late night meeting at the CM’s residence. Whatever happened with the CS was unfortunate and should not have happened but the bureaucracy has to introspect why such a situation was created in the first place? The origin of the problem is the supremacy given to the position of LG over the Delhi government which is incongruous in a democracy. Democracy is a rule of the people, by the people and for the people. Who is a more authentic representative of the people – the political executive or the bureaucrats? Unless this anomaly is not corrected the problem in Delhi will persist.
In the present tussle in Delhi the bureaucrats are being painted as victims and the politicians as villain. But let us examine the character of two classes. Politician is there in his/her position for five years and then has to seek reelection if s(he) wants to continue. Bureaucrat holds a permanent position with tremendous immunity. If the benefits enjoyed by the bureaucrats are compared with those of elected representatives a clear imbalance will be seen in favour of bureaucrats. Just compare the housing and the attendant staff given to bureaucrats and elected representatives. While it is easier to meet politicians even at their homes, the bureaucrats normally don’t meet people at home. They always maintain a distance from people. It is much difficult to hold a government official accountable than a politician towards people. Politician gets chance for corruption for limited period whereas government employees are ensconced comfortably benefiting from corruption for longer periods of time. In fact, it is the government officials who have institutionalized corruption. A very elaborate system of commissions in terms of percentages is in place to get work done in the government. It is the bureaucrats who educate the new politicians in positions of power about this. The bureaucrats teach the politicians about how to scuttle rules/laws to manipulate their way or to stall decision making. In fact most of the time bureaucrats are busy (ab)using the system for the powerful against the common people’s interests.
A few examples are, in Uttar Pradesh the government has embarked on an anti-encroachment drive and is demolishing mostly settlements of underprivileged population but it is not touching powerful corporate schools like the City Montessori School which has illegally built a school building against which a demolition order is pending for the last 21 years. The UP government is on a spree having committed more than thousand encounters and killed over 30 alleged criminals since the Yogi government came to power but has not given permission for cases to be tried against Yogi on serious charges of hate speech, attempt to murder and rioting. The then UP CS Alok Ranjan chose to ignore a High Court order in 2015 making it compulsory for officials, ministers and judges receiving salaries from the government to send their children to government schools. He was supposed to file a compliance report within 6 months. The IAS officers, against all democratic norms, want a separate school for their children.
LG Anil Baijal has advised CM to reach out directly to the officer who are protesting and seeking Arvind Kejriwal’s apology in order to resolve the crisis. He has said that the unfortunate incident of alleged misbehaviour and physical assault on the CS’ was ‘unprecedented’ and had had a ‘demoralising effect’ on the bureaucracy. How many times the bureaucrats or magistrates order lathi charge and firing on people where it could be avoided? Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia was of the view that in a democracy a government cannot resort to such extreme measures. Thousands and lakhs of people are left demoralised because of (in)actions of bureaucracy every day in this country. People can be seen sitting on dharnas outside government offices, tehsils, district headquarters and in state and national capitals merely because bureaucrats are not listening to them. Sometimes they have to inflict torture on self by sitting on fast or self immolating themselves just so that they can be heard.
Baijal has also said that in the course of his long career in government he did not recall there being such a wide rift between the elected government and the bureaucracy. Can the LG tell which distance is greater – between a government and bureaucracy in strained times like at present in Delhi, between elected government and people or between bureaucracy and people in normal times?
The CS before attending a meeting of the cabinet after the alleged assault incident, amid heavy police deployment, wrote to the CM that he would attend the meeting based on the assumption that the CM ‘will ensure there there is no physical attack and verbal abuse on the officers.’ Further he said ‘It is hoped that proper decorum will be maintained and dignity of officers will be protected.’ Common people are afraid of police because of the abuse they can be subjected to at their hands. The government officials who will not even offer an empty chair to common people in their offices and humiliate them in every possible way from making them run unnecessarily or seeking bribe to do their genuine work or file false cases to take revenge have a desire to be treated with respect.
As Arvind Kejriwal entered the Secretariat for the cabinet meeting several top officials stood in the lobby wearing black bands as a mark of solidarity with the CS. They have every right to do so in a democracy. But they should also realise that only a CM like Arvind Kejriwal or Mamta Banerjee may allow this. They wouldn’t have dared to do this in front of Narendra Modi or Yogi Adityanath. In UP Bareilly District Magistrate Raghvendra Vikram Singh has been charge-sheeted for merely raising a rational question – why Hindtuva groups raise anti-Pakistan slogans in Muslim localities? More shockingly Ashok Kumar Shukla posted as Sub-Divisional Magistrate in Amethi was reprimanded for simply questioning the marathon meetings at the state capital which seemed unnecessary to him.
By Sandeep Pandey
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