Any hard and fast rule for protocol?

Any hard and fast rule for protocol?
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Highlights

In the recent past, a section of media and few politicians are abuzz with news that when Telangana Governor visited Sammakka Sarakka tribal event and later Yadagirigutta temple and subsequently Bhadrachalam, due protocol was not accorded to her in receiving her properly.

In the recent past, a section of media and few politicians are abuzz with news that when Telangana Governor visited Sammakka Sarakka tribal event and later Yadagirigutta temple and subsequently Bhadrachalam, due protocol was not accorded to her in receiving her properly.

Some even attributed these happenings to the so-called strained relations between the Governor and the Chief Minister. The Governor also met the Prime Minister and the Union Home Minister and apparently apprised them of the developments in the state, including protocol violations by the government. The Governor even addressed media after she met them.

Notwithstanding all this, the Chief Minister maintained stoic silence on Governor's comments and even at the TRS plenary, though he mentioned what the other Governors are doing, he did not take her name which speaks of his ethos.

It may not be out of context if it is pointed out here that Kumud Ben Joshi was the Governor of the united Andhra Pradesh from 26 November 1985 to 7 February 1990. She was the second female Governor of the state after Sharda Mukherjee. Soon after taking charge, she travelled to all the state's 23 districts and often outside, to create a record of sorts. It was recorded that between 26 November 1985 and 30 September 1987, she travelled to the districts on 108 occasions and outside the state 22 times.

What protocol arrangements were made to her at that time by the then NTR Government is an open book. At least she never openly complained. Notwithstanding all that, she concentrated more on social and rural developmental activities through non-governmental organizations headed by her such as Red Cross Society, Chetana and National Institution of Social Action ably assisted by individuals with commitment from different walks of life. Flood relief measures, monsoon shelters construction, strengthening of Red Cross blood banks, tree plantation, rehabilitation of Joginis, computer training programme were some of the activities Kumud Ben Joshi had taken up through the voluntary organizations which became popular during her tenure.

A protocol is a rule or a convention followed all over the globe, which describes how an activity should be performed and relationship has to be cordially maintained by the stakeholders involved. It is the decorum of maintaining healthy relations and affairs among functionaries of high precedence. It creates a welcoming environment for people conducting business and diplomacy. With the proper protocol in place, cross-cultural relationships can be built with confidence and without confusion or wondering who does what, when.

In what is construed to be a gross protocol violation and an unhealthy unprecedented precedence, Prime Minister's Office informed Telangana Chief Secretary's Office that Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao need not be present at the airport to receive Prime Minister Narendra Modi during one of his official visits to Hyderabad a few months ago to take stock of progress of 'Covaxin' being developed by Bharat Biotech Company. At least media reported so. On hearing the tour programme of Prime Minister, Telangana CMO and Telangana State government promptly informed the PMO that the Chief Minister would be receiving Modi at the airport. It was nothing but giving a go-by to established protocol and practices. Despite this, the Chief Minister's office seems to have not registered a complaint or protest with PMO.

The visit by the PM to Bharat Biotech facility without accompanying the CM has raised several eyebrows then. How can the PM defy the protocol and ignore the CM? Even for a small official function in a village, local Sarpanch is invited. Moreover, while reviewing the availability of the vaccine for Covid, the PM should have asked the CM and Health Ministers and other officials concerned to accompany him. Imagine the CM of the state where the vaccine is developed having no clue on what transpired between the PM and the scientists at the Pharma facility. Can the CM be kept in darkness about such an important matter? Is it in tune with the great democratic legacy our country is proud of?

It is an established practice in our country since Independence that the official visit of the elected representatives from the Prime Minister to the Village sarpanch will follow certain well laid-down procedures. In every state government and the government at the Centre, a special department will take care of the protocol matters.

Ever since the BJP-led NDA government came to power at the Centre, all the basic norms, laid down procedures are given a go-by and whatever the PM decides is followed diligently. According to media reports, Prime Minister addressed the nation announcing the demonetisation in the middle of the night keeping all his Cabinet colleagues in dark denying them even mobile access to them till he finished his address.

The case was no difference when the Article 370 was abrogated. The Cabinet ministers, MPs were all kept in dark till the Ordinance got the assent of the President. Of course, one can understand the need to do so by PM as a matter of convenience and probably in the interest of Nation.

Such practices which are contrary to parliamentary democratic spirit are indicative of scant respect to the cooperative federalism of this country. If these practices continue unabated, then the cooperative federalism concept would be on the verge to collapse. There are umpteen occasions where the Union Ministers, key officials are not taken into confidence while making key decisions according to media reports. Does this mean that the country is governed by the decisions of a single individual? Where did the collective responsibility of the Cabinet or the federal spirit of our Constitution go?

Are we in a parliamentary democracy run by a union Cabinet or are we under the rule of an individual? Unfortunately, people are not reacting to such wider violations, which have become an order of the day? People are now habituated to react to non-issues or the mythical things that may or may not have happened in the history.

The people have been brainwashed into indulging in a scripted narrative than to express their feelings, views, and opinions on burning issues that are engulfing our country. People in Telangana are well-mannered and known for their courtesies, Tehzeeb. Hence, they did not react the way they should when their own CM is taken for granted.

Just for academic interest, we may recall that the Uttar Pradesh legislature in 2016 deferred the implementation of a set of protocol guidelines issued by the President's office for receiving Governor Ram Naik during the joint session of the state legislature. The new guidelines are meant for all states, and need to be accorded to state Governors. The objections of the UP legislature have been sent to Raj Bhawan, from where they have been forwarded to the President's office. Hence, there seems to be no hard and fast rule or convention in observing protocol in India.

Notwithstanding all this, is there any standard protocol arrangement adhered to by Union Government like nominating a standard designated protocol officer to receive visiting Chief Ministers to New Delhi on official work to meet the Prime Minister or other Union Ministers? Why not?

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