Come election time, voters can rid themselves of non-functioning governments. As in the recent case of Punjab, they can even dump the entire political establishment – government and opposition – in favour of an absolutely new bunch. What they cannot manage, however, is to even make a small dent on the permanent establishment – officials of the administration and police. At best, the new regime can manage some kind of a ‘reshuffle’ but with little serious impact. It requires extraordinary abilities to get the system out of its practiced stupor. In Uttarakhand, these were last seen in the extraordinary ND Tiwari.
The next Chief Minister of the state will be selected on several criteria such as caste, region, dedication to the party ideology, popularity, etc., but thought must also be given to administrative ability. One of the major reasons why the state has not made the strides it ought to have towards progress is the lethargy, lack of innovation and complacency of the administration. Those at the top have not been able to inspire, lead, or educate the juniors to function effectively. There has been no clarity on the goals and the steps by which these are to be achieved. If the nexus between the politicians and officialdom has been responsible for the heights of corruption and abysmal governance in Punjab, Uttarakhand may well be on its way to achieving that level.
Being a senior official is a pretty cushy job in Dehradun. There are all the parties to attend, the constant felicitation ceremonies, the occasions to be chief guest at the numerous academic institutions, the properties to be acquired, the careers to be advanced. The statistics on crime may not exactly reflect the situation on the ground, but going by the daily news reportage and the failure to file FIRs in innumerable cases, it is evident that little effort and imagination have gone into dealing with the challenge. Violent crime is on the increase, including in the hills; it has become normal to hear of police complicity in land and property grab. This is reflected in the deteriorating behaviour of the police force that was expected to represent the special culture of Uttarakhand. It may still be better in comparison to other states but, if the new government does not take really effective measures, it is well on the way to irretrievable decline. ND Tiwari had got around incompetent seniors by identifying and empowering talented juniors in the civil services – it is time to do so again.