B S Raghavan

Foul mix of the stale and the stagnant

B. S. Raghavan | Updated on November 15, 2017

What happens when a Prime Minister, oblivious to the reality around him, is face to face with people who seem impervious to any attempt at improvement?

If you had been present at the function to mark the seventh Civil Services Day on April 21 at New Delhi, you would not be asking these questions. You would have known the answers, for they were blazoned in bold fonts right in front of you!

Customary rituals dominated this hardy annual. The PM arrived in a solemn procession and took his seat, warmly greeting “all members of our civil services”.

He read in a monotone from a prepared speech without once lifting his head to establish eye contact with any of the members of the captive audience, telling them, to their surprise, no doubt, that India expected every one of them to do their duty “to the best of their ability” which wasn't tantamount to much any way.

Forgetting that he had been saying the same things on the past occasions also, the PM this time too asked the mandarins sitting impassively “to introspect and reflect on their role and performance, and how these can be made more effective, more meaningful.”

The PM also effusively admired them for their “excellent work”. “They have delivered results in the face of adversity” he crooned, “Several civil servants have been shining examples of probity and integrity, working selflessly for the public good.”

ABSENT-MINDED

Fine. He can be forgiven for wanting to be agreeable and pleasant. But when he claimed that “we are all determined to make our civil services more competent, more professional, and alive to the requirements of the twenty first century and capable of facilitating rapid social and economic progress in our country,” he seemed to be stretching credulity.

I asked an aam aadmi (I needn't have to since I boast of being one myself!) what he thought of it, and he promptly disclaimed awareness of any such thing happening.

It reminded me of Mahatma Gandhi's repartee (“I think it would be a good idea”) when someone asked him what he thought about Western civilisation!

It was certainly “Breaking News” with a vengeance to know from him first hand of the “substantial progress” made by the Government towards “strengthening the legislative framework and revamping our administrative practices to enable us to fight corruption better.”

Seriously, can it be that, ensconced in his sound-proof, weather-proof chamber, insulated from the dust and din of the world outside, and assured of all creature comforts, the PM has become so much out of touch with reality as to be ignorant of the string of continually exploding and progressively (if that's the word!) escalating scams?

STRANGEST PART

Does the PM not know of the stubborn stalling of the salutary reforms proposed by the Election Commission to keep criminal elements out of Parliament and State legislatures? Closer to the bone, what about those with criminal antecedents whom he had taken into his Cabinet as a part of coalition dharma?

Doesn't he deem it essential that he should himself set impregnably high standards of rectitude and quit if he can't?

The strangest part of the proceedings is his plaintive appeal to the bureaucrats to “constantly endeavour to improve, upgrade and modernise the systems and processes they adopt and operate in the best interests of our country”.

Can the PM forget that it is the apathy of the Government sitting over the piles of reports of Administrative Reforms Commission, that is responsible for the persistence of evils in administration?

After the Civil Services Day, what? Answer: Business as usual!

Published on April 24, 2012

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