West indian people

The representatives of the people and the executive

The coordination of the two based on mutual respect necessary for the public good and is envisaged by the constitution

The judiciary, the legislature and the executive are the three pillars of democracy and our Constitution grants them equal status. But politicians and elected officials do not seem to be aware of this. We often see around us examples of elected officials slapping senior civil servants for alleged laxity, delay and lack of quality in their work. When the supporters of these representatives boo this officer in ridicule, they do not realize that they are in fact insulting the Constitution drafted by a committee under the chairmanship of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar and thus degrading his teachings. Not all may slap officers, but representatives of all parties humiliate officers in full public gaze. There are elected officials in all parties who have the mistaken idea that their status is superior because they are elected and that the status of administrators and employees is inferior to them.

The reason for these thoughts is that a video has gone viral on social media showing Union Finance Minister Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman humiliating a district collector in Telangana State. There is no doubt that Smt. Sitharaman is a highly qualified competent woman with impeccable integrity.

The summary of what she said, as shown in the video, is that although the central government’s share in subsidizing the price of grain distributed by ration shops in Telangana state is substantial, this information is hidden from the people and the people are deliberately led to believe that only the state government provides them with cheap grain. It can be clearly seen in the footage that she publicly humiliated the District Chief Collector by telling him with a contemptuous exclamation that he is an officer of the Telangana Executive Indian Administrative Service and he should know that. Not only that, she asked him to make sure that a photo of PM Modi which will be prominently displayed near the shop will not be removed.

Inquiring with some ration traders, they said that they had not received any circular from the central/state government indicating that Prime Minister Modi’s picture would be obligatorily displayed in or around the ration store. We do not display such a picture in our store and the Rationing Inspector who regularly visits our store has never objected to our not putting such a picture or ordered us to display it.

This raises the question whether there is such a rule in the state of Telangana? However, as it is a non-BJP ruled state and the current chief minister of the state is a fierce opponent of Prime Minister Modi, such a rule is unlikely to exist. Therefore, a legitimate question that arises is on what basis and under what rule the Minister of Finance gave such an instruction to the tax collector.

Another question that arises is whether a minister of the Union, in our federal system, has the right to go into a state and publicly insult an officer in the service of that state and issue him an unjustified order and illegal. The answer is definitely no, because an officer in the service of the state government is responsible only to the state government.

There is no bravery in reprimanding and subjugating an officer because there is very little chance that he will issue a reprimand. Therefore, it is an abuse of the so-called power of the representative and an undue influence on this officer.

A self-respecting senior official may resign in protest against such behavior and the resulting political upheaval may ruin the political career of the official concerned. Secondly, a representative is well advised to keep in mind that an overly sensitive official or employee may take an extreme step by not being able to bear the humiliation.

Couldn’t the Minister of Finance have called the Prime Minister or the Minister of Public Distribution and informed him? But political courage was needed. And when it is not there, the administrative officers are there as easy targets to show their value and display it in front of the people. Second, she could have raised this issue with her cabinet colleague in charge of the public distribution system.

Politicians and representatives of the people must learn to respect the agents and employees of the administration. They should not think that being elected is a license to belittle or publicly humiliate administrative staff.

A well-educated (i.e. academically) politician publicly scolding or denigrating an officer is as reprehensible as an overbearing, irresponsible representative (who probably hasn’t even read the preamble to the Constitution) slapping an officer in public . This is surely not the sign of a mature and responsible public representative.

The problem with some of our elected officials (not all) is that power goes to their heads, they are power drunk. The representatives of the people are not angels sent by God from heaven to take care of the people. They are members of the legislative body which makes laws for the welfare of the people and some of them form the government according to the constitutional scheme. The constitution requires that this government and its representatives govern fairly, in accordance with procedures established by law and in respectful cooperation with the executive.

Representatives should remember that they were elected on a promise of service. But the experience of the general public is that once elected, they become “super humans” and VIPs. They should note that they are in office for a very limited period (ie five years) but that the executive is perpetual. It is not without reason that it is the iron frame of the bureaucracy that runs the country. A perception that has become established that elected officials or the government are the political masters of the executive. The earlier this perception goes, the better it is for good governance. The best the government can do is transfer an inconvenient officer. Some self-respecting leaders are still ready for this and some go with a resignation in hand. The representatives of the people are supposed to represent the will of the people who elect them, to protect their interests and to work for their well-being. It is natural to recall in this context that the former municipal corporators were called Nagar Pita (Father of the City). But the late Shri Balasaheb Thackeray changed it and renamed it Nagar Sevak (servants of the city).

In conclusion, it should be recalled that the Minister of Finance, Sitharaman, is a competent and effective minister. Its mention is only representative and illustrative.

Not all executive branch officials are honest, efficient and of high integrity. Therefore, the purpose of this article is not to defend the executive but to point out that the people rightly expect the representatives of the people and the executive to work hand in hand for the welfare of the people and not hand in hand.



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Disclaimer

The opinions expressed above are those of the author.



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