Congratulations on becoming the youngest chief minister in the country. Encouraged by your call for good governance, I am prompted to write this letter to you. I am a bureaucrat who has witnessed various governments fail or succeed for the last 30 years. No single person can succeed in the agenda of good governance unless the entire bureaucracy is motivated by him.
I do expect that you will not take any major decision till such time that you understand its pros and cons. I would admire you if you can be a good listener. Bureaucrats have good ideas if you care to listen to them. It would be good if you can call meetings of each department and allow bureaucrats to explain to you the problems and suggest possible solutions. Apart from giving you an idea about the issues of governance, this will give you a chance to understand the strengths and limitations, which can help you to find the right person for the right job.
I also hope you will not be issuing ‘mass transfer’ orders. Your advisers may want some people to be taught a lesson, particularly those branded close to the previous government. We bureaucrats do not have any political colours. Some of us do tend to become very close to political powers out of self-interest. But they quickly distance themselves from such associations when the power-centre changes. What transfer does is remove dirt from one department to another. But no department is less important if good governance is the aim.
You may decide to put me in industry, urban development or the social welfare department. But having placed me there, please do allow me at least three to five years to perform. I am not a magician who can be effective in six months. I need time to understand my new job before I can initiate new strategies and start delivering results. I need to be assured by you openly that unless I do something terribly wrong, I will stay in one job for at least three years.
I must confess that as bureaucrats, we are very sensitive to signals we get from the powers that be. If I see that an honest bureaucrat is being punished without any apparent fault just because he did not oblige a minister or an MLA, I will understand that there is no point in being objective. I will adjust my working style. But governance will suffer. This will mean that anyone who wants to get his right or wrong work done will have to approach a political person who would be busy obliging a few people. But most people who do not have such access will suffer.
I am sure you would like to contain corruption in UP. It won’t happen if you keep on admonishing us to stop corruption. If out of your self-interest, you or your ministers insist on a decision that is strictly not in accordance with the rules or which is prejudicial to the financial interest of the state, a bureaucrat will understand it as a signal for him as well to make money out of such violations. Honesty has to be maintained at the highest level before you have a crackdown on corrupt officers.
Can I make one more request to you? Can you please ask your ministers to behave properly with us? They must remember that if you want to get honey you cannot kick the beehive. Bureaucrats can help you show a good report card to people after five years or they can be a big stumbling block in your progress. You are free to instruct us to execute the policies of the government. But please do so respectfully in an atmosphere of trust rather than distrust. Let your ministers be firm but polite.
Finally, you should be more accessible to people and to us as compared to the previous incumbents. It is a mockery of good governance if the chief secretary of the state has to wait for days before getting an appointment to meet the CM. I do hope that since you have won with a comfortable margin, you will now be relatively free from political activities and fully available to attend to governance.
(A UP bureaucrat Hasmukh Adhia is an IAS officer of Gujarat)
The views expressed by the author are personal