Our unfriendly Babus

A few days back, I had to get a document signed by an officer known for his arrogance. The officer wasn’t there in the office. To our much relief, he accompanied by low rung employees, arrived soon after sometime. Everybody paid respect and salam but I didn’t hear his reply in reciprocation. He yelled at the poor peon, “Che cheya demag dolmut. Yore kot trawthek yeteya. Az gai rozdari huend lihaz”(“Are you in your senses? Why did you allow many people to enter the office. Am sparing you today for your folly just because it is month of  Ramazan”). The poor peon lowered his gaze in embarrassment.

When it was my turn to address my grievance, I handed over to him the document. He in an authoritative, high-pitched and callous tone told me,” Yeth kate sa che aadhar card?” (“Where is adhaar card?”). I replied, “Su haz che me yekya saet chandas” (“that is with me, in my pocket.”)

“Go, get a photocopy and submit it here first then I am going to sign”, he demanded. On that hot fasting day, I had to walk almost half a kilometre to get a photocopy. I was quite upset by his indifferent and insensitive attitude. When I was back, I politely told him in a “dabaw wala angreezi” with mere intent to gesture toward him that I am also educated and  I tried to make him realize how he made me suffer unnecessarily , “Sir, I guess I had to unnecessarily suffer. It is nowhere mentioned that adhaar deposition is mandatory for getting the document signed.”  He was bit speechless trying to dodge me saying, “What do you do?” “Nothing, am a private teacher”, I replied.

There were a few of his subordinates in the office, one of them known to me, he interrupted, exaggeratedly added to my brief and modest introduction and informed the officer, “He is a good writer also.”

“Good to know. Which paper do you write for”,  the officer inquisitively said. “I used to report for local English daily  from my district until recently. I occasionally write features for Times Of India.”, I replied.

“Oh great”, he said in a mild tone. His “takjaar” dissolved and impoliteness dramatically  changed  into politeness and decency.

“Why didn’t you tell me earlier”, and added, “Thayew tashreef”, (“Be seated, please”). Leaving me wondering what was the need to tell him about my profession. After a brief chat. I bid him goodbye. “Be ma kehn Hakum”, (“Any thing else I can do for you”, he added politely.

His special treatment at the end not only baffled me but also disappointed me. I was left  pondering why didn’t I deserve this treatment when I appeared a common man to him. Why did he mend his way of treating me when his came to know about my association with media.

This experience was one of the a stark reflections of how insensitive most of our bureaucrats are to people’s grievances and how responsive they are to our needs. How deeply they still are influenced with that typical colonial mindset. Here I am not attempting to generalize but incidents like this are a very common. In our part of the world, most of the bureaucrats have earned such a dubious distinction of being people unfriendly, treating people with indignity, inordinately delaying the redressal of even small grievances, being unfairly authoritative and deliberately sluggish in addressing people’s woes due to minimal accountability.

Such officers need to have the realization that they are mere public servants obligated to serve people with compassion, honesty  and dedication.

They may have qualified IAS, KAS or any other competitive tests but  that is not sufficient. Passing of exam should not make them feel too privileged to, resort to dereliction of  basic duties, and demonstrate their authority to poor public. Such officers desperately need to learn civility and unlearn this uncivil attitude.