The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

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The Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir has just recently constituted a Special Task Force to “scrutinise cases of employees suspected of activities requiring action under Article 311 (2) (c)”. Article 311 of the Constitution of India as contained in Chapter I on Services in PART XIV relating to SERVICES UNDER THE UNION AND THE STATES stipulates for enquiry before disciplinary action is taken against an employee but the particular clause provides the scope for doing away with the need for enquiry in special cases “(c) where the President or the Governor, as the case may be, is satisfied that in the interest of the security of the State it is not expedient to hold such inquiry. (3) If, in respect of any such person as aforesaid, a question arises whether it is reasonably practicable to hold such inquiry as is referred to in clause (2), the decision thereon of the authority empowered to dismiss or remove such person or to reduce him in rank shall be final.” The invocation of this Article, particularly Clause 2 (c), reflects the definitiveness and sense of urgency the Lieutenant Governor (LG) has got in his mind in so far as the Security of the State is concerned; there must have been multiple, repeated and long-term dereliction by the on performance, causal commitment, transparency and accountability among certain sections of civil employees that have constrained the LG to resort to this Constitutional provision.

This action propels us to recall the significant role of civil employees who assist the higher order Commissioned Civil Servants in decision-making and reappreciate the necessity of firm actions like the present one of the LG.  Every nation, for that matter including India, aspires to be a strong nation in every conceivable dimension – material, psychological, cultural and overall welfare. As Eran Vigoda-Gadot writes in the 2009 book titled Building Strong Nations: Improving Governability and Public Management writes, “from the perspective of managing the state, reconciliation of what is defined as “the bureaucratic–democratic paradox” is at the heart of building strong nations. This reconciliation is crucial for the formation of a public administration that works, and thus restores citizens’ trust and confidence in state authority and authorities.” This reconciliation is something which needs to be addressed at every stage of a nation’s trajectory dynamics. Here we may hasten to ask in the Kashmir context: What has been the nature of the relationship and trust between the public and the civil employees of the government in the context of the Kashmir region? Further have the civil employees been a coherent whole in so far as serving the cause of the state? Have all the civilian staff at different steps of the administrative ladder been honest in providing feedbacks to the administrative decision-making process? Still further, have they been alive to the contextual responsibilities of serving in a frontier area bordering an envious neighbouring country? Have they been transparent in consonant with the requirements of a thriving federalism? Have they been nurturing an idea of the state in contradistinction to the one stipulated in the Constitution of India? These are questions which demand unequivocal answers.

From about the early-1990s, we have seen at the global level so many wonderful studies from various perspectives on why some nations flourish, some disappeared and some keep facing struggles. In all these, the significance of a competent and committed bureaucracy is underlined as a key determinant of the ultimate outcome.

As we all understand, the world is increasingly emphasising the pre-eminence of the Quality of Government in ensuring “the impartiality of institutions that exercise government authority.” The various studies on governance around the globe have found the Quality of Government as a key determinant of development performance, delivery of public goods, socio-political climate, reach and accessibility of welfare schemes and ultimately the creation of an equitable society. In the beginning, these studies related only to country-wide issues, but of late the significance of sub-national level examinations too is being appreciated; the sub-national studies are particularly important in a country like India with diversities in demography, culture and geography. The Quality of Government has to be assessed by contextualising the particular geographic, demographic and cultural characteristics of the region under examination.

It is in the light of these that we need to answer the questions which have been raised earlier relating to civil employees at different administrative layers of the Kashmir region and in the light of the recent step of the LG. First, when it comes to the nature and level of trust between the public and the bureaucracy, we can say for sure that it has been one where the functioning of the bureaucracy has been marked more by lack of transparency and accountability. There are already many instances of welfare interventions and social inclusion schemes of the union government being kept largely out of the knowledge of the local population in the Kashmir region. The civil employees are the public face of the composite administrative mechanism; they are the ones who should take the news, views and interventions of the government to the public. This is how the trust between the government and the governed can be enhanced and sustained. Well, the public now know what has been the score of the provincial bureaucracy on this. Second, the bureaucracy has not been a coherent whole when it comes to serving the cause of the State. This is very well implied in the recent setting up of the Special Task Force by the LG. The very spatial location of Jammu and Kashmir demands careful attention to this dimension. The findings of the Special Task Force shall throw the final light on this while there are already quite many talks in the grapevine.

In fine, the overall picture has been one of Bad and Ugly, but the LG seems determined to bring back the Good and restore Beauty in the civil administration. The “political order of democracies and the administrative order of bureaucracies [must be reconstructed]….to build a stronger society and a stronger nation.” This definitely has to be founded on “effective mechanisms of governability” in every province of the nation. The LG’s action would push the national government’s agenda further forward to restore the Paradise on Earth to its original charm by establishing a culture of commitment, transparency and accountability to the cause of the people and the state in the administrative functioning of Jammu and Kashmir.