Jammu: “Organisational efficiency is concomitant to the adaptation of prudent processes and procedures and alignment by the employees. The elements of speed as well as quality in disposal of official business being of paramount importance require due diligence from the employees.”
This was how none but the J&K General Administration Department (GAD) itself, in its circular issued on May 10, had intricately defined “Organisational efficiency” – an integral component of “Good Governance” in any set of administration.
This piece of advice from the government was actually for its own employees as it was upset over the “processing of files in a casual manner” in different departments. The government had even warned that the concerned officials would have to bear the responsibility “for delayed or incorrect decisions.”
The warning had come after the authorities observed that a number of files were “being processed or examined in a casual manner” thereby “delaying their timely disposal as also sometimes leading to inappropriate or incorrect disposal and decision.”
For those dealing with government orders, circulars and notifications, this was not an exception as they regularly come across such warnings ‘by the government to the government’ - sometimes mild and sometimes harsher.
Curiously, these orders mirror the frustration of ‘the ruled’ after witnessing the yawning difference between the “good governance and corruption-free administration” claims of the government and reality on the ground.
To a great extent, these orders themselves endorse that the people’s dissatisfaction has not generated ‘out of nowhere’ rather it has a solid genesis.
Going by the spirit of these orders, one is convinced that the helmsmen are not oblivious to the problems being faced by the people. Intention is fine but for the masses, what matters the most is the alacrity with which their grievances are redressed and that too with bare minimum inconvenience.
“If you have a cursory glance on the daily press releases issued by Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), in majority of the cases you will find only lower rung or in some cases middle rung officials, the likes of Tehsildar, (Halqa) Patwaris, clerks, DDC members who are at the fore-front in public dealing, caught in its net. Big sharks are still let-off, that remains a grouse yet at the same time, one also gets an idea emanating from the horse’s mouth (read ACB) that corruption is still rampant at the lower level, for sure,” a senior Srinagar-based journalist, pleading anonymity, comes out with his take on the issue.
To substantiate his point further, he shares his first-hand account, “I was in need of revenue (paper) extracts in connection with our land issue. Since April 28, I had been regularly visiting Patwari almost on a daily basis. I did not pay anything but the prescribed fee of Rs 500, mandatory to get such extracts. I did not get anything for days together.
Only I was asked to shuttle from one office to another to get signatures of different officials. For some other reason, my brother-in-law too needed to visit Patwari to get similar revenue extracts pertaining to his land. He was able to procure it in a single day.
I was aghast as well as curious to know how he managed it. He shared the secret and it was the same old tried-n-tested trick. He told me that he had paid just Rs 1000 to Patwari (besides mandatory fee of Rs 500) and his entire job was done by the Patwari himself.”
“Tell me, then where is the implementation of the much-hyped “J&K Public Services Guarantee Act (PSGA)”? What else is corruption?” he throws posers for, “whom it may concern.”
Reminding one of (certainly not good) old days, most of such nauseating experiences of people still relate to the Revenue department, which leads the chart among the departments which have direct public dealing and that, too, on a day to day basis, followed by Food Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs Department.
However, it does not mean that all other government departments have simply rid themselves of mis-governance and rampant corruption. Skeletons tumble out of them too yet it becomes difficult to pin-point there given the level of secrecy surrounding them.
Yet another Srinagar inhabitant, preferring anonymity, too picks holes in public service delivery mechanism. “My maternal-uncle, who is in his twilight phase, had to decayed trees in his house cut as they had become a persistent threat for the inmates.
They can fall anytime thus may lead to a tragedy. In August 2021, he had initiated the process to seek permission. Yet this file is still moving up and down, from one office to another.
Though going by the rules, the matter could not have lingered on beyond a month as the authorities would either have to accord permission or deny it after fulfilling formalities,” he laments.
“As per the set procedure, Patwari came, all reports and records were given, formalities fulfilled; after covering different stages then the file reached the Divisional Commissioner’s office. However, from there it came back with the objection that the rear side of photographs did not have the requisite signs. Almost a month has lapsed even after this development. My uncle is still awaiting the permission to cut trees. God forbid if some tragedy strikes ....who will be responsible? My question is – why this deficiency or official lacuna, whatever you call it, was not rectified at the initial stage? Can they take the plea of being unaware of official procedure, rules or norms? This is a clear-cut example of mis-governance,” he complains.
He points out a few other grey areas which relate to mis-governance and to some extent corrupt practices also.
“You talk about CAPD performance, black-marketing of ration has not ended fully yet. Suppose I have a rice quota at a ration depot. I will go there by the middle of month and will come to know that the stock is not there. How? I will not find an answer. They boast about digitalisation of revenue data. You may search for your land records, you may be disappointed. We still rely on moth-eaten records, haphazardly put in revenue offices. We still have to go for manual tracking. Had everything been digitalised, why would we still need to move from Tehsildar office to Patwari office or DC office for even getting a small work done or track the status of our work? To get a reality check about PSGA implementation on the ground or digitalised services, ask a common man. After all, the proof of the pudding is in the eating,” he avers.
Referring to “digitalisation” claims, he quotes his own example of a visit to an SBI branch in the vicinity of Srinagar.
“If you go to the bank, when you have to deposit money, there will not be any problem with your sign. You have to withdraw money, there will be a problem with your sign and you will be asked to prove your identity. To meet their targets of ‘digital transaction’, they will force you to deposit your money through an ATM (Green card), even if there's urgency.
They won’t apply their mind that they are causing inconvenience to their customers as they have to catch up with other branches in “digital payment” targets.
Though this is not true about all banks or branches yet I came across one such branch and earned first-hand experience. What should weigh the supreme, convenience of customers in distress or ‘digital payment/transaction target?” he asks.