IAS must perform or perish

IAS must perform or perish

Civil servants must give serious thought to determining what action needs to be taken collectively to remove administrative deficiencies, expose...

Civil servants must give serious thought to determining what action needs to be taken collectively to remove administrative deficiencies, expose political malfunctioning and restore the system Poonam I Kaushish Siashow me the face I will show you the rule, a succinct maxim for bureaucrats, which translates into grease my palms else I will read you the riot act and how! Clearly, the sheer force of Newton's First Law of Inertia leaves one's pocket not only lighter but you a raging bull! Not any more if Parliament enacts the Right of Citizens for Time-Bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of their Grievances Bill, 2011," passed by the Union Cabinet Thursday last, whereby failure in delivering services like passport issue, birth-death certificates, pension payment, gas connection, ration card, property registration et al. would invite a penalty of Rs.250 per day to a maximum of Rs.50, 000 and non-performing officers could face prosecution. Alongside every public authority would have to publish a citizen's charter, services offered and the corresponding time in which it would be delivered. Questionably, once the Bill turns into reality, will it bring greater transparency in administration, especially in departments where citizens have a direct interface with various Government agencies? Would it prove more effective in tackling corruption than the proposed anti-graft Lokpal Bill? Will the babus have the courage to correct themselves and overcome red tape? Yes and no. True, on the face of it the penalty will propel the babu to act but having tasted blood it would be difficult for him to shed ghooskhori. Given the state that almost everything � from roads to schools to hospitals to sanitation to the power grid works on the greasing palms principle. All it takes is showing an obscure rule or trying to interpret a law by the placement of a 'comma'. Ulta Pradesh today represents the ugly truism of India's executive and administrative system gone horribly wrong. Encapsulated by none other that Public Works Minister Shivpal Yadav and Chief Minister Akhilesh's uncle, "Maine to usi din PWD walo se khule aam keh diya tha agar mehnat karoge to thodi bahut chori kar sakte ho, dakaiti nahi daloge." ("I have told PWD people if you work hard, you can steal little, but don't behave like dacoits.) Bringing us face to face with one revolting reality, the neta-babu nexus is so wide and perfected to the T that both working in tandem to mutual advantage. Wherein, every change of political guard babudom goes through an upheaval of transfers. Powerful and lucrative slots are given to the chamchas who kow-tow their mai-baaps and get promoted speedily without any regard to seniority or merit but also join the politician in looting the country. Rooted in the firm belief that, like their masters, they are a law unto themselves. Over the years, they have become used to dispensing patronage and many like the colour of money. Resulting in no accountability, no fear of removal arrogantly earning big pay packets for non-productive work. Consequently, most civil servants have little interest in taking any initiative or have any commitment to serve the people. Worse, instead of putting the right man in the right job, the neta invariably ends up in choosing a wrong man for the right job for the wrong reasons. Brining matters to such a pass that caste, corruption, chamchagiri pliability and political connections alone count when it comes to promotions. The political identification of officials is becoming so marked that the bureaucracy is able to predict as to who will occupy which top post, if 'X', 'Y' or 'Z' Party or individual comes to power! This treacherous nexus lucidly portrayed in the 1995 Vohra Committee report sadly continues to gather dust. More scandalous, bureaucrats cornered over Rs.92, 122 crore or 1.26% of the GDP, through corruption which is growing annually by over 100%. Scathing in its comments the CAG's 2010 report averred "India is a rich country filled with poor people. With corrupt officials making them even poorer." Another 2009 survey of 10 leading Asian economies revealed that Indian babudom is not only least efficient but also working with them was a "slow and painful" process. Thanks to deliberate scarcity of goods and services, red tapism, delay, lack of transparency, notwithstanding the Right to Information Act. Clearly, a Bill can only do so much. The Government has to break the neta-babu nexus. Each transfer order should be justified on paper. If babus are constantly looking over their shoulders in fear of being booted out to some backwater, they will turn into craven servants of netas, rather than working for public purpose. Also our leaders must introduce a system of lateral entry of people from the private sector who wish to work for public good as in the US. One Nandan Nikelani or Raghuram Rajan is not enough. Simultaneously, serious thought should be given to ushering in a qualitative change in the bureaucracy. Till we have better people, with good educational qualifications, wider exposure and sound moral values, nothing can change at the ground level. It is not for nothing that the West lays great emphasis on background, upbringing, and education. Alternatively, one would need to take recourse to a reportedly extreme Chinese measure. Every year an example is set by "eliminating" the corrupt. All it takes is one single bullet. What kind of a system of governance then lies ahead? The Government needs to completely overhaul and revamp most of the rules, regulations and laws governing the functioning of businesses and economy. Many of which are archaic and opaque, based on suppression of economic freedom and discourage entrepreneurship. Also, instead of waiting for revelations through RTI queries, our rulers must work towards making the Government more open, transparent and voluntarily put out information about its functioning in the public domain. This change could help bring a sea-change in the aam aadmi-babu inter-action. A fallout would be less corruption. This scourge can be curbed only when the powers-that-be realize that inaction is not indivisible. In other words, to curb inertia measures have to be taken that encompass the entire spectrum of the State --- the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. Just as one swallow does not make a summer, similarly focusing on babus alone and enacting laws for them will not stop corrupt practices. Cleaning-up has to start from the top, embrace the entire polity and percolate down. Time to hark back to Lok Nayak Jayaprakash Narayan's wise emphasis on "total revolution" to combat sleaze. � INFA
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