Bureaucrats and senior officials in Rajasthan are having a hard time. What with principal secretary, mining, Ashok Singhvi in custody over alleged bribery scam, RAS Nishkam Divaker under arrest for alleged land scam deed and once powerful but now retired IAS G S Sandhu having to seek anticipatory bail from the Anti Corruption Bureau for the same land scam, now these officers have been asked to pay due respect to the public representatives.
Chief Secretary C S Rajan issued a circular yesterday instructing bureaucrats and senior officials to give due respect to public representatives at public functions, give them the chance to inaugurate government schemes, campaigns, projects instead of hogging the limelight. The order came in wake of several complaints received from the MLAs, MPs and other public representatives that their authority was being undermined by the bureaucrats, who often don not inform them government events in their constituencies.
The order also asks officials not to accept garlands and turbans at public functions and to leave inaugurations, unveiling and stone laying ceremonies for the public representatives, failing which they would have to disciplinary action.
The circular also has laid down that officials should ensure that inaugurations are carried out by public representatives. They have also been asked to not make any announcements on their own about public and developmental works, which were not achievable.
Rajan said that the decision has been taken after public representatives complained that many a times bureaucrats heading the department, take away the limelight from them and do not give them due respect. And thus people often overlook them and approach the bureacrats for major work rather than them. They overlook the fact that they are the actual links between the people and the government.
The circular says that public representatives like MLAs, corporators, should be invited to the public functions of big government programmes, campaigns, foundation laying ceremonies in their constituencies.
The circular also says the government officials would face disciplinary action under Rajasthan Civil ( Conduct ) Rules, 1971, if they fail to abide by the instructions.
Bureaucrats and people representatives have often complained about each other’s high-handedness. Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje during the Collectors’ conference in July this year had asked officials to respond to concerns expressed by people’s representatives. Her directive came in the wake of several MLAs complaining about non-responsiveness on the part of officials.
Ashok Gehlot during his tenure from 2008 to 2013 also had to face the problems of MLAs, who complained that they were being treated badly by bureaucrats at all levels of the administration. A story goes that one additional Collector, who was also the ADM of the district, instead of listening to the MLA, had told him to shoo off by saying: “Mein chahun to MLA ban sakta hoon par aap kabhi ADM nahin ban sakte. (If I want, I can become a MLA, but you cannot become an ADM).”
MLAs and other public representatives often complain that officials seldom take their phone calls and avoid meeting them. And they do not listen to what they have to say. Though under protocol rules, MLAs as elected representative of the people, are considered on par with the office of secretary.
Gehlot had then issued a set of instructions for officers saying they should standup as a mark of respect whenever any elected public representative came to meet them. As a courtesy, they should also see them off till their vehicles. If MLAs bring some thing of public interest to their knowledge, they should act immediately.
If matter doesn’t come under the concerned official’s jurisdiction, it should be referred to the right official. They should make it a habit to attend calls from MLAs. And if they are busy then, they should get back to them at the earliest.
Gehlot had also asked MLAs to be equally responsible. He asked them to fix an appointment with the respective official and not just barge into the office and not ask for personal favours from them.
But bureaucrats on their part complain of arrogance of the public representatives. They claim many of them behave as if they are the government unto themselves and demand unreasonable favours from the officials and are abusive when they find they cannot get it done by them.
Many bureaucrats also say there are guidelines laid down which unequivocally makes the protocol rules clear and there is no need for fresh guidelines everytime. Even as new rules surface, it seems the tussle between bureaucrats and government officials is not going to end anytime soon.