by Tarique A Bhat
Since Omer Abdullah made his intentions public to reform the state especially to purge corruption, a debate is desirable over performance and accountability of ‘Babus’ in the state administration. Herein lies one of the biggest stumbling blocks to reforming the state. Unfortunately, the people who seem least ready to deal with it is the administration itself.
Our bureaucracy is overpowering, and working with the civil servants is a slow and painful process.
Politicians feel they get blamed more than civil servants for all the mismanagement in our state. For politicians, the bureaucracy doesn’t deliver implying that in the present dispensation of politics by patronage, straightforward bureaucrats prove to be a hindrance to their personal designs. Hence, as ministers, they choose their own bureaucrats.
The bureaucrats would definitely blame the politicians and the system. Bureaucracy claims that their independence is lost and an officer has to be a ‘yes man’ of the minister in framing the policies and any opposition by a bureaucrat leads to his transfer.
A politician is not an intellectual in most of the cases. Civil servants teach them how to embezzle, put blame on them and take their own share. Bureaucrats tend to circle the wagons in ways that lack transparency and make accountability difficult.
In its report, Hong Kong-based Political & Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC) described India’s bureaucracy as “They are a power centre in their own right at both the national and state levels, and are extremely resistant to reform that affects them or the way they go about their duties.”
The fact of the matter is that J&K is suffering on many administrative, planning and execution levels because our civil servants are the least efficient among their peers. Most of them have risen to important positions as merchants of political uncertainty in Kashmir and tend to become tongue-tied unhelpfully when things go wrong. They have never shown the spine to trudge along a principled path and always giving in to pulls and pressures of a medley of politicians, businessmen, dalals and the mafia. They have rarely delivered or dispensed justice to the common man. Has the army of Tehsildars, Thanedars, food inspectors, drug controllers etc improved the delivery system in the state?
Result: The welfare of our state is affected and the people are betrayed. Yes, the Babu culture has bought a miserable situation in the administration of government and even our autonomous institutions. To induct technocrats and specialists at various levels in the government is of course not palatable to our bureaucrats.
The world has moved on and we are perhaps not keeping pace. The biggest frustration for our reforms, development, entrepreneurship, transparency and professionalism is the ineptness of the bureaucracy. Although there is some truth in this, it is very distressing to see that we have left it to the politicians and bureaucrats to make a difference in our day to day lives. What cuts painfully deep, is the possibility that our own politicians and bureaucrats, those natives who vowed to fight corruption and for good governance, could be accomplices to this undermining of system.