A corroding steel frame
Typically steel does not corrode easily. Perhaps that was the reason why the civil services won the epithet of the steel frame of India but the recent turmoil in Lakshadweep and the episode in West Bengal tells a different story. The former is linked to the loopholes that exist in the administration itself while the latter exemplifies the influence of politics on administration.
The island which was known till yesterday for its natural beauty and booming tourism industry is now under the limelight for all the wrong reasons. The trending #savelakshadweep is the new slogan aimed at drawing the attention of commoners to the threat posed by the controversial policy changes to the local culture of the island. Lakshadweep administrator Praful Khoda Patel has been accused of ‘imposing saffron agenda and corporate interests’.
The administration is being indicted for destroying people’s livelihood, eliminating their staple food (beef), and closing down dairy farms. These alleged religious colored actions have given rise to widespread opposition from the native inhabitants and civil society. The administrator has been given the powers of the district panchayat compounding the argument that administration is the new Goonda-raj. Health, education, fisheries, animal husbandry and agriculture now fall under the jurisdiction of the administrator. An administrator is an agent of the centre, therefore all fingers are pointing to the union government. The protestors are demanding a recall of the administrator. The Kerala assembly even passed a resolution to this effect.
In the second story, West Bengal chief secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay was suddenly recalled to Delhi. The whole tussle started when Bengal CM and Bandyopadhyay left a meeting being chaired by Prime Minister to review damage and mitigation caused by cyclone Yaas. According to the service rules an officer has to report to the prime minister in such an event. The centre has accused the chief secretary of breaching the service rules. However, CM stated that the rules were abided but the centre is of a different opinion.
These two instances show the Dark side of the Indian administration. Ideally, an officer should maintain political, ideological and religious neutrality and work under democratically elected representatives. When neutrality is compromised then the system fails to work for the common good of the country. The case of Lakshadweep is quintessentially a testament to this fact. The voice raised against the administration not only creates mistrust among people but also taints the name of the entire organisation.
The Supreme Court of India described a civil servant as a person who serves a master that is; the state. There is a difference between the state and the political party governing that state. Failure to see this difference by either of the two, the party in power or the officer, is detrimental to a functional democracy. In West Bengal, an officer is on a tight rope because of the animosity between the parties in power in state and centre.
India is one of the most diverse countries in the world needs a strong steel frame to rely on. The corrosive elements like political biases or unabated political pressure, should be kept far away or it won’t be long when we see the beautiful monument of democracy we built from blood and sweat, crumble to dust.