Hostility of the Executive towards the Bureaucracy

The unbridled growth of hostility of the executive towards the bureaucracy has paralysed governance in the last decade. The bureaucracy functions under the law as legislated by the legislature. By acting otherwise or not acting promptly, it invites punitive action. The executive is expected to act similarly, but there is no punitive action in the absence of any discipline, control and appeal rules as prescribed for the bureaucrats. Cases of misbehaviour of ministers towards their officers are aplenty. It ranges from rudeness, roughness, abusiveness, bullying, assault, vilification, cooked up disciplinary cases and open threats. Many have been killed, burnt alive, maimed, emotionally brutalized, driven to desperation and depression, suspended, retired or dismissed. The ground reality is so awful that public service is no more the first career choice of the best brains of the country. Still, recruitment to the public service is through a tough competition and the best of the competitors get the opportunity to enter public service. Once in service, the incumbent comes under the thumb of the executive, which functions outside the realm of the law in matters like law & order, education, health, lower judiciary, trade & industry, employment & livelihood, farming, development schemes, welfare schemes and a whole lot of other services coming under the domain of governance of the respective state or central government. Under the constitutional scheme of public services, there are some services called The All India Services, which are cadre controlled by the central government but serve in both the states and the centre. Such services are allotted their State Cadres. They serve the states at sub district, district, divisional, state headquarter and are regularly deputed to the centre to man the posts under the central government. The Constitution protects the officers under the provisions of Articles 309 through 311.

The state governments find the provincial service officers comparatively more convenient to do their unlawful biddings, which the All India Services Officers might resist. The state governments have completed the enslavement of the provincial services, but find inconvenient officers from the all India services defying their dictates and throwing the rule book in to their face. To intimidate such officers, grave hostility is displayed by the executive in the states. Officers have been harassed and traumatized by the unlawful activities of the ministers, Members of Parliament/Assemblies at whose behest the ministers pull up officers for doing their lawful duty. Ministers have thrown all norms of constitutional conduct and go public berating, bullying and condemning officers. The officers find themselves in pitiable condition, embarrassed greatly and isolated. The politician has perfected the craft of leveling such baseless charges that the officer is dumfounded. Expecting a pat for the good job done, she is shunted from place to place on transfers coming every fortnight, leaving her without monthly salary due to non receipt of LPC (Last Pay Certificate) from the earlier office by the new place of posting. Children’s education suffers and one finds herself in deep distress not being able to pay for the trips to be made on transfer from one place to another. The Minister, Chief Minister and their minions are elated at this plight of the officers, whom they feared till before her transfer for being too honest for them to tolerate!

We have grown to tolerate more than such perversion of democracy and the rule of law in the last decade. While it has completely inured the politician to such things happening everyday and taken as normal by his class, the civil society at times revolts at such patently unlawful activities. The public outrage at the suspension of a Sub Divisional Magistrate of Noida in Uttar Pradesh has stirred even the press and the media. Her fault was that she carried out instructions of the competent authority to stop illegal mining of sand from the Yamuna river bed. This illegal activity is taking place under the patronage of the party in power. It clocks a turnover in excess of a million of rupees a day! Such operations are carried out in a very well planned manner. Any officer attempting to stop it is inviting trouble. What the SDM NOIDA, Ms Durga Shakti Nagpal, did was exactly this. She confiscated dozens of trucks, dumpers and tractors loaded with illegally mined sand. She hurt the business interests of the powerful political mafia. She was to be removed. Her suspension was secured by the sand mafia. How did it succeed is revealed hereafter. The mafia was waiting to strike and devised a plan. The notorious politician of the area laid the foundation stone of a mosque on a piece of government land without getting any permission (normally it is the faithful only who do that. But such non-faithful liberally throw Iftaar parties during Ramzan, at government expense, where the invited muslims don’t number more than a dozen but party workers enjoy the feast. The food is ordered from government hotels and bills remain unpaid for ever). They ensured that the SDM Durga Shakti Nagpal is sent to stop the illegal construction. She was intelligent enough to understand the game. Instead of demolishing the illegally raised wall, she persuaded the villagers to voluntarily stop illegal construction and go about it in the prescribed manner. The villagers saw through the game of the politician and pulled down the illegally constructed wall. Durga Shakti Nagpal’s suspension attracted public and media criticism and the Chief Minister and the state government found itself in a spot. The politician roared that he got Durga Shakti suspended in just 41 minutes! When the state government failed to clarify why Ms Nagpal was suspended, the politician provided the material and the state government blamed Ms Nagpal of “demolishing” the wall of a mosque during Ramzan vitiating communal harmony.  The politician was quick to deliver a speech taking credit for suspension of Ms Nagpal and said when the masjid became “shaheed”(martyr), expression provoking enough to stoke communal riots.  The political class has mastered the art of crafting their hate speeches! Nobody buys such feeble justification. Visuals on TV screens exposed the lie of the chief minister and the state machinery. This is the story of an officer from the highest civil service of India, serving the people in the countryside (villages largely). Ms Nagpal joins the breed of other honest officers like Khemka and Chaturvedi of Haryana cadre, who have suffered more than Ms Nagpal for honestly performing their lawful duty. There is no respite for such officers, excepting the courts. But the question is: does a person join public service to fight her service matters in the court from early days of her service till retirement, removal or death?

There is another story. It relates to a popular columnist, Ms Shobhaa De. Ms De is a satirist, humourist and columnist. She spares none- whosoever comes on her radar gets an acid shower of some kind. She tweeted some innocuous thing that has been converted into a ferocious political tornado by the politicians in Mumbai- the financial capital of India. The politician there has found it enraging and grossly offending. Ms De is, for the first time, confounded! She has experienced what it means to come under tons of bricks suddenly. She is completely shaken by the barrage of invectives flowing from the unrestrained tongues of the politicians, even though she has been trying to put up a brave face and keep her composure. It needs to be mentioned for the simple reason that she represents the elite journalist cosmopolitan class living in the environs of an important financial capital of the world. She is in a totally different milieu than Ms Durga Shakti Nagpal, but both are in similar mess ( we may even call it soup).

Before proceeding further, I would like to refer to a brilliant analysis of the prevailing situation in Pakistan by  Khaled Ahmed, consulting editor with “Newsweek”. His article published in the Indian Express last week under the title “The Abbottabad Omissions”, presents the two sides of the contemporary Pakistan- the one that subscribes to the Urdu press and the other that relies for facts on the English press. There are two Pakistan and there is little possibility of the two ever coming to a consensus on issues of national importance. Ms Nagpal works in an environment different from Ms De exactly similarly. The politician succeeds in the states to act arbitrary and trash constitutional niceties only because he uses the local language to suck the gullible masses. His hold on the masses is powerful. He will not let go of the masses easily even if thousands of Ms Nagpals are suspended, punished or destroyed. He will convince his followers of everything he has done as only in their interests. With money and muscle power, his grip on the people will remain tight. Does it matter if a Shobhaa De arraigns them or writes lividly about them in English. Had Ms De written in local language(s), she would have understood the conduct  of the politicians in her state better rather than expressing surprise at the reactions on her tweet. But I see something more in these two ends of the pendulum, treating even Shobhaa De as another kind of a bureaucrat- the pen wielding bureaucracy. It is the hostility of the executive towards both the bureaucracies that is becoming more and more pronounced by the day, which has resulted in loss of good government. The executive is in a dominant position and its acts of hostility cause mass distress. The people rightly expect sociality among all the wings of the government, but the estrangement is proving costly, especially in the globalized interconnected world of today.

I propose to borrow two coinages from The Future by Al Gore: World Inc. and Global Mind. Politics in India is akin to Al Gore’s World Inc., a big corporate company, delivering political services of all kinds, from bringing crowds to rioting, arson, massacre, electioneering, government formation and running etc. It has its own rhetoric, jargon and language that it has crafted to indoctrinate its followers. There is one mind of the whole mass, something akin to the Global Mind, as the politician is also internet savvy and puts to best use the internet, with its beneficial and destructive powers.  The scientists are still experimenting with replacement of memory in mice, our politicians have already perfected the craft. Their Global Mind power has converted their followers into robots (robos)with memory chips inserted by the leader. They have simply to activate these robos, in no time they create mass scale riots, arson or other kinds of trouble. These robos are powered by the crygonenic engines of “communal or minority” visions chipped into their memory by the Mind of the leader. These are real threats and even the Prime Ministers of India have tended to side step them. Any attempt by the Durga Shaktis or Shobhaa Des to bring about the slightest change in the minds of the masses, which are captivated by the mind of their leader, is futile. While the central government works through the English language, the state government (28 presently, likely to be 29 sooner) functions in the local language. Enough opportunity for them to widen the chasm with the central government under the pretext of discrimination in releasing financial assistance, plan funds, central schemes, projects, programmes and institutions. In poor India, such theories sell fast. We hate people longer than we love them. Neighbours till yesterday are enemies today. Violence suddenly becomes the credo. The loudest shouter and hate monger becomes the leader. Expecting sociality from an executive of such leaders is day dreaming. The do what they are best at: hostility.

So, irrespective of whether it is a civil servant guarding the public property or the police officer bringing the criminal to justice or the forest officer protecting the forest wealth or the doctor delivering  commendable medical and health services or a teacher doing justice with his students, the executive shows its displeasure for no rhyme or reason. Democracy is not safe in such hands!

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