Shaky bureaucratic boat

[ Tongam Rina ]
It appears that in Arunachal, bureaucrats at the top have stepped onto each other’s foot; pushing the entire bureaucratic boat to a wild tempest. And we all know what happened next. It not only rocked the tight-knit administrative establishment but the state government too.
The government was left to defend itself as the Congress party lapped up the golden opportunity, which was fuelled by administrative loopholes, besides internal bickering leading to divisive camps within the bureaucracy.
The crisis could have been severe for the government had the Congress done its homework well.
But instead of questioning whether there have been procedural lapses by the bureaucrats and the government, the party came up with some incongruous financial figures as it accused the state government of corruption.
On July 24, this year, Chief Secretary Shakuntala Gamlin wrote a letter to Finance Commissioner Ashish Kundra regarding State Annual Development Agenda. Her main contention was that in the name of “maintaining strict financial discipline and propriety, there has been a considerable departure from the established procedure for obtaining concurrence of the Finance Department in respect of individual schemes and projects which has been replaced by a blanket clearance”.
The bottom line of the letter is that the Finance Department has decentralized the responsibilities to the respective administrative departments, which in turn may lead to possible lack of accountability and financial impropriety.
It appears that decision was taken by the political bosses and not the bureaucrats at the Finance Department and certainly not the Chief Secretary.
The three paged letter, also marked to the Secretary to the Chief Minister and OSD to the Finance Minister was made public almost two months later by the Congress. Questions were bound to follow. Why did the Chief Secretary take so long to figure out that there has been considerable departure from the established procedure when she runs the administration? Did the Chief Minister and Finance Minister sideline their top bureaucrat while taking major financial decisions? Was subsequent transfer of the Chief Secretary to the centre a routine one or fallout of the letter going public?
An efficient all inclusive administration is what the government needs. As it experienced in the recent case involving its own trusted and handpicked bureaucrats, the government cannot afford to undermine the bureaucrats nor allow it to over run it.
The government should by now know that coterie within the bureaucracy can be dangerous. Though notorious for taking cuts and undue favours, bureaucrats, if not bureaucracy itself, command some amount of respect from common citizens in Arunachal. To a large extent that respect has been earned and not bought.
Some innovative officers have gone a step ahead of others by taking administration to the doorsteps of the people by opening mobile offices while some have made use of technology to allow food items under PDS to reach the poor Arunachalees. Such acts are appreciated by the common people who otherwise do not have access to administration, good or bad and thereby missing government policies and programmes.
Clearly in the current case, there were no winners but one thing is clear – keep the boat going and do not rock it unnecessarily nor allow the politicians to jump on it.
Politicians are known to manipulate officers. Yes, sometimes, in return, officers return the favour.
Manipulation either way is a matter of choice; but when there is a well defined hierarchy in the administrative set up, it would not be too tough to go by the rule book.