Being honest, no doubt, is a virtue, but we must not miss the moot point…
In a democratic setup politicians as public representatives are the ultimate decision makers. However no political leadership can run a smooth government without the active support of civil servants. Politicians and civil servants have a long relationship—a relationship as old as concept of collective governance. Any squabbling or confrontation within vital relationship of political leadership and bureaucracy is certainly not good for smooth governance. The recent confrontation between a senior cabinet minister and a top ranking officer of the state government made headlines. Such friction within the administration, most of the time is outcome of confusion and bad governance and does not augur well both for the administration and the existing political dispensation.
Interestingly, I know Mr. Ahamad Muzaffar Lankar personally for the last more than six years; a gentleman of great knowledge and an officer with highest levels of honesty and integrity. And on the other hand, though I won’t claim much prized proximity with Muhammad Ramzan Chowdry the minister involved, but yes I know him from the days when he was a young man and would very often come over to Sopore (then a hub of flourishing local cricket activity in north Kashmir) as a cricket enthusiast. After his joining politics initially everyone could find him a reasonably well behaved politician. However with the passage of time and his over exposure to vagaries of politics a hazy picture of politics emerged in his political constituency. The spat between Mr. Chowdry and Mr. Lankar in presence of other minister and several other senior officers is unbecoming of a high ranking public servant and a senior most politician. The reasons behind this row can be many but the most prominent reason is nothing other than prevailing confusion within the administration—an administration plagued with ego and narcissism, where every individual is a government unto himself.
What made a senior minister lose his cool and use derogatory remarks against a senior government functionary? Obviously, political compulsions and his political constituency centric interests are more important than his public responsibility and conduct as minister. The dirty politics has overpowered a man and made him arrogant. On the other hand the conduct of Mr. Lankar cannot be termed as reasonable. He is an honest, upright officer, no doubt about it, but he is not the only honest man around. Throwing tantrums and holding the whole administration to ransom shows lack of administrative leadership and understanding. In that meeting Mr Lankar was having authority as chief engineer and could have kept his foot down and made the minister understand his authority as well as his limitations. We know politicians behave like arrogant headmasters who are habitual of only issuing diktats and give a damn to other’s view point. But wielding your honesty tag and integrity trait is useless unless it is not used as a tool for reformation.
The crux of this whole issue is that a huge swindle of public money has been going on in the Public Health Engineering (PHE) department Handwara division for the last many years and people of this under-developed area are being deprived of their basic right of access to clean potable water. The health of PHE department in the state is not good for last many decades. A cursory look on the working of this department will expose the tall claims of the leadership of this vital sector. So, instead of resolving the issue of unabated corruption in PHE Handwara the concerned minister and the high ranking officer settled their personal scores over the interests of helpless common people. Unfortunately the minister was more concerned about his political workers cum contractors than an important public issue; and the officer more bothered about his unblemished image of honesty and integrity than the eradication of corruption and highhandedness of few blue eyed contractors and unscrupulous engineers. In this whole episode of ego and self-centeredness the ultimate victim is the common man. This shameful incident clearly conveys a much bigger message that essentially it is not the politician who has gone wild but it is the dirty politics that has turned murkier: and it is not the workforce who are corrupt and inefficient but it is the administration that has gone astray.