Indeed, the Soudha stinks

A rotten rat called government
Last Updated : 23 October 2019, 21:04 IST
Last Updated : 23 October 2019, 21:04 IST

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It is a matter of concern that Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa had to shift the venue of his meeting with the visiting Iranian ambassador from the Committee Room of Vidhana Soudha to his own office as he found the smell of a rotten rat in the Committee Room unbearable. It did not come as a surprise to anyone who has had something to do with the government and its various organs. It is good that the CM had first-hand experience of the rot that has set in government. The Committee Room in the Vidhana Soudha is the venue where government functionaries at the highest levels meet frequently to discuss serious policy matters and issues relating to governance. In a way, the dead rat is a timely warning to the government to introspect as to why the state of its affairs has become so rotten.

The state of affairs in the various departments of the government, including in the local bodies and panchayats, is even worse. Look at the state of maintenance of government buildings, the roads, the irrigation systems, the forests, the educational institutions, the hospitals. You name any institution of the government, and you will find that each one is equally rotten. The government does not seem to be interested in fixing the problems of the common man.

Take, for instance, the state of roads, the footpaths, the massive scale at which building bye-laws have been violated in Bengaluru, the chaotic traffic and violation of traffic rules, the crimes, the garbage and sewers, which are reported in the media daily. Citizens are forced to knock on the doors of the authorities repeatedly and even move the courts to get their grievances redressed.

What are the reasons for such a sorry state of affairs? Who is responsible for this state of affairs? Can anything be done to fix government and governance? Governance is a serious affair. It needs well-trained and competent people to manage the affairs of the state. Above all, it needs strong political leadership to control and manage the political and administrative affairs of the government.

Political leadership

Unfortunately, our elections, the bedrock of our democracy, have become too expensive even at the Gram Panchayat level. Money and muscle power decide winnability of candidates. Politics has become a lucrative business for the vast majority of politicians. It is no longer an option for well-meaning people who would like to serve the people. Strength of character and values of honesty and integrity have become the biggest disqualifications for anyone entering electoral politics.

It is unfortunate but true that we have such an environment today. Under such circumstances, we can expect only week, inefficient and corrupt governments. The elected leaders want to become ministers, heads of PSUs or boards or such other institutions. They are not satisfied with the pay and perks attached to such positions but want to get maximum return on their investments in elections, through all means possible. And they insist on having bureaucrats of their choice at all levels in these institutions.

Sadly, there are plenty of pliable bureaucrats who even pay hefty amounts to politicians to get favoured positions. This then becomes a win-win deal for both the bureaucrat and the politician. How can those involved in such an arrangement be expected to work for the benefit of the common man? They provide benefits only to those who are willing to pay for them.

We find that all kinds of undesirable arrangements are made to accommodate the various interest groups, like creating the positions of deputy chief ministers and giving cabinet ranks to heads of boards and corporations. How can the CM be expected to take a final view on any matter under such constraints? His primary concern can only be to retain his position as CM.

And what about the legislators who fail to get any such positions or the legislators belonging to the opposition parties? They too need to be kept in good humour. They are pampered with special unconstitutional powers of getting the officers of their choice in their constituencies in almost all departments. Here, too, there is a win-win situation for both the politician and local bureaucrat. Together, they prosper at the cost of the common man as only persons with deep pockets can get their work done through such an arrangement. Local bodies and panchayats, too, follow similar arrangements.

And what of the state of affairs in the bureaucracy? I don’t have to repeat what has been said above as it also largely covers the state of the bureaucracy at almost all levels. The biggest damage the above arrangement has done to the bureaucracy is that it has completely destroyed the hierarchical nature of responsibilities of the bureaucrats as most bureaucrats have established direct links with the political masters.

The worst sufferers are the few honest bureaucrats who rightly choose not to align themselves with any politician. They are rendered ineffective as they are unable to control bureaucrats working under them who have political godfathers. I have personally known quite a few such honest and upright senior bureaucrats.

What else would you expect, Mr CM, other than a stinking dead rat in the Vidhana Soudha? You can always clean up the Committee Room quickly, but how are you going to clean up the rotten system that has come to pervade the entire government?

(The writer is a retired IAS officer)

Published 23 October 2019, 18:01 IST

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