TODAY -

Injustice Caused Not By Actions Rather By Inactions Of The Authorities

S. Kunjabihari Singh *



Often the civil servants run truant not by accounts of actions or performances rather by those of inactions or non-performances. This attribute could be true for all government officials, the HODs or their subordinates and the bureaucrats included. The problem stems from the failure of the appropriate authorities who are armed with such authorities and responsibility to deliver.

The reasons for this apparent failure could be among others, his or her inability to accord that much of importance and zeal to intervene or listen to the grievances or it could be because of his or her traits of arrogance and therefore remaining inaccessible by the public at large.

The most exemplary illustration could be in the case of district administration. The Deputy Commissioner as head of the Institution commands enormous authority and is equipped with tremendous power to execute or deliver services to the needy. In effect, he can get things done or undone according to his choice and this ‘choice’ is what matters most.

He can make himself available or accessible to the people; he can also make himself unavailable and can leave maters to the wisdom of the subordinates, though, of course, bound by standard procedures. The gap or disparity between the two sets of actions where the DC gets himself involved and where he remains aloof could be considerable not only in content but also in quality.

Years back I happened to come across a young lady who did her MBA from the US. While in Bangalore, I was invited by her father, an old friend, to dinner. I met her there. In the course of the meal, she enquired about the various areas of responsibility of an IAS officer in service, in particular she asked me about the department or area, the ranks or grades where I worked.

To her surprise, I told her that I had worked in about 20 odd departments of the government while in service, in varying levels of responsibility as one goes up the career ladder. She enjoyed the discussion though she was amazed that one had to work in so many areas in a span of a service career of 35 or so years.

She was not alone in this game of amazement. My turn of astonishment arrived soon. She categorically asked me about the grade or level or post I enjoyed the most during the entire length of service. Actually I was not expecting such an inquisitiveness from anybody. The girl, an educated girl earning a prestigious degree from the US cannot be satiated with general discussions; she wanted to get more insight.

Unexpected questions from youngsters often shake off the balance of even the seniors. I was no exception. I however composed swiftly and talked about the district posting, the post of Deputy Commissioner, as the most enviable, enjoyable and perhaps most capable. She argued however that if the level of DC was somewhere in the mid-hierarchy of the career span why this specialty of DC being the most likeable among the grades.

Yes, reasons are aplenty, though it is only somewhere in the midst of the career span. It is this position where the Head of the district can strike a direct chord with the people, the needy villagers, the poor. The needs of the people are small, an upgradation of a village foot-path, erecting a culvert so that the villagers can carry the paddy home after harvest, can reach market and all that. They need a minimum quantity of essential commodities; be they sugar or kerosene. And it is this area where the masses suffer the most. The authorities are not reaching them or there are leakages at the expense of the minimum needs of the people , the result they suffer.

During my years in Thoubal, I used to ask the ADM to be available in the office on time irrespective of whether the staff or the Branch Officers were late; we should be in the office at the dot of 10. One winter morning, we two were in the office, of course sitting outside in the sun ordering for hot tea. Even before the tea arrived, we could see two ladies approaching our place slowly, hesitantly, exhibiting the kind of apprehension often sported by village ladies while visiting senior officers. We tried to ease out the uneasiness of the two calling them loudly to come. We asked for two chairs for the two, we even asked the staff to serve tea.

A totally amazed two-some, simple illiterate village ladies were at a loss how they could get such a treatment, a reception never ever imagined. They were too dumb-founded to sip the tea. We encouraged them to finish it. Imagine the contrasting scenario. Here were two village ladies unsure of ever meeting the Head of the district to hear their grievances; and lo! They were called in, chairs offered near the two senior most officers, offered chairs and offered tea too.

They were from Wangkhem village, wanted kerosene. We had then already streamlined distribution of kerosene for all the villages. I remember special quota specifically earmarked even for the tiny island-village of Komnao, a sub-village of around 30 or 40 households in the midst of the Pumlan lake, north of Thongjao village.

For the first time, the villagers of Komnao got separate quota of sugar and kerosene. These two ladies were however sand-collectors and they required extra kerosene for the night-long work in the river. They were justified. We readily assured special quota. They were apparently exalted beyond measure. And why not; they were not sure if they would even be fortunate to have an audience with the Deputy Commissioner of the district. And, here they not only got it, they were even offered seat, offered tea by the very authority they were not sure to be able to meet.

This was not the end for the two-some. More surprises were lying in wait. In my usual inquisitiveness to probe more, I casually asked how they arranged the boats. They got two on rent from a villager at Rs.200 each a month. My conscience intrigued me that such village ladies who had abandoned weaving to sand collecting out of desperation needed more support.

The Integrated Rural Development Program those days had such economic component for financing to enhance income. I cajoled what would they do if the boats were purchased for them so they could save that four hundred rupees every month. They had no words, they were filled with ecstasy kind of exuberance and only could utter, if I recall correctly, “ Saheb, we will give you sand for free, come to Lukhoi Hiden in Wangkhem”. I couldn’t be that fortunate to send somebody to Lukhoi Hiden; but I was successful in purchasing two boats for those ladies.

A Deputy Commissioner can be of considerable assistance in reaching out to the people whose needs are anyway small. And these helps can be delivered fast without much of a cumbersome procedure. They don’t have to seek approval of a Secretary to the government nor of a Minister. The DC is the boss and where he considers appropriate the work can be executed expeditiously.

The villagers too are put at ease. They get what is appropriate promptly. There is no in-between into play. Seeing the villagers returning happy after their works are taken care of is itself a matter of joy. What then could be more enjoyable a posting than that of a Collector?


* S. Kunjabihari Singh wrote this article for e-pao.net
This piece was originally written on 23 February 2016 ; The writer can be contacted at kunjabiharis(AT)rediffmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on March 03, 2016.


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