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No Minister

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  29 Nov 2015 12:00 AM GMT

How should a minister conduct his relations with a bureaucrat? He is the people’s representative tasked with carrying out the popular mandate to get work done, promised in his party’s manifesto and otherwise. The civil servant must implement the minister’s orders in toto, with the government nowadays watchful that he remains ‘committed’ to its agenda. It is not so simple however — there is a constant cat and mouse game going between them. Back in the Eighties, the satirical British sitcom ‘Yes Minister’ regaled countless viewers with the machitions of a civil servant outwardly deferential towards his minister, but defending the status quo (and his turf) at all costs. The minister gets his own back occasiolly by shooting down proposals put up by the civil servant, but his victory is short-lived. The bureaucrat, after all, knows very well that while the minister is boss, chances are he won’t stay long in the department. When it comes to getting ahead with his career, the civil servant will have to watch out for seniors in his service who will have the definitive word. The Indian bureaucracy has come far from its neutral ‘steel frame’ days; old timers still recall with awe ministers like Ballabhbhai Patel and Jagjivan Ram with absolute command over their departments and gigantic persolities that inspired loyalty. Conditions for the bureaucrat are more fraught nowadays, as the experience of Harya IPS officer Sangeeta Kalia shows. Only recently the SP of Fatehabad, she has been unceremoniously transferred as commandant of a reserve battalion to Manesar. And what was her fault? She had adamantly stayed put when the Health and Sports minister yelled at her to “get out” in a public grievances meeting over liquor smuggling. When the minister alleged that the police was hand-in-gloves with the smugglers, the SP defended her men by pointing out that as many as 2,500 cases have been registered against smugglers. In turn, the SP said the fault lay with the government’s policy of issuing liquor licenses. At this, the minister blew up, but Kalia demanded to know ‘why she needed to leave,’ and then made it clear that she was not leaving and that the minister could not ‘insult her like this’. The scene played out in full media glare and the enraged minister walked out. Handed a punishment posting, Kalia joins the likes of IPS officer Durga Shakti gpal who rubbed UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav the wrong way for her uncompromising drive against the sand mafia. Then there is Ashok Khemka, the IAS officer who exposed Robert Vadra’s dodgy land deals in Gurgaon and was given a torrid time by the Congress government. The fearless bureaucrat continues to suffer under Harya’s BJP government as well; the 45 transfers handed out to him in 23 years of service must be a record of sorts.

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