Home > 2018 > When has the Bureaucracy treated People with Respect?

Mainstream, VOL LVI No 12 New Delhi March 10, 2018

When has the Bureaucracy treated People with Respect?

Monday 12 March 2018, by Sandeep Pandey

There is pressure from the government officials in Delhi that Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal should apologise for the alleged assault on Chief Secretary Anshu Prakash inside the CM’s residence by Aam Admi Party Members of the Legislative Assembly. Two MLAs, Prakash Jarwal and Amanatullah Khan, have been arrested whereas there has been no action against the employees who beat up Minister Imran Husain and Delhi Dialogue Commission chairperson Ashish Khetan inside the 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 Bharatiya Janata Party is not able to swallow the comprehensive drubbing it received at the hands of the AAP in the 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. The 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 the 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 the 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 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 the two classes. The politician is there in his/her position for five years and then has to seek re-election if s(he) wants to continue. The 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 the of bureaucrats. Just compare the housing and attendant staff given to the 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 the people. It is much difficult to hold a government official accountable than a politician to the people. The politician gets a chance for corruption for a limited period whereas government employees are ensconced comfortably benefitting from corruption for longer periods of time. In fact, it is the government officials who have institutionalised corruption. A very elaborate system of commissions in terms of precentages is in place to get the 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 stall decision-making. In fact most of the time the 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 the underprivileged population but it is not touching the 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 six months. The IAS officers, against all democratic norms, want a separate school for their children.

LG Anil Baijal has advised the CM to reach out directly to the officers 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 ‘unprecendented’ 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 Rammanohar 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 their self by sitting on fast or self-immolating themselves so that they can just 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 asumption that the CM ‘will ensure 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 the 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 the 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 Mamata 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 chargesheeted for merely raising a rational question—why do the Hindtuva groups raise anti-Pakistan slogans in Muslim localities? More shockingly, Ashok Kumar Shukla, posted as a Sub-Divisional Magistrate in Amethi, was reprimanded for simply questioning the marathon meetings at the State capital which seemed unnecessary to him.

Noted social activist and Magsaysay awardee Dr Sandeep Pandey is the Vice-President of the Socialist Party (India). He was elected to this post at the founding conference of the party at Hyderabad on May 28-29, 2011.

ISSN : 0542-1462 / RNI No. : 7064/62