Deeply apprehensive of a near-certain change of political bosses after an uninterrupted reign of 34 years, a deep churning is sweeping across the ubiquitous babudom.
Having spent almost their entire state civil service career since 1977 under Left parties' ministers and cohorts, all officers right from the secretaries, joint, special and deputy secretaries, section officers, district magistrates, additional district magistrates, subdivisional officers, superintendents of police and subdivisional police officers down to circle officers and inspectors are in turmoil. They are trying hard to prepare to come to terms with a new set of rulers, who hold diametrically opposite views and have an even more queer style of functioning. It is an agonising wait, as election processes bar transfers.
While all private secretaries of 44-odd ministers and assembly chief whip belonging to the 1767-strong state civil services including a few superannuated and reemployed ones have mentally reconciled to losing their coveted posts, dozens of special and deputy secretaries presently overdue for retirement see little hope of retaining their chairs after the polls.
But there are also quite a few who, as a joint secretary has put it, usurped crumbs of power often by unsavoury means and were amongst 'ministers' preferential quota beneficiaries and a politicised administration' have little alternative than to wait with trepidation. Also under a cloud are some joint and special secretaries once accused of moral turpitude and corruption, but later wriggled out of the jaws of Vigilance Commission and departmental proceedings by ingratiating themselves to extra-constitutional powers.
Admitting that all tainted officials deserved a fair trial under a new transparent administration, a top bureaucrat recalled that after chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee exhorted civil servants in September 2001 to expose corruption, a deputy secretary in the public health engineering department shot off a letter to the then departmental secretary and chief secretary in May 13, 2002, alleging corruption.
But it was a cry in the wilderness. But if an all-pervasive 'fear of unknown' has gripped babudom, many intrepid ones notwithstanding their past wandering ways have begun earnestly brushing up their administrative skills and knowledge in the hope of striking up a rapport with the new set.