WE HAVE CARRIED THE BRITISH LEGACY OF SUBORDINATION WHICH BREEDS APATHY AND ARROGANCE IN OFFICERS WITHOUT MAKING THEM ACCOUNTABLE TO THE PEOPLE THEY ARE ACTUALLY MEANT TO SERVE.
Listening to morning transmissions of Radio religiously for the last more than thirty years is almost a passion for me. Radio Kashmir transmits a popular public interest phone-in programme ‘Loukh cthe vanan’ (people’s voice) on Saturdays at 9.30 am. This recognizable programme gives voice to public grievance. In addition to routine grievances, very often callers complain about irresponsible behavior of authorities, particularly that of officers of the administration. Last week a caller complained about fraud in payment of wages by a particular department. During course of his call, distressed caller on further probing by the programme moderator made shocking revelations about the behavior of officers of the concerned department. He said, “On approaching the higher ups, our pleas were ignored and we were almost pushed out of the premises. ‘Sahibs’ did not listen to us at all. What should we do? ” This particular piece of transmission articulating desperation of the caller and alleged high-handedness on part of our administrators prompted me to write these lines.
Down the memory lane, prior to 1947 British had established a strong but unkind system of administration and governance during their period of rule in India. Their system of governance was unique in many ways, based on the principle of divide and rule and hidden agenda of ruthlessness. Every British institution and instrument of governance was devised to pursue sole agenda of exploitation on all fronts. At occasions they brought in some administrative reforms in a bid to give a facelift to their ruthless governance to calm a few liberal voices back home. These efforts of restructuring were ultimately cunningly concluded into more murkiness for subjugated Indians. By then Kashmir was no different from other parts of the oppressed sub-continent. People of the state were at the mercy of Maharaja and his associates leaving no scope for considerate and reasonable administration. Almost every sphere of administration was on the pattern of ‘Raj’ like other parts of the combined India. British influence was prominent and dominating in every field of governance except enormity of power vested in the authority of Maharaja.
We inherited a good deal of legacies and infrastructure from British and their princely cronies along with inflicted scars of cruelty and exploitation. System of education and administration were the most important and prominent of their recognized establishments we had to rely upon and utilize as fundamentals of our future planning and strategy for justified social and administrative excellence.
Undoubtedly, education system in India was reasonably established, but it was so devised and managed as if meant only for elite and their lackeys. The administrative setup was tailor-made to suppress, exploit and ultimately fleece people of India. A unique system to suppress millions of helpless to sustain their much talked about democracy at home. Inheriting a vast administrative setup of exploitation and suppression had no other alternative, except for beginning a vibrant process of wide-ranging reforms from the day one of much treasured atmosphere of emancipation and empowerment.
Adopting a new constitution based on fundamentals of democracy and other egalitarian reforms paved way for a compassionate and humane system of governance. Administrative reforms, change in organization and face of governance are gradual processes and cannot be achieved overnight, but even after a great deal of untiring efforts of perfection, positive changes of compassion and benevolence appear evading our system of governance and administration. On ground, administrative organizations and system in the whole sub-continent, particularly in our state seem to be incapable of adapting the democratic and people’s friendly change in a big way. Even after more than six decades of abolition of principalities, other structures of autocracy and departure of British from the shores of India our administration either by default or by political maneuvering remained elite and power centric, ridiculing poor and under privileged. In spite of that administration in this country after 1947 is being run by citizens of this country, the system even now gives the impression of being more or less ‘British’; unkind, malevolent and at occasions ruthless. Our own people behave like ‘Sahibs’ immediately after becoming part of the administration and donning hats of authority.
In this contemporary era of equality, self-respect and honour reference to British ‘Sahib’ by addressing officers as ‘Sahab’ can be heard in almost every establishment and segment of administration. Majority of officers and managers find it alluring to be called as ‘Sahibs’ and at occasions subordinates and common people are coerced into such acts of abject submission.
Almost everywhere managers of our government who are otherwise paid from people’s money and are supposed to serve within the set rules and norms behave like regents. In rural areas particularly the backward areas of our state situation is much worse. In this modern age people in such areas are scared of high ranking Government officers. Democracy and constitution empowers every citizen irrespective of cast, colour and creed to get not only justice but better service as well from the administration, but on ground ‘rules are only for fools’. Decades after empowerment only selected few, elite, politically well connected and influential people get benefited in most respectable manner, rest are either ridiculed or have to go through a painstaking grind of delay and manipulative rules.
A simple visit to any office of authority or officer will take you back to the British era of pomp and show depicting an atmosphere of overbearing and repression or will give you feel of erstwhile Maharaja’s system of domineering rule. Pretentiously attired people with affluence and power at their command are welcomed over and above the heads of many hapless people waiting outside the government offices for hours. Poor and powerless are made to go through a routine of delay and deceit. Another menace of recommendation (sufarish) has further eroded the creditability of administration and its officers. For a little administrative facility, recommendation of people with authority and influence has become mandatory. This nasty sequence of recommendations has created a vicious circle of benefactors, thus eliminating the miserable class from process of social and administrative justice as enshrined in the constitution. With indistinct influence, political clout and intruded authority affluent and mighty dominate and change the course of justice in their favor leaving the underprivileged in lurch. Facilities meant for public are either misused or bartered against recommendations and favors. Misuse of official authority, machinery and facilities is a routine; government facilities are abused brazenly and with impunity. Government vehicles and other amenities, otherwise meant for public convenience are very often put to personal use and to please masters.
While experiencing and facing hostile behavior and attitude of unprincipled elements within the administration for decades, we cannot generalize the situation of organizational decline within our administration. Presence of a substantial number of honest, dedicated, caring and kind officers of repute cannot be denied. Hypocrisy and corruption are the chief factors of bewildering situation in administration, while nepotism and sycophancy are instrumental in creating a class of exploiters in administrative structure of our state. Present leadership holding clear mandate to provide transparent, accountable and considerate administration should put in its extra efforts to mitigate people’s sufferings at the hands of such insensitive elements of the administration, so that distressed people are not compelled to cry about their sufferings on a powerful medium like radio.