In AAP and L-G crossfire, top Delhi bureaucrats become collateral damage
Delhi government officials have faced suspensions, salary cuts, raids, CBI probes and even FIRs – making them the worst victims of the ongoing tussle between the two power centres in the city administrationdelhi Updated: Nov 03, 2017 17:37 IST
I am played as a football. I am damned if I do, damned if I don’t. We are caught between the devil and the deep sea— MM Kutty, chief secretary, Delhi government. October 23, 2017
Inside a courtroom last month, the Delhi government’s top bureaucrat’s counsel quoted him about how a tussle between the Chief Minister and the Lieutenant Government had left him in a difficult situation. While, the high court in this case was hearing Kutty’s plea against appearing before the Assembly’s question and reference committee, his statement resonated with the bureaucracy that’s working for the national Capital.
In a span of over two-and-a-half years, these Delhi government officials have faced suspensions, salary cuts, raids, CBI probes and even FIRs – making them the worst victims of the ongoing tussle between the two power centres in the city administration.
Bureaucrats Hindustan Times spoke to, including ex-Delhi government officials, said the problem was a lack of clarity as to whose direction needs to be followed. “More than the government or the L-G, it is us, the bureaucrats, who are looking up to the case in the Supreme Court. At present, if we tow the line of action suggested by the minster, then the L-G objects. If we listen to the L-G, the ministers call us agents of the Centre,” said a government official, on condition of anonymity.
Environment of suspicion is demoralizing
The environment of suspicion at work is such that some officials sought transfers, a few others went on long leaves and the rest continued to work, but “without getting noticed.”
“FIRs have been lodged against 30 officials and this is above the other probes in progress. In such a situation, it’s better to keep a low key. That is also one of the reasons why not even 50% of the government’s planned budget has been used till now,” another bureaucrat said.
The first public and biggest showdown between the bureaucrats and AAP government took place on December 31 when over 200 government officials went on en mass leave as two DANICS officials were suspended by health minister Satyendar Jain. Their suspension orders were later declared ‘non est and null’ by the Centre.
Delhi officers more under scrutiny
A former Delhi government bureaucrat who now is on Central deputation said the problem of Delhi is also structural.
Emphasising on the need to build “trust” and “protection” for bureaucrats, the officer said, “Delhi’s bureaucrats are most exposed to probes and actions compared to any other Union Territory or state,” he claimed.
“There is the Central Vigilance Commission, the CBI, ACB, Economic Offence Wing and the CAG here. The CBI cannot interfere in cases related to other Union Territories like Goa, Arunachal Pradesh or Mizoram. Even for other states, there is just the state vigilance bureau and the CAG,” another bureaucrat said.
“Now with this conflict, the officials are most vulnerable,” he added.
Aam Aadmi Party spokesperson and chairman of Delhi Assembly’s petitions committee, however, maintained that the actions were aimed at “fixing accountability” of officials.
Officials in the L-G House said that as the head of the state, all decisions by him are taken in accordance to rules and laws.