Skirmishes between the Lt Gov of Delhi and the CM, threatening to escalate into a full scale (guerilla?) war is being differently seen and interpreted by various commentators, legal luminaries and of course the Kafkaesque MHA. Constitutional provisions are being invoked and the MHA has expectedly ruled in favour of the Lt Governor. The CM cannot choose his own team of babus who in turn will not be accountable to him but to some bigger babus in the MHA. This string of obliging babus starting with the Lt Gov, do not of course have to face elections. The NDA may consider full statehood for Delhi as a Poll promise or an item on its next manifesto provided there is confidence that they may come back in Delhi in 2019. But between the “cry baby” Kejriwal and the hidden intent of the MHA in keeping Delhi government babus under their thumb, there is more to the ‘transfers and postings’ racket than is being brought out in the Media.
The ‘Establishment’ wings or sections in any Ministry or Department are usually the biggest and the busiest. They ‘deal’ with recruitment, appointment, attendance, casual leave, earned leave, medical leave, maternity and paternity leave, absconders, departmental promotions, deputations, complaints (genuine, anonymous or bogus), enquiries, disciplinary proceeds, legal matters, appeals, court cases, training, tours, visits and study abroad etc. etc. of all the personnel in that Ministry. Importantly, the ‘Establishment’ deals with postings and transfers.
Why a choice posting is crucial to a Government ‘Servant’?
Those who have worked in Government know that there is no incentive for good and hard work just as there is no disincentive for indifferent or no work. Promotions are by seniority, so one has to wait one’s turn. There are no short cuts. Promotions also do not differentiate between the bad, the worse and the worst; as nearly everybody has “outstanding” annual appraisal reports. For top jobs (like Cabinet or State Chief Secretary, Police Chief and so forth), there can be ‘upsets’ but these are mainly due to political preferences. So, how can an ordinary, aspiring government servant make do?
In the absence of any incentive to perform well, within a few years of joining government, our public servants begin to jockey for postings of their choice. A choice posting, be it closer to home or a money making position or where one’s spouse is working, in cities and towns with good schools, hospitals etc. therefore becomes crucial in “properly” raising one’s family. Not get posted in a certain place or face frequent transfers, thus becomes a nightmare that ALL government servants would want to avoid, even at very high costs. For a vast majority of government servants this then becomes the sole purpose of ‘being’ in Government.
ENTER THE POLITICIAN
Soon after Independence, politicians realized how important a ‘posting’ is for a government servant. And like good investors, they also saw the money making potential in this hapless vulnerability of government employees. The dread of an ‘unsuitable’ posting can make employees cough up tidy sums of money (in cash or kind or both, including sworn loyalty) in order to stay put. So, the way to start a stampede to your loyal PA or who ever, is to let loose a rumour that Mantriji is contemplating transfers within the department. But that is not all. Once a transfer list is out, there is a mad scramble to withhold, modify or reverse transfers. Usually for this the help of other politicians like Pradhans and MLAs is much sought after. The politically better connected usually manage to hold on to their postings. Chief Ministers are known to have cancelled entire lists of transfers ordered by them within a day or two of issue. So lucrative and pervasive has the transfers and postings racket become that in all states it is now a round the year business. Where MPs and MLAs are known to ‘charge’ for asking questions in Parliament or Assemblies, surely lobbying for transfers is not done for the Public Good? Most transfers, including of Class IV employees, now require clearance at the ‘Highest’ level!
Transfers and the Quality of Governance
Needless to say, it is governance and ultimately the public that takes a beating. Irrespective of which political party is in power, there is an implicit understanding and acceptance that the moneyed and the favoured will command postings of their choice. The Public and unfortunately the Media is unaware or pretend to be so, of this deep rooted miasma plaguing the governance structures of the country. The policeman, the patwari, the forest guard, the excise inspector, the teachers, the various babus and officers in key positions have all ‘managed’ their postings; and a lot of their energy goes into holding on to these posts. If one accepts this reality (which politicians in power will always deny), is it any wonder that we are one of the most mismanaged and corrupt countries in the world?
The AAP government in Delhi
This inveterate disease is exactly what the AAP promised to tackle. Please remember that it is very difficult to work with and dry-clean a babucracy from within, simultaneously. Well meaning politicians need all possible support from the Media, the Legal agencies and above all from the Public. In Delhi, unfortunately the opposite seems to be happening. Just look at the absurd criticism and opprobrium of Kejriwal being “childish” etc. in the Social Media. Entrenched vested interests (including politicians and business) will resist and /or hit back tooth and nail. The seemingly ‘innocent’ assertion of the Lt. Gov. that he is merely following the Constitution is the first reaction of threatened vested interests. It is quite incredible that the MHA (and higher ups?) are just stuck on Constitutional formalities and have not seen or realized the implications for good governance once the AAP government is able to put the right person (if not the best) in the right place?
Maybe this just what the present government in the Centre does not want? If AAP pulls off a marked improvement in governance in Delhi in the next 5 years, what bigger threat could they possibly face in 2019?
Mr Modi knows that!