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Guest column: Wrong precedent by bureaucrats

punjab Updated: Jan 02, 2016 00:38 IST
Delhi Andaman and Nicobar Island Civil Services

Two officers, special secretary (prisons) Subash Chandra and special secretary (prosecution) Yashpal Garg from DANICS (Delhi Andaman and Nicobar Island Civil Services) posted with the home department of the Delhi government, were recently placed under suspension for gross misconduct and insubordination, in that they refused to sign a cabinet note pertaining to a salary hike for public prosecutor and prison staff. They were only to sign the note and are not the sanctioning authority.

Rising to the support of these two suspended officers, IAS officers from the AGMUT (Arunachal Pradesh-Goa-Mizoram-Union Territories) decided to join those from DANICS to go on half-day casual leave. This in actual terms is a strike! Further, the DANICS officers association took the unusual step of writing to the union home ministry, asking that the suspension order be declared, null and void.

These IAS officers’ association adopted a resolution, declaring the suspension order illegal. Their contention being that the appointing authority in their case is the President of India, acting through the ministry of home affairs and not the home minister of the government of the national capital territory of Delhi and that the suspension order based on the central civil services conduct (CCS) rules is condemnable. These IAS officers associations have contended that the Delhi government can recommend the suspension of these officers to the ministry of home affairs and that suspension order can only be issued by the lieutenant governor after approval of the union home ministry. Such a contention strikes at the very roots of discipline and political control over the bureaucracy.

Pressure tactics set poor example

Bureaucrats frame such rules and the political executive, being none the wiser, blindly approve these. The more glaring example of this ignorance and incompetency of the political class is best showcased in the case of the defence secretary, where he alone stands responsible for the defence of India.

Such conduct of IAS officers who form the top echelons of administration in the country, ought to be totally unacceptable. It is condemnable to say the least. Leave from duty to an employee is granted by the next higher authority and cannot, and should not, be something that one can grant to oneself. While the labour and lower-rung employees in the government and private sector may be permitted to form a union or an association and be expected to resort to protests and strikes, but the same approach from the topmost echelons of the country’s administration does not augur well. These officers by resorting to such pressure tactics set a poor example and a bad precedent. This brand of conduct and such forms of protest are akin to labour union pressure tactics. One would expect these officers to set an enviable example of good conduct and acceptable norms of discipline and not resort to mass casual leave, which for all practical purposes amounts to a strike and is anarchistic in its play.

The same approach, if adopted by a group of military officers, would be termed as mutiny and they would be made to face the rigours of military law and the prospects of long stay behind bars. It is the bureaucracy’s attitude and work ethics which has led to such poor state of administration in the country. There is no accountability and dedication to honest work. Consequently, there is little effort to bring about efficiency and the PM’s dream of better governance continues to elude us.

North-East remains Neglected

These officers do minimum tenures in the North-East, the cadres to which they belong, and keep their sights fixed on postings in Delhi. No wonder that the states in the North-East are extremely poorly administered and continue to be in the grip of insurgency. Arunachal Pradesh, which was the most peaceful state in the country, has been slowly slipping into insurgency, essentially because of poor administration and corruption.

By resorting to mass casual leave, these officers have set a poor example for other government employees and their attempt to exploit the rift between the Delhi government and the Government of India is a new low. If the home ministry of the government of India were to side with these officers, it would do great disservice to the country and would be promoting indiscipline in babudom, essentially because of its problems with the state government of Delhi. Whatever be the response of the central government to this most unfortunate development, it will set a precedent for the conduct of government employees both at the Centre and the states.

Blurb: It is the bureaucracy’s attitude and work ethics which has led to such poor state of administration in the country. There is no accountability and dedication to honest work. Consequently, there is little effort to bring about efficiency and the PM’s dream of better governance continues to elude us.

(The writer, a former deputy chief of army staff, is a commentator on security issues. Views expressed are personal)

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