On some aspects of governance-II
S KUNJABIHARI SINGH
Prime Minister Narendra Modi often talks about his government’s commitment to providing a transparent and accountable administration which works for the betterment and welfare of the common citizen. Elaborating he also asserts that it was his dream to bring government closer to the citizens, so that they become active participants in the governance process.
The top administrators that include the Politicians, the Ministers, the Bureaucrats and the like not only in the Centre but more relevantly in the states talk about good governance. A common worry is if the micro-level functionaries down at the levels of the Districts, the sub-Divisions, the Circle Offices could translate the concern to act with commitment, into action. For instance, do the lower- level- functionaries who matter the most in the delivery of a copy of Jamabandi of his plot of land, income certificate or domicile certificate etc. act fast? Don’t they deliberately delay or ask for bribe freely as if they were acting in tune with the current practices in administration? The answer is more often than not, ‘Yes’.
Because of the importance and often urgency attached to procuring such documents, the question of expeditious issue of these documents arises and there lies the whole gamut of problem when the public servant in question, with a touch of intention, acts slow.
In most cases the authority dictates arbitrary terms and the applicant has to necessarily succumb to the dictates though sore at heart. Can a system of measures for good governance ease such cases or can these dirty procedures be done away with?
Let’s go a little deeper into such a real life situation where a common man could not get justice, say, in getting his plot of homestead land demarcated. Such demarcation by the concerned Circle Officer would be the only solace to the aggrieved parties in as much as using the official records apart; the authorities would be expected to be impartial, and free from being biased. The Circle Officer would be expected to act independent of influence of any such parties under dispute, be impartial and thus arrive at a settlement which would be binding on both parties.
The impending issue is if the Circle Office true to their profession is not influenced by the parties in dispute, would they be able to deliver justice to both parties within a reasonable time frame? The present scenario does not speak highly of the delivery system. More often than not the lower level officers got influenced by one of the parties who could carry away the Circle Officer in their favor often leading to protracted disputes for a long period of time.
With the promise of ‘Good Governance’, can the public at large expect justice that too within a reasonable time frame thus elicit confidence of the people that justice would be delivered? This issue remains debatable; no positive solution is in sight till now.
As a functionary of a democratic government, we are all equal before law. The public servants would be expected to treat all the subjects equally. There cannot be a polity of discrimination and partiality as the people are heard, their grievances redressed or at the least being attended to. Of course, the conduct of the officers is governed by the Rules of Business of the Government and subsidiary manuals, rules and regulations that come up from time to time. The conduct of the officers would therefore be governed by the departmental policy of the government.
A word of caution in this respect would be of some use in our day to day exercise of duties. While all officers including the junior officers are supposed to be governed in their conduct by the Rules of Business, the Manuals and such Memoranda issued by the government from time to time, at the level of a Department or a Collectorate, while broad principles are fixed, the departmental policy is by and large what the departmental Head at the district level orders.
In other words while, the departmental rules and regulations govern the general conduct of the officers, execution of policies would reasonably have to be broadly shaped by the policy of the departmental boss; the DC in respect of a district. This unwritten procedure keeps the district administration more effective, congenial and fast. Such a situation would therefore lead to “Good Governance”.
In the past during the British regime, the officers, say, the Collectors were unreachable, unapproachable. The old Civil Service Rules framed during the British rule dictates the Civil Servants to stay aloof, not mix with the people. This makes them develop an arrogant mind-set, develops a ‘know-all’ attitude and avoids listening to the public. While there are good aspects of this isolation, sooner than later, this practice is too accorded low acceptance on the consideration that a better idea of administrating a community comes from the community itself. Still the Civil servants live in a secluded environment, enjoy a life often free from hassles of life which common man in the community face day in day out.
Can we avoid ignoring them or can we give some respect, listen patiently. May be after due process of thought interacting with them, we could have changed their point of view or may be, we could ourselves change for public good. Listening to someone eases the speaker while the listener is set to be more informative. In the society we often end up refusing to appreciate others’ point of view to the extent of being stubborn.
Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist asserts, “To know how to love someone, we may have to understand them; to understand, we need to listen”. As a component of good governance and expeditious delivery of services, the civil offices need to be exposed to the inevitability of hearing the public. That way two benefits are obvious, one, this would result to fast relief and second, the public who are always at the receiving end, would be greatly amused. He will go back home at the satisfaction of him being heard by the authority. Is not this environment desirable?