Dharmendra Jore: Is this rot too difficult to stem?

The strong nexus between politicians and babus holds our government to ransom, but even this self-serving bond can turn sour

The strongest nexus that runs our system is built by two of the most important entities – political executives and government servants. Politicians love to work with bureaucrats who have mastered the art of bending rules, and these babus do not think twice before taking commands from their bosses to push files for personal benefit. The proposals in those files could be public welfare schemes, infrastructure projects or something that directly or indirectly benefits their kin, friends or cronies of the politician (and babus). This self-serving partnership lasts as long as their respective interests are met.

This nexus has been exposed time and again by whistleblowers and has set the common man fuming. The general feeling is that you cannot get a file moving in any government office without assuring cuts (euphemism for kickbacks). Agents have a rate card (unofficial one) in place for various types of work. Politicians alone can get a government officer such lucrative postings. The association starts here. How long the alliance lasts depends on how well the government officer serves his political patron. The glue that facilitates such bonds can be money or even loyalty and mutual respect for each other. This loyalty doesn’t change even when the political bosses are thrown out of power. Players in the present BJP-Sena regime can vouch for this — the government has officers who remain fiercely loyal to their erstwhile bosses even as they take commands from the current inexperienced executives.

In a nutshell, the mechanism has been perfected and promises to run till eternity. But every now and then, there are aberrations in this well-oiled system. In bureaucratic circles, it’s perceived as an anomaly when a gritty officer refuses to play by the wishes of politicians. The rulebook is thrown open, and the refusal to proceed illegally is expressed without any fear. And here begins the attempt to dislodge the uncooperative officer from his post.

Letters of recommendation are issued in favour of other officers of choice and sent to the concerned ministers and to the chief minister’s office. Influential leaders succeed in getting their pet candidates placed. Those who are defeated in their attempt get infuriated and express themselves though various means – most times, it is verbal abuse. In extreme cases, it turns into a violent tussle.

The recent Mantralaya incident, in which independent legislator from Achalpur, Bacchu alias Omprakash Kadu allegedly assaulted a deputy secretary in the General Administration Department, is a similar case, say those privy to the matter.

The senior bureaucrat reportedly rejected Kadu’s recommendation that an employee be allowed to overstay in government quarters, despite the fact that he had been given a flat in Mumbai under the CM’s discretionary quota. The Mantralaya employees did not take the alleged assault lying down. They protested and got the MLA arrested. Kadu cried foul after he was put behind bars, and has since been released on bail.

The flipside is that the three-time legislator’s popularity has increased manifold. He now enjoys envious support from the masses despite being an independent politician and a lower-middle-class fellow. People who have followed his 20-year political career keenly, are now joined by new supporters who did not know the MLA until he resorted to violence in the state’s headquarters, where it is notoriously difficult to find access to the maai-baap sarkar.

Whether it’s right or wrong, Kadu is increasingly being hailed as a hero, primarily because the aggrieved people see his act of slapping an ‘uncooperative’ government officer as the beginning of azadi from red-tape and growing corruption.

Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore. Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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