In our democratic setup, delivery of governance is undoubtedly crucial considering fortunes of crores of people depends on this. For effective implementation of government services, support of bureaucracy is vital. It’s a pillar of democracy as it implements decisions of democratically elected governments. A common man gets firsthand experience of governance during his visits to a police station, a government hospital, civic ward office, a tehsil office or district collectorate.
Each and every bureaucrat in any department is superintended by his bosses sitting in Mantralaya. Though the state’s chief secretary happens to be the head of the entire bureaucracy, the powers of posting, transfers and approval of confidential reports have been with ministers and, in case of senior bureaucrats, with the chief minister. So babus are answerable to their bosses and not to the taxpayers. So, despite enjoying sweeping powers to rein in the state bureaucracy, when our ministers appear helpless, instantly it becomes a cause of concern.
During the weekly cabinet meeting last week, ministers expressed annoyance over the growing tendency among babus to go on leave to avoid inconvenient postings. Rural development minister Jayant Patil, who is also the Mumbai city district guardian minister, raised the issue saying many officers do not join their posts even six months after their transfers. The sentiment was immediately seconded by other ministers, particularly from Konkan, Vidarbha and Marathwada regions.
The tendency of babus to go on leave and skip work is seriously hampering development projects and smooth functioning of the state administration, Patil contended. Some of the ministers also spoke on the current vacancies – over one lakh – and sought chief minister Prithviraj Chavan’s intervention, as according to his colleagues whenever they call meetings to discuss various issues, the presence of state bureaucracy appears to be dipping and babus are not available to implement schemes aimed at public welfare.
What’s needed is delving deep into the malaise to find the root cause. In a city like Mumbai or neighbouring Thane and Navi Mumbai, citizens always narrate their experiences of visits for documents such as a ration card, certificates of caste, income, and domicile with distaste, given the kind of treatment they receive at the offices of BMC or MHADA. This is worrisome as postings in Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai are the most sought given the lucrative benefits, apart from career opportunities for children and their higher studies. For many it’s a golden triangle that comes with rich rewards.
If you question delay in delivery of governance, a babu in Mumbai would cite reasons such as inadequate staff to handle the mammoth population. The scenario is the same in offices at Thane and Navi Mumbai. And what about other parts in the state? There people normally can’t find babus in their chairs or at work as per their schedule. Also, many of them always yearn for relocation to big cities such as Mumbai, Pune, Thane, Aurangabad and Nagpur.
It’s a fact that in regions such as Konkan (Sindhudurga, Ratnagiri, rural parts of Thane and Raigad particularly), Vidarbha or Marathwada, many senior-level positions have been lying vacant for months as several officers have gone on leave for not getting a posting of choice in big cities. They can be spotted doing rounds of Mantralaya to convince ministers and secretaries for transfers. As a result, there are no officers to implement government schemes and programmes for citizens. Execution of the special package announced by the prime minister to stop farmer suicides is among the worst sufferers.
Apart from the holidaying, it’s also a cause for worry that a number of officials are under suspension or facing inquiry over charges of wrongdoings and allegations of corruption. Those who are honest hardly get any rewards and lose interest in government service. It’s an undeniable fact that in the absence of court orders, even the state government shows unwillingness to nail offenders. Inquiry reports and recommendations for punishment gather dust at Mantralaya. And officials under suspension collect 75 per cent of their salaries sitting at home. An apt question would be why do babus indulge in corruption even after implementation of sixth pay commission and doling out of large amounts from the state budget as their salaries and pensions?
The writer is Political Editor, MiD DAY