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Estimating Value

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Controversies have constantly has arisen in the state regarding treatment of public representatives by the bureaucrats and it reflects badly on the work culture that has evolved since the formation of Uttarakhand. To begin with, it has much to do with centralisation of powers in one person, or a small clique. If the bureaucrats have to only answer to this narrow power base, why should they waste time pandering to the egos of people of ‘little value’? This only encourages the elected representatives to throw their weight about to acquire, if nothing else, nuisance value.

The entire process is a subversion of the Constitution, which accords the highest and primary respect to the citizen. Power flows from the citizen either as voter, or tax-payer, to the various agencies of government. The MP, MLA, Corporator, Panchayat Member ‘represents’ the public, doesn’t ‘rule’ over them. If they take umbrage at being ignored, it should be as a citizen. If, however, they have no problems with the ill-treatment of the citizen by the bureaucracy, it will come to pass that they will be treated just the same. If the government servant were to accord the utmost respect to the common people, their representatives would have nothing to complain about.

Instead, a feudal culture under which power is appropriated for personal aggrandisement means that a sense of importance comes not from personal worth, but the behaviour of others towards one. If this is not naturally obtained, it has to be exacted by force. Hence, the ludicrous sight people see every day of black-uniformed clowns driving aggressively (and dangerously) fast at the head of ‘VIP’ convoys, waving their arms at all and sundry to make way. That this has nothing to do with ensuring security, and everything to do with display of status! The bigger clowns that are the recipients of such obsequious servility feel they have found status and importance in life. It is no wonder then that they become deluded enough to believe theirs is an inherited ‘right to rule’, for which the election process has to be ‘fixed’ as much as possible.

It is only natural then, that the very bureaucrats who provide them the means to strut about so pompously on the stage by creating (unconstitutional) manuals regarding ‘Z’ and ‘Y’ plus security, bring them down a peg or two as an occasional reminder of where the power truly lies under the distorted dispensation. Those who had experience of the culture in small Himalayan states ranging from Himachal Pradesh to Meghalaya, Sikkim, etc., were huge supporters of Uttarakhand formation, merely because of the greater dignity enjoyed there by common people, as well as the humility displayed by political leaders. Unfortunately, the ‘High Command’ culture of the national parties has ensured that those in power feel they owe nothing to the citizens and everything to those who appointed them ‘leaders’ or issued party tickets. Their obsequiousness before such persons is in inverse proportion to their arrogant behaviour with the common people.

Usually hill people, and those close to traditional customs where respect is accorded on a range of parameters and not just the office one holds, are humble and dignified in their behaviour. Where from, then, has this culture come that irritates and aggravates everybody? Consider the anguish expressed by the affronted ministers and MLAs when given a dose of the treatment they mete out every day to the ordinary people. The day they begin to empathise with the common folk and consider themselves one of them, the problem will disappear. It would also help if they were at least as smart as the officers they would have obey their orders.