On Thursday, Union Home Minister Rajth Singh directed bureaucrats to ignore illegal orders of the “political executive,” and saying that officials needed to shed the tag of being the “yes-men” of politicians. He also expressed his anger at bureaucrats for delaying the iugural session of the Civil Services Day by nearly 12 minutes and asked them to “introspect”. He made repeated references to his own sense of punctuality and said that he had made it a practice to arrive about ten minutes before the scheduled time of commencement of any programme and said he could not stand lack of punctuality in officers. His tirade against lack of punctuality among officers will be well taken by most people in Assam who have suffered great losses of precious time in having to wait even up to an hour for political executives like ministers who generally arrive very late for functions. Bureaucrats may not have relished Rajth Singh’s tongue-lashing, but many of them got just what they deserved. The tendency of looking down on most people (including their political bosses) has become a habit with bureaucrats who have cleared the IAS exams and are well aware of their immunity from instant punishment. They might feel quite safe about not taking the words of their political bosses too seriously in respect of minor breaches of occupatiol propriety like lack of punctuality. But what are they expected to do about advice not to be yes-men of their political bosses. After all, most political bosses are unlikely to take any refusals to carry out the instructions of their political bosses as acts of defiance. And even if their political bosses are in no position to sack them for insubordition, they are quite capable of harassing ‘insubordite’ bureaucrats through very frequent transfers that disturb the education of their children even if they fail to achieve other significant forms of punishment. It is, therefore, unlikely that bureaucrats will take the advice of Union Home Minister Rajth Singh not to be yes-men of their political executives very seriously. Bureaucrats, being generally better educated than their political executives, have already discovered that it is much better for the advancement of their careers to be ubashed yes-men of their political bosses. They are past masters at the game of survival, and will do whatever is called for in order to survive. They are likely to abide by the advice of Rajth Singh only to the extent of professiol safety. An appeal to bureaucrats to sustain the ‘steel frame’ to which they are supposed to belong is likely to fall on deaf ears. Our bureaucrats know better than others that their ‘steel frame’ became a ‘bamboo frame’ long ago.
Pulling up Bureaucrats