No premier institute can hone skills of leaders who, by choice, remain inaccessible to people|Opinion
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath took all his ministers to the Indian Institute of Management-Lucknow (IIM-L) for lessons in governance and to bring about a change in perception about his 30-month-old government.
Similarly, Adityanath had also taken his council of ministers to Raj Bhavan on Teachers’ Day (September 5) to introduce them to governor Anandiben Patel and make them learn the art of good governance. Patel shared her experiences and gave her governance ‘mantra’ to ministers, telling them about the importance of having a dialogue with people to solve their problems.
But, can a premier management institute or a leader occupying a constitutional office help leaders who, by choice, remain mostly inaccessible to the people?
Barring a few, most ministers have a poor record of meeting the people and appear to be wearing blinkers or having a stiff neck when in public.
“The honourable minister will be in office on Monday and Tuesday,” read most of the plates, hanging outside ministers’ offices in Vidhan Bhavan or in other secretariat buildings in Lucknow. This, when people reach the state capital from far off regions of the state or even outside it, to meet their leaders. Visitors are often told about the meetings scheduled later in the day and the lucky few to get a secretariat pass and find a minister are made to wait for hours. And when the minister finally makes a brief appearance while leaving to meet “other” commitments, the visitors are made to run behind them or their cars.
But this was not the case in the past. In those days, it took hours for a chief minister or a minister to reach his chair in office or car, as they made it a point to listen to the problems of each and every visitor. Old timers have long stories to tell about the chief ministers and ministers who used to keep the channels of communication open. Barring BSP chief Mayawati, who, as state chief minister, got a separate entry route constructed to reach her office at Lal Bahadur Shastri Bhawan annexe building, all other chief ministers have found time for the crowd waiting for them in the corridors of the secretariat.
The chief minister’s residence used to be open for all. Leaders like Kalyan Singh used to stop midway to listen to people even when heading to preside over a cabinet meeting. Rajnath Singh too organised a series of large public meetings at the chief minister’s residence with different sections of the society. Those who were not able to get an appointment with the chief ministers in the past used to wait in the corridors in secretariat or in waiting halls at the CM’s residence that were in no way reserved for the ruling party’s top leaders or for the bureaucrats. A close eye was kept on the ‘Janata Darbar’ and it was ensured that no person came to the CM’s residence for a second time for the same problem. For chief ministers, rules never came in the way of finding a solution to the problems. Often, they were relaxed or amended in public interest to help the people. The file noting “rules be relaxed for…..” used to find a solution to a problem.
Much water has, however, flown down the Gomti since then. An assurance from a top leader is no guarantee of a solution to the problem as the system in recent years has betrayed the honest bureaucrats. Ministers and officers are now often seen telling the people why they will not be able to help or how a solution may violate rules or may lead to a controversy.
In Yogi Adityanath’s case, it is true that he has been striving to better administration, while trying to avoid unnecessary controversies. Ministers, who courted controversies or who faced charges of corruption, have been dropped. He had also been holding ‘Janata darshan’ in Lucknow and Gorakhpur while remaining seriously concerned about government’s image—something that showed when he briefed his new ministers about the do’s and don’ts soon after carrying out the first ever expansion of his ministry on August 21.