There has been understandable anger among Opposition members of the Assam Assembly over the Forest Minister’s irregular action in authorizing a few persons to act on behalf of the Forest Department in blatant violation of the laws and rules for such appointments. What Forest Minister Pramila Rani Brahma did was to authorize three persons—Fazlur Rahman, Abdul Hai garik and Raju Barman—to act on behalf of the Forest Department. What made matters worse for her was the fact that she had issued instructions (on her official letterhead) that these persons should be “allowed” access to certain departmental activities. The unfazed Forest Minister sought to justify her action by stating in the Assembly that the three youths were her spies to detect anomalies in the department, and that what was being done had nothing abhorrent about it. What the honourable minister seems to have overlooked is that there are norms and procedures even for the humblest of appointments in government offices and that even ministers are obliged to abide by them. It is just not enough to insist that she needed spies to find out what was going on in her department and that being a minister, she had every right to appoint anyone she chose even without observing the formalities of such appointments. Forest Minister Brahma also stated in the Assembly that the Forest Department had been “rotting” under large-scale corruption and anomalous practices, and attributed these practices to the previous Congress government. She also added that she was trying very hard to ensure that the department functioned efficiently and accountably.
What the Forest Minister needs to appreciate is that there are at least two things wrong about her casual mode of appointing people. In the first place, she ought to have realized by now that she was not making appointments of domestic staff. She was making appointments for a government department of which she was the minister. She ought to have known better than anyone else in the department that there were certain and formalities to be observed for such recruitments. She ought to have observed these formalities far more meticulously than anyone else in the department. Besides, if she was appointing people to unearth and identify corrupt practices in her department, she would need very upright persons whose integrity was beyond question. Unfortutely, the persons she had chosen for this important task were arrested over charges of extortion. Their integrity was obviously was much in question. Quite understandably, the Forest Minister was very indignt over the police action of arresting her blue-eyed boys.
It is not difficult to appreciate the political culture that motivated the actions of the Forest Minister. We have had 15 years of Congress rule under the chief ministership of Tarun Gogoi that patronized all kinds of corrupt practices, thereby creating a perverse political culture that winked at the flouting of all wholesome norms and conventions. That government sought to perpetuate a political culture that put persol gains before ethical courses of action. Unfortutely, such compromises of ethics have a way of influencing the conduct of even upright souls. People tend to do what they see others doing. And when the head of any department falls prey to such sophistry, one begins to see the outcome of what a perverse socio-political culture can do to the best of ideals. Cartels and ‘syndicates’ get created to lend support to immoral practices. Given this situation, Assam Chief Minister Sarbanda Sonowal has done well to direct that no minister should appoint any person outside the government in his or her persol staff or any other position where he or she has anything to do with the government.