For far too long, governments in Assam have perfected the art of distributing loaves and fishes of office to keep ruling party legislators happy. In an assembly of 126 members, the size of the ministry cannot exceed 19. So a sizeable number of legislators were appointed parliamentary secretaries, while others were made heads of public bodies and corporations. The new government has reportedly sought to know from all departments, details of the persons heading such public bodies and corporations, as well as the terms and conditions relating to their appointments. This move is on expected lines. Earlier governments too wasted little time after taking charge in drawing up such lists, ostensibly to appoint ruling party members to such posts and thereby ‘bring the party and the government closer’. But it was more a cynical exercise to distribute plum postings among MLAs, defeated candidates and influential leaders. In their anxiety to keep flocks together, ruling parties had little time or patience to think about ability and merit. When chief ministers struggled to find able members to constitute a ministry of 19, the general lack of quality among other ‘political’ appointments is hardly surprising. This is a continuing tragic waste, for many public bodies and corporations are invested with onerous responsibilities. If these are properly discharged, public life will surely improve. Instead, the people are saddled with practically ‘headless’ corporations, run by faceless bureaucracies. The political heads appointed are mostly concerned with how much money they can make from their posting, and what leverage it gives them to peddle influence in Dispur. Such mentality has percolated down to employees at the lowest levels. This system has to change if any talk of ‘poribartan’ and ‘acche din’ in Assam is to be meaningful. It is always a ruling party’s call to put high value to party loyalty and ideological commitment. But proven merit and ability deserves the highest place for any party that fancies itself as a harbinger of good governce.
food for thought