Sunday 21 July 2024

News Analysed, Opinions Expressed

Are our Bureaucrats “Nalayak, Nikamme aur Bhrasht”?


Chief Minister Pramod Sawant says that outsiders get their work done easily in Goa, but Goans have to ‘toil’ for their work. He is absolutely right. It is a source of great frustration and anger among locals

CM Pramod Sawant rightly says that politicians make policies, but the implementing authority is bureaucrats


On Wednesday, Union Roads, Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari lashed out at slow-moving bureaucrats. He openly castigated National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) officials for taking 12 long years to complete the NHAI building at Dwarka in New Delhi.

The project was approved for construction in 2008, the tender was awarded in 2011 and construction was completed only in 2020. "Usually at such ceremonies people are congratulated, but I don’t understand how I should congratulate you," Mr Gadkari began.  

Calling the NHAI bureaucrats “nalayak, nikamme aur bhrasht” (incompetent, inefficient and corrupt), Mr Gadkari asked how such “negative” officers could score outstanding grades in their Annual Confidential Reports (ACRs).

"The current chairman and members are unrelated to it. But the great personalities who worked on it from 2011 to 2020… If possible, their photos should be put up in the building, showing how they delayed in taking decisions for nine years," he said.

The focus of the minister’s criticism was on Chief General Managers (CGMs) and General Managers (GMs). NHAI currently has 16 CGMs and GMs. Mr Gadkari said it was time to weed out self-serving government servants.

The video of Mr Gadkari making these unprecedented and historic comments has gone viral on social media. Many of our readers may have already seen it.

But on Tuesday – a day earlier – our own Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant stole a march on Mr Gadkari. Speaking at a Vigilance Awareness Week function at the Secretariat, Mr Sawant came down heavily on senior state government officers, especially Heads of Departments (HODs) and Secretaries, demanding that they improve the service delivery scheme system in the state, so that the common man doesn’t have to make several trips to government offices to get work done. He pointed out that more than 70 per cent of government websites in Goa were not working. “HODs have to take responsibility and deliver,” he said.

If Goa has to be developed on the lines of ‘Satark Bharat, Samruddh Bharat’, then the bureaucracy has a more important role than politicians. “Politicians make policies, but the implementing authority is bureaucrats,” Mr Sawant pointed out.

Mr Gadkari and Mr Sawant are both absolutely right. The overall ineptitude of Indian bureaucracy is glaringly evident, not just within the country, but even in our relations with neighbouring and foreign countries. This point has often been articulated in internal meetings, even by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

But to say all bureaucrats are bad is unfair and incorrect. It is said that just 25 per cent of government officials do 75 per cent of the work. The rest are mostly baggage; they refuse to take decisions and just keep files circulating from one department to the other.

India has a process-driven, rather than a result-oriented bureaucracy. It specialises in writing ‘notings’ in files that either create hurdles or become an escape route to avoid personal responsibility. If and when these reluctant officers are pushed to take decisions, their ultimate defence often is that (s)he does not want to be caught in a Vigilance or CBI case and end up in jail.

In spite of this, the majority of civilian and military bureaucrats – including generals and top administrative service, foreign service and police service officials – reportedly score 10/10 in their ACRs all through their careers. If all were really that outstanding, implementation of policies and programmes should have been swift, brilliant and extraordinary. We all know that the opposite is the truth.

It may be that the way forward is the path suggested by Mr Gadkari, who has openly called for weeding out incompetent, ineffective, indecisive and corrupt officers. However, here one needs to tread carefully and very, very systematically. Otherwise, such exercises will only end up becoming an excuse for politicians to pack the bureaucracy with pliant and like-minded ‘yes-men’ and ‘yes-women’ officers. That would make things worse rather than better.

Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said that outsiders get their work done easily in Goa, but Goans have to ‘toil’ for their work. He is absolutely right. It is a source of great frustration and anger among locals.

However, there is a small but highly significant difference between the situation at the Centre and in Goa.

In Goa, the problem is not just the bureaucracy. As I pointed out in my column on Sunday 4 October (What’s Goa’s rank on the ‘Ease of Doing Corruption Index’?), Goa’s ministers, as well as those MLAs who are heads of state government agencies and corporations, want to personally see and decide on nearly each and every file, no matter how routine it may be. That is often a bigger obstacle and source of delay than the bureaucracy.

How does Chief Minister Pramod Sawant plan to solve that problem?

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

Corrupt Government Officials are the reason for today’s Goans sufferings. They take months or even years to pass one simple file of common man, which require only few days to pass. Without bribes they even not looking at the common man face, forget about completing the file of the common man. Whenever common man goes to the office, next chair person says that he is on outdoor work. But actually he is at home sleeping or doing some of its personal business outdoor. They must be punctual and if he gone out then there must be replacement to sign on his behalf.

Jack De Goan |

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Ashwin Tombat

Ashwin Tombat has been the Editor of Gomantak Times and Herald. Worked as an Associate Editor of national magazine Gentleman in Mumbai, before shifting to Goa. Loves sailing, also participates in Marathons. Has worked as an activist in students's union and trade unions in Maharashtra. Also an artist of Street Theatre during student days.


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