Claiming Good Governance

Successive Governments have initiated measures to improve governance in the state. However, the first ever serious effort was made by late Sheikh Sahab when he introduced single line administration ensuring important decisions of public importance are taken in district development board meetings. It was seen as a move to involve masses in important decision making as the district development boards were competent enough to take the decisions on spot and masses had not to knock the secretariat on and often. However, with the passage of time the sanctity of these boards has been diluted by various Governments one way or the other and the board meetings itself became a futile and time wasting exercise for the lack of their authority to take decisions on spot, as the entire powers were gradually shifted back to cabinet and corridors of civil secretariat. In 2011 Government conducted Panchayat elections claiming that it would be an effort to transfer the power to the gross root level, but in a state where even MLAs and Ministers are not able to help in resolving genuine and simple public issues, failure of Panchayats was eminent.

Now when state is under Centre’s rule, Governor Satya Pal Malik is crying every day to put his weight behind the defunct system and the institutions and back to village program has been one of such measure initiatives. Without doubting intentions of Mr. Satya Pal Malik one has more than enough reasons not to expect anything concrete from the back to village initiative. Let us not forget that nothing can change on the ground unless the psyche of masses, public representatives, Government officials and especially that of top bureaucrats changes. The officers who visited villages are not aliens but have been performing their duties in the same vicinities where they were deputed to look into the grievances of people during back to village program. With few exceptions one can ask a simple question that if most of the Government employees have not been able to perform during their normal course of duty, how they can perform in just two days during back to village program. Even if officers want to contribute something there are numerous reasons to expect nothing from them. Who does not know that hundreds of crores  get wasted or lapsed due to untimely decisions taken by babus and bureaucrats in the civil secretariat. It looks laughable when MGNREGA act ensures wages to job card holders within days but even after years together people can be seen begging before village level workers for the payment despite the harsh fact that they pay at least 10% commission to the concerned officials starting form GRS to ACD’s office. Much is being talked about Swach Bharat Abhiyan but the irony is that hundreds of house holders in every area have not got even a penny against the construction of toilets under the scheme. It may look strange but is the reality that one block development officer has the additional charge even six to eight blocks and it should not be difficult to imagine that how can he work. It sounds good to talk about sufferings of villages in the name of back to village program but almost everywhere Patwari, Anganwadi worker, orderly of health department, local maid of a forest guard, store keeper, lineman of PHE or PDD or other employees running essential services are much more powerful than the chief secretary on the ground. Any RTI will reveal that crores of rupees lapse in education and health sectors, but there could hardly be a school or a first aid center in a village which could have adequate accommodation or facilities. Every Government school and a first aid center or PHC has huge dearth of staff, but who cares. The condition of main drains, roads and inner links is like an ugly blot on the face of the Government. Those officers who visited villages do make general public to wait for hours together if they visit their offices for any public issue. Corruption, nepotism, favoritism and cuts  have been informally legalized. Intentions of the Government could be very good but if the basic requirements – zeal, interest, intent & road map – to address the problems of villages is lacking, how can back to village program make a difference. Anyway before making claims about back to village program, Babus and bureaucrats must find some time to visit just the habitations within one kilometer radius of the civil secretariat and they will find that coffins of their claims of Good Governance, accountability and transparency have been waiting for the burial since long.