Supremacy of Bureaucracy in Madhya Pradesh
Posted October 13, 2009on:
A photograph of a public function published by a Hindi weekly shows Bhopal Division Commissioner Pukhraj Maru sitting alongside Kailash Joshi with his right arm spread across Joshi’s chair insolently. Joshi is not only older than Maru by over a score of years but is also a veteran BJP leader and has held important positions in the organisation and the government, including those of State BJP president and the chief minister of the State. At present he represents Bhopal constituency in Lok Sabha for the second consecutive term.
This is symptomatic of the present relationship between the bureaucracy and the elected representatives of the people in Madhya Pradesh. The bureaucracy, at least a section of it, has for some time been getting stronger (for kowtowing to those in power) but its behaviour has never been as wayward as now. The occasional exhortations of the chief minister and the chief secretary to bureaucrats to treat the representatives of the people with due respect has become a sick joke. Still unsure of himself in matters of administration and mistrustful of his colleagues, Shivraj Singh Chauhan has been leaning more and more on the bureaucracy.
Chauhan assembled bureaucrats, from the chief secretary downwards and including Commissioners, Collectors and chief executive officers of Panchayats from all districts in Bhopal for a two-day conclave on October 5 and 6 to deliberate and make recommendations for the development of the State. It was called “Manthan”, given to Chauhan’s proclivity for high-sounding Sanskrit names.
Chauhan had convened a similar “Manthan” of secretaries and Collectors in January 2007 and explained in his preliminary remarks that he meant by “Manthan” the mythological “Samudra-Manthan”. He had gone on to explain that the emerging nectar (Amrit) would go to the public and the poison would come to his lot. Any one who has read or heard the story of “Samudra-Manthan” knows pretty well that the churning of the Samudra (Ocean) had yielded 14 items including the nectar and the poison and Lord Vishnu had contrived in such a way that the poison had gone to the lot of the Asuras or demons. By claiming poison to his lot, Chauhan had thus placed himself in the role of the Asuras. It was difficult to say if it was because of his lack of proper understanding of the Hindu mythology or he had committed a Freudian slip and had unknowingly stated what he was really thinking of himself. Chauhan did not repeat the blunder this time.
What happened to the bureaucrats’ recommendations of 2007? Have the “more employment avenues” been opened? Has the public distribution system made “more effective”? Are the funds made available to departments being “fully utilised”? Have the well-equipped laboratories been provided to the educational institutions? Has the pace of development been accelerated? Has a positive change been brought about in the attitude of the government officers? In the January 2007 conclave, Chauhan had described corruption as the biggest problem of his government. Has he even made a move towards its elimination? If anything, more scams in his government are coming to light every week.
In this month’s Manthan, the bureaucrats were divided into seven groups and they justified the confidence reposed in them by the chief minister by making elaborate recommendations for promotion of investments in the fields of energy, tourism, forests, health, education, technical education, higher education, agriculture, animal husbandry, horticulture, information technology “et cetera”. Besides, they stressed the need for developing infrastructure at all levels. The recommendations are, more or less, the rephrasing of some of the convenient promises made by the BJP in its 2003 and 2008 Assembly elections manifestos. The bureaucrats did not touch upon the more pressing but inconvenient issues like restoration of the steadily deteriorating law and order situation which is the first requisite for carrying out any development work. The party’s 2008 election manifesto promises restoration of law and order situation by providing modern equipment to the police force, reorganising and strengthening of the police stations and making the role of the Mahila police more effective.
In fact, the manifesto has much more than what the bureaucrats have come up with. Apparently, the chief minister wanted to draw the people’s attention away from the promises he and his party had made only last year but have not shown any sincere inclination towards their fulfilment. But he is thus doing a great disservice to the people and to the democratic functioning in the State by setting a highly pernicious precedent. The people elect their representatives to form the government and implement the programmes for the welfare of the people through the bureaucracy. Here the head of the elected representatives of the people is beseeching the bureaucrats to guide him as to how the State can be developed, instead of telling them: “this is the ruling party’s agenda and you have to implement it”.