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HT readers'take: UT officers should be public-friendly

The UT adviser’s remark that the city bureaucracy is the most arrogant in the country cannot be taken lightly. The colonial mindset and lack of transparency in the UT administration has left residents at their wit’s end. Not just administrative reforms but an attitudinal change in bureaucracy is needed. Moving to a political setup that is directly accountable to citizens is a solution, but the possibility of such a system impeding the functioning of the administration and delaying the decision-making cannot be ruled out. Also, short-duration deputations should give way to longer tenures, so that civil servants can have a long-term vision for the city’s development.

chandigarh Updated: May 18, 2015 11:49 IST

Bureaucrats must realise they are public servants, not rulers
The bureaucracy has been working on a “selfish” mode instead of mission mode, causing resentment among Chandigarh residents. The rap given by the UT adviser might help in bringing a change in the mindset of bureaucrats. They must realise they are public servants, not rulers. People, too, should demand more involvement in decision-making. A proper grievance redressal system, timely delivery of services and transparency will go a long way in improving the situation. The ultimate solution, however, lies in forming an accountable, political setup.
PC Sanghi, via email

UT adviser as much to blame
The whole Indian bureaucracy, including the UT adviser, deserves to be called arrogant. Vijay Kumar Dev earned a bad reputation soon after joining the Chandigarh administration as he did not hesitate to splurge public money in renovating his official residence and office. He also wanted commandos and vehicles to escort him around the city. The city residents have to wait for over 10 minutes when the traffic is stopped for his cavalcade to pass through. Also, he asked the bureaucrats not to speak to the media. Hence, Chandigarh should have a political setup with real powers and not like the present municipal corporation.
Paras R Kalotra, SAS Nagar

Bureaucrats should leave comfort of airconditioned offices
City residents have been enduring the arrogance of the bureaucracy, as mentioned by the UT adviser, for the past many decades. The adviser will be doing a remarkable service if he could force the bureaucracy to leave the comfort zone of their airconditioned offices to get the feel of the ground realities before formulating policies for the people. Another important step would be to make the bureaucracy accountable for their actions and for doing that he will have to maximise the number of bureaucrats from the UT cadre in the Chandigarh administration.
AK Sharma, Chandigarh

Train senior officials in transparency
Most bureaucrats are perceived as arrogant self-servers and corrupt bootlickers, not capable of solving problems of the common man. Their arrogance stems from the fact that they are accountable only to the incompetent and good-for-nothing politicians. All training focuses on the junior staff when the fact is that no one needs it more than the senior bureaucrats. The system provides them unbridled immunity, emboldening them to carry on with their inept handling of state affairs and other wrong-doings shamelessly. The system will work only if there is transparency.
Col DS Cheema (retd), via email

Colonial mindset needs to change
In the absence of any permanent centralised grievances redressal machinery, there are a large number of problems going unresolved. Though many of these problems can be addressed at the official level, yet red-tapism, inept handling, governance deficit coupled with old acts and rules act as stumbling blocks in the way. The bureaucrats come here for tenured posts and frame the policies not knowing the pulse of the people. Under these circumstances, a qualitative change is needed. This is possible only if the officials change their colonial mindset.
SK Khosla, Chandigarh

Civil servants need lessons in civility
Knowing that the political fraternity was not administratively qualified, bureaucracy was thought to be a wiser push towards good governance. However, over the decades, it could hardly make its impact felt. Neither politicians nor the bureaucracy have delivered the “goodness” in administration so far. Bureaucrats must adopt ethics and morality for the greater good of mankind.
MPS Chadha, SAS Nagar

Positive change in attitude must
The prevalent VIP culture in the city is responsible for the administration being not so open and arrogant. Some bureaucrats feel they are not answerable to anyone. In a democratic setup, the system of governance needs to be transparent. With the introduction of technology, things have changed substantially. Yet, a lot remains to be done, including a positive change in attitude.
DS Banati, SAS Nagar

Depute UT-cadre officers only
Most officers come to the UT on deputation and are hardly bothered about the betterment of the city. They come here to enjoy their posting and misuse their powers to the maximum. They are very fond of flattery and in return they shower their subordinates with favours. Our city, being a union territory, should be governed by officers and staff of the UT cadre only. This will eliminate the cadre war and help in improving the situtation.
DP Gautam, via email

Deputationists have no long-term vision for city
The expensive changes carried out at the adviser’s residence and office would not have been possible had it not been for the opaque working of the administration. The officials who come for short tenures to Chandigarh do not have any long-term vision for the city. They are just concerned about their own career graph.
Mahavir S Jagdev, Chandigarh

Drop civil services exam
None of the Western countries have adopted this mode of administration, which is non-democratic and anti-public. There, in all cadres one rises from the bottom on account of hard work, honesty and public service. The administrators here are arrogant and have no field knowledge. Both politicians and bureaucrats consider themselves to be VIPs and expect special perks. The real solution lies in dropping the civil services exam and making the selections at the bottom level. Only the competent officials will rise. Also, they must be tutored to respect other professionals and not interfere in their technical works.
Manjinder Pal Singh, SAS Nagar

Administration needs an overhaul
Bureaucracy’s arrogance has become a serious issue, necessitating an overhaul of the system. The city’s development has come to a standstill. Officials maintain distance from residents and their problems. The UT adviser has started working in the right direction.
Opinder Kaur Sekhon, Chandigarh

Governance should focus on common man
All those sitting at the helm of affairs in Chandigarh must learn a lesson from the astounding triumph of the common man’s movement Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi. The prevalent colonial-style functioning should give way to a governance model focused on the common man. Owing to the absence of a legislative body coupled with the lack of powers and resources available to those elected to the municipal corporation and other Panchayati Raj institutions, the top bureaucracy continues to rule the roost in Chandigarh. Not only the general public but even local elected representatives have been rueing the apathetic attitude of UT officials. An ordinary citizen ought to have hassle-free access to all those calling the shots. There must be a time-bound mechanism for redressal of grievances.
Hemant Kumar, Ambala City

Bureaucrats curb people’s voice
The future of Chandigarh lies in an accountable, political setup as the opaque bureaucracy will not long last in a democratic country like India. It is unfortunate that the city has not witnessed any social movement as bureaucrats have always curbed the people’s voice. There is hope with the UT adviser telling his fellow officers to behave in a cordial way with citizens.
Panditrao Dharennavar, Chandigarh

Give more powers to MC
India being a welfare state, comfort and convenience of residents should be the prime objective and responsibility of the Chandigarh administration. Unfortunately, the administration working from behind the veils is insensitive, irresponsive and arrogant, failing miserably to address the residents’ needs and aspirations. Infighting breeds corruption besides making the officials pass the buck. The present system must be abolished. Better, we go for the commissionerate system as was in place before the division of Punjab. The municipal corporation should be vested with more powers including transportation, public health, road and streetlight maintenance, parking, fire brigade, school education and traffic police.
Colonel SK Aggarwal (Retd), Panchkula

Political solution need of the hour
Corruption is rampant in the UT. The dispensation needs to do something to make bureaucracy accountable by bringing it under the purview of public scrutiny. The mechanism governing the bureaucracy needs to be overhauled to maintain a semblance of public trust in the prevailing system of governance. The “babus”on deputation show no keenness in redressing public grievances. The time has come to revamp the existing system through a more viable political solution.
Ramesh K Dhiman, Chandigarh

City must have its own legislative body
The core ingredients of governance, i.e. transparency and accountability, are missing in the Chandigarh administration. Bureaucrats are public servants but they feel otherwise; they treat public as subjects. To make governance accountable, responsible, efficient and people-friendly, every department must have a people’s charter where the time limit for completing every public work must be specified. Also, there has to be a system of “janta darbars” where erring officials are made answerable for their actions. The most important thing is to have a political setup like in Delhi, where elected representatives provide pro-people governance. The Centre and the UT administrator must rise to the occasion and take the adviser’s remarks about arrogant officials seriously.
Capt Amar Jeet Kumar, SAS Nagar

UT needs political leadership
Chandigarh has been long suffering because of an insensitive bureaucracy. Officers come on deputation, enjoy their tenure — often extended — and return to their parent state, leaving Chandigarh worse than what they had found it like. That is because there is no continuity. Like at the Centre and in states, Chandigarh needs a political system. Empowering the MC is the answer. But, it has to be restructured, and its working has to be streamlined. There has to be an elected representative above the administrator, to whom the bureaucracy should report to. Separate portfolios can be assigned to the councillors. There will be resistance from the bureaucracy, and teething problems, but all these can be overcome with persistence.
Colonel RD Singh (retd), Ambala Cantt

Maintain balance of power between political, permanent executive
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel described bureaucracy as “The steel frame of India”. Right from the Independence, political leaders had the vision of an efficient bureaucratic system playing a crucial role in good governance. Since the UT comes under the direct control of the President, the bureaucracy exercises significant powers. It is essential that it remains accountable and serves as a bridge between political leaders and citizens. However, officials remain unapproachable and are often unaware of ground realities. There needs to be a strong penalty for any malpractice. Measures like e-governance and direct government-to-citizen services will help in the long run. Councillors must help in making the bureaucracy transparent and accountable. But, balance of power must be maintained between the political executive and the permanent executive so that one does not trample on the powers of the other.
Surbhi Negi, Zirakpur

Bureaucrats should act without fear of powers that be
Why do bureaucrats behave the way they do forgetting that they are public servants and their every move affects the man on the street? Either they don’t seem to have experienced the difficulties faced by a common man as they sit and work from their ivory towers or they are scared of any adverse consequences of their decisions and actions. I am reminded of the description of bureaucracy (in a newspaper, decades ago) as another UNCTAD — Under No Circumstances Take Any Decision. The actions and decisions taken by bureaucrats should be impartial, motivated by public interest, and not dictated by anyone how-so-ever powerful. They may tread safely, but must impartially distinguish between the right and the wrong, with full accountability and in a transparent manner.
Dr Vijay Kumar Soi, Chandigarh

Political intervention will delay day-to-day working
The UT adviser has very modestly used the word “arrogant” while summing up the demeanour of some of the bureaucrats working under him. It will be more appropriate to use the term “stiff-necked”. Even while adhering to the codes and the manuals, there is yet enough scope for courtesy, transparency and efficiency. All they need to do is to be amiable to the person standing before them for redressal of any problem. However, too much political intervention in the day-to-day working results in delays, undue favours and corruption. The incumbent adviser seems to be competent enough to stop the rot.
JS Jaspal, Chandigarh

Keep politicians at bay
Never ever think of handing over the City Beautiful’s administration to any new political setup. Despite the opaque bureaucracy, the UT is much better managed and maintained than its siblings Panchkula and Mohali, which are under the so-called accountable state political dispensations. One UT representative in the Lok Sabha is good enough to take up its issues at the Centre. Ways and means can be found to make the bureaucrats more responsive to the citizens. The need is to tame them through their political masters sitting in Delhi. Let senior bureaucrats make public their targets and achievements. Let them get into an interactive mode through e-governance. An effective public grievances redressal machinery should be put in place. The MC House can also debate issues and put up suggestions. The UT administrator can be vested with more powers to tackle the bureaucracy.
Tejinder Singh Kalra, SAS Nagar

Revamped bureaucracy, not corrupt political setup needed
Over the years, the Chandigarh administration has done well in maintaining the sanctity of the city’s master plan. By adopting a stance of “no favouritism”, the administration has implemented the bylaws strictly. Hence, the city is known for its law and order as well as planned growth. What need a change are the old rules and regulations. The bylaws must be amended to make them people-friendly. The opaque working can be checked by revamping the existing norms and by adopting information technology to bring accountability. A diligently supervised strict bureaucracy is far much better than a corrupt political setup.
RP Malhotra, Panchkula

Media must act as watchdog
Chandigarh needs a major makeover in terms of administration. Have a look at just one estate office where hundreds visit every day only to return dissatisfied. Faced by criticism, the authorities slam the media. But for the public, the only saviour is the media. Together, the two have to rise to the occasion and keep the administration awake and alert. Cobwebs are to be removed not only from the walls of the offices but from the minds of the officials as well.
Dr Devinder Garg, Chandigarh

Involve RWAs in policymaking
Policymakers in the UT must interact with the people to get firsthand knowledge about any problem before taking any decision. Their work should not be confined to airconditioned chambers in the secretariat, but should also take place at the offices of residents’ welfare associations. Only then the administration and its policies will become pro-people. The first step in this direction is to strictly instruct personal secretaries not to obstruct peoples’ representatives from meeting the officials.
SC Luthra, Chandigarh

Give a patient hearing to residents
Chandigarh is governed by bureaucrats directly under the ministry of home affairs. These officials are posted for a limited period of tenure. They seem to be arrogant while taking decisions without understanding the difficulties being faced by residents. They must give a patient hearing to the residents and work for their welfare. There are a number of burning issues affecting residents, traders and the industry that need an immediate solution. The civil servants should take a cue from the new adviser and visit various areas to take stock of the situation. Discussions should be held with residents’ welfare associations to find amicable solutions to satisfy the public.
Sukhpal Singh, via email

First Published: May 18, 2015 11:45 IST