President Pranab Mukherjee showed etiquette, which most of our state bureaucrats did not, as the first citizen of India rounded-off his two-day trip to the state in Patna on Thursday.
As civil servants attending formal functions hosted in honour of the President, the minimum expected of them was that they followed their prescribed dress code.
Gentlemen officers,as they are referred to, have to wear either buttoned up coat (read bundgala), trouser and leather shoe or sherwani with pyjama. Lady officers require to be appropriately draped, preferably in silk saree; and men in uniformed services (police and defence) in their full attire.
On Thursday, however, propriety expected of civil servants was amiss as most officers in the rank of secretary and principal secretary, came to the function at Raj Bhawan in honour of the President just dressed as casually as they do to office.
Bihar bureaucrats stood in stark contrast to the President himself, who was clad in a black bundgalla, trouser and black pair of shoes. Even the presidential entourage of eight defence personnel was in full uniform.
On the state side, even as governor Devanand Konwar wore a bundgala, chief minister Nitish Kumar and deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi sported buttoned up bundis, there were only a few officers to match up.
Barring some officers, including chief secretary AK Sinha, principal secretary to governor Afzal Amanullah, agriculture production commissioner Alok Sinha and principal secretary animal husbandry and fisheries development department, Shashi Shekhar Sharma, not many were spotted in the appropriate wear.
While chief secretary Sinha sported a cream colour bundgalla, principal secretary to the chief minister, Anjani Kumar Singh, who, too, was invited to the state banquet, was in a casual green colour half-sleeve shirt and trouser.
Interestingly, some senior police officers, including the director-general of police (DGP), Bihar, Abhayanand, were in civvies. The police brass was clad in coat, tie and trousers, even as retired DGP Neelmani, who is now a member of the Bihar human rights commission (BHRC), was in bundgalla, just as its chairperson Justice (retd) SN Jha and advocate general Ram Balak Mahto.
Deputy director general of the zonal recruiting office of the Indian Army at Danapur, Brigadier PM Rath, who attended the state banquet, was in full uniform. However, Col Pravin Kumar, who attended the function at Rajendra Mandap, an auditorium, which the President inaugurated at the Raj Bhawan, was in civvies.
When HT contacted Col Kumar, he refused to speak, saying: "Please pardon me from speaking on the subject. I cannot." Brig Rath could not be contacted. Some senior officers, requesting anonymity, said: "The invite from the Raj Bhawan did not specify about the dress code. On seeking verbal clarification from the Raj Bhawan, we were told that the dress code was 'informal' for officers other than those attending the state banquet."
A senior Raj Bhawan officer, however, told HT: "Any official function hosted in honour of the President is a formal affair and for government servants, nothing can be bigger than this. It was implied that officers invited to the function come in ceremonial dress."
But then, common sense is not common!