bureaucrats
Health and Family Welfare Minister Pijush Hazarika conducting food-safety raids in Guwahati. (File Photo)
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Let bureaucrats come to the fore and do their jobs

STAFF REPORTER
GUWAHATI, June 21: Politics is a game-changer, many say. But many as well forget that politics is just another name for public service. At least this is what democracy entails. Else, what is democracy without public service?
Now the question: Why is there a gargantuan bureaucracy at all, with all its huge salary packages and perks, if not for institutional effectiveness? Bureaucrats are meant for guiding – rather counseling – the ministers whom they apparently serve. But in a democracy, no bureaucrat can serve any minister. The reason is simple: all must serve the people, who are the real masters in a democracy, without fear or favour. Here comes the acid test for bureaucrats.

Take this case: Piyush Hazarika, a minister in the Assam Government, is currently giving sleepless nights to food, milk, fruits and sweets vendors in the State for selling their products without adhering to norms. He seems to have already taken punitive actions on such vendors for charges of taking their customers for a ride.

Hazarika’s mission may have won public and media accolades. But the million dollar question is: how long will the mission sustain itself?
Sources said such drives by ministers in the past had been always short-lived and Hazarika cannot be an exception.

“Such drives are not the jobs of ministers. If the ministers have to carry out such drives, what is the relevance and rationale behind keeping a huge number of officials specially entrusted with the jobs? Officials are getting huge amounts as salaries. If salaries are only to remain idle by virtue of them sitting at their cozy offices, what’s the use at all?” a source said.
It is the job of the officials of the massive health department to monitor quality and hygiene sides of fruits, milk, sweets, vegetables and food items. But Hazarika’s present drive is evident of the concerned officials’ failures to do the same.

“Even though Hazarika has penalized many erring food vendors and traders, they are least bothered since they know it very well that things will be back to square one after a few days, few weeks, or a few months,” the source.

So the bottom line is simple: Set up an institutional mechanism comprising senior and experienced bureaucrats to advise the ministers concerned if the latter have any lack of knowledge or expertise if at all. Let the institutional machinery do its job. Ministers can then focus on governance – if they can.