Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end. These lines could very well prove to be true in the Durga Shakti Nagpal case. Two months after the Gautam Budh Nagar sub-divisional magistrate was suspended for allegedly ordering the demolition of a wall surrounding a mosque in the district and thereby ‘endangering communal harmony’, the Uttar Pradesh government on September 22 revoked her suspension the day after Ms Nagpal called on chief minister Akhilesh Yadav and apologised for her ‘mistakes’. But the UP government’s one-line official statement on the revocation of her suspension has raised more questions than it has answered: what were her ‘mistakes’ and the reasons for her suspension?
Statements, like the one made by SP leader Narendra Singh Bhati that he got Ms Nagpal suspended in “41 minutes”, proved that her suspension was not just an administrative but a political decision. Now that her suspension has been revoked, the state government must come clean on why such action was taken against her even when her immediate boss, the district magistrate gave her a clean chit. And if Ms Nagpal was not found guilty, then why did she have to apologise? Instead of reinstating her without any clarification on why she was suspended, the state government should have waited for the completion of the departmental inquiry against her. This, incidentally, was closed two days after she was reinstated.
Ms Nagpal, who has now been posted as joint magistrate of Kanpur (rural), is not the first to bear the brunt for not toeing the line of politicians. But her suspension on questionable grounds triggered a nation-wide debate on the need to insulate the bureaucracy from political influences. In fact, every time there is a regime change in UP, there are large-scale transfers of IAS and IPS officers, which are politically motivated. Her apology for ‘mistakes’, which many believe she did not commit, will demoralise young IAS aspirants and serving officers. For the sake of a clean system of governance, there is a need to continue that debate about insulating the bureaucracy.