The sound bytes of our leaders, including the head of the state, cajoling us to do this or that is deafening. But the question is; do they really follow what they preach? The readers of this article, it is hoped, will after going through it can arrive to their own conclusion.
There is no gainsaying that the economy of Manipur is not very good and even the state government is hard pressed to meet its obligations. If one looks into the state budget for 2017-18, the main provisions for development are under the national flagship programs and the state’s share for such programs. There are very little provisions for the state to meet its own obligations. The commitments being made by the ministers will be difficult to be met; if the central government does not provide for a sizable support with no-strings attached. This is unlikely as the central government is also facing acute financial stress due to various reasons.
Thus, the need of the hour is to economise on the spending; do away or postpone expenditures which are not essential. Various economy measures were taken up from time to time but with the passage of time it was followed more in breach; with the state cabinet taking decisions to relax the measures for specific purposes, not necessarily in the interest of the state or its people. Some of the very serious measures include ban on post creations and appointments, dissolving various corporations, ban on purchase of vehicles, etc but as one can see there have been numerous instances where these measures were violated by a Cabinet decision. This may be due to the policy of the government or in the larger interest of the state and the people as all decisions cannot be ascribed to merely nepotism or corruption. We have to give the benefit of doubt to the state government in many instances. However, it is considered that economy should start from the top and providing very little fund to offices, which can’t even purchase papers to meet the official requirement impacting the administration does not bode well for any government or administration. Some of the largesse which may be withdrawn is the 900 litres of POL provided to the Members of the Legislative Assembly per month, which is not based on any logic or sense. One understands providing a few staff to enable them to function more systematically to work for the people but such huge quantity of POL defy logic. However, this article concentrates on an office whose working is esoteric to the people and commands a high regard due to its constitutional provisions. Getting information from this office is very difficult with its traditional policy of secrecy and the author had to scourge information from other offices which had taken much time.
The institution that is being referred to above is that of the office of the Governor and the Raj Bhavan. It is embarrassing for the author to comment on this institution as he personally had good relations with many former governors like L.P. Singh, Gen Krishna Rao, S.M.H.Burney, Chintamani Panigrahi, Gen. V.K. Nayyar, O.P. Shrivastava and Ved Marwah, and also had the pleasure of serving directly under a few governors like Dr. S.S. Sidhu, Gurbachan Jagat, V. K. Duggal besides a few more. These past governors try not to influence the state government for their own benefit, though they may have put pressure on the state government for various reasons including political, social or legal but mostly in the larger interest of the state and its people. Most of them had cordial relations with the state government barring a few instances.
The benefits entitled by the Governor are laid down under the Governors (Emoluments, Allowances and Privileges) Act 1982, the Governor (Allowances & Privileges) Rules 1987 and orders issued under them from time to time, and they are fairly well provided. The salary of the Governors in not much, limited to Rs. 1.10 lakh per month but adding all the facilities, they are allowed to lead a reasonable good life. The Government of India prescribes the entitlement for Household staff which looks after all the need for the Governor and as per the order of 1987 effective from 1st April, 1987, which is still applicable, the scale is 46, which includes 2 ADCs, 1 Comptroller, 1 Caretaker, 1, Accountant now converted to ASO, 4 drivers, 1 UDA, 1 LDA, 1 Garden Superintendent, and 34 different types of Grade IV like Head Cook, Masalchi, Chobdar, Bearer, Khitmadgar, Dhobi, Silver Cleaner, Jemadar, Head Sweeper, Sweeper, Khalasi, etc. For the Governor’s Secretariat, there is no scale and the state government in consultation with the Governor’s Secretariat limits the size. The Khalasis are supposed to be used in the garden as garden comes under the Governor’s entitlement. The Governor is not entitled to any government accommodation in the national capital of Delhi and elsewhere and if they were earlier enjoying government accommodation in Delhi, they may continue to retain it against state government quota. It had repeatedly been emphasised from the Centre from time to time that no Governor can retain staff outside the state for which they were appointed. If they have any work in Delhi, the staffs posted in Manipur Bhavan are supposed to provide the necessary secretarial assistance just like the Ministers from the state. The Governors are entitled to various allowances prescribed under the Rules, which they cannot draw personally but was meant for the maintenance, etc of the Raj Bhavan such as Entertainment Allowance, Hospitality Allowance, Office Expenses Allowance, Contract Allowance, Tour Expenses Allowance, etc.
Past governors do not appoint or engage staff for use in Delhi or at their home elsewhere as they are not entitled. They engaged one or two staff by way of deputation against vacant posts for a duration co-terminus with their appointment but these staffs were invariably posted in Imphal. However, it is sad to learn that presently there are a number of contract staff which were appointed perhaps with the consent of the state government but their service were utilised in Delhi. The Governor can engage staff from time to time as per the need, and the expenditure met from the Contract Allowance. In the past, only labourers were engaged such as to maintain the garden, clean the campus, lopping the tree branches, etc. Even though Raj Bhavan is well known for its confidentiality and seeking information from it is difficult, from other sources, it is learnt that highly paid staff were reportedly engaged which include an OSD, a PRO, and a few clerical staff and Grade IV, and it was learnt that their remuneration requirement for them is so high that it cannot be met from the Contract Allowance provision, the scale of which is laid down by the President, and therefore has to eat into the provisions of other sectors. Besides, all such staff except for the OSD and PRO are utilised in Delhi. Even the Private Secretary which is taken on deputation is utilised in Manipur Bhavan, Delhi and works for the Governor there. The logic that as the Governor is also appointed as Chancellor of Jamia Millia University, her presence in Delhi is necessary thereby spending almost half of her time in Delhi is bunkum as Chancellor has no role in the day to day administration of a University and the author says this with conviction as he has gone through the relevant Act and had experience as a member of the Manipur University for 10 years.
Governors, as constitutional head, commands a high regard and respect from the people as there is a belief that they are guide and philosopher to the state. But from the information gleaned from various sources, there have been many infarctions committed in the recent past which is likely to erode the reputation of the institution. It was hoping against hope that what was stated above are not correct; in the interest of the institution but this hope seems belied from the information collected. Besides, Raj Bhavan, which is a place where the Constitution should be followed in letter and spirit where all categories of staff work irrespective of the religious disposition, was perhaps hit as majority of these staff recently engaged belong to one particular religious disposition.
Raj Bhavan must be above politics and nepotism, and like Caesar’s wife must not only be pure but must also be seen as pure. It will be in the larger interest of the institution that all arbitrary engagement are terminated forthwith and no staff utilised unauthorisedly in places other than at Imphal, and only those staff whose remuneration can be met from the Contract Allowance provision are retained. Governors cannot be equated with Maharajas, who can do as per his wish; the Governor has to follow the rules laid down for the purpose as India is a democratic country with a Constitution where the Constitution is supreme. This will make the institution rise above by admitting to past mistakes and making course corrections. This will set an example that even the top office of the state abide by the rules. Following the law must start from the top and rooting out corruption, nepotism and wasteful and arbitrary expenditure must start from the top in the state to bring confidence to the administration. If not, sermonising may please be stopped.