Wednesday, May 6, 2015
OROP: Are Bureaucrats the Real Villains?
by Major General Mrinal Suman
Whenever the blame game starts for delay in OROP, bureaucrats are painted as the incorrigible villains who doggedly impede its implementation. The services consider bureaucrats to be their biggest adversary. Read any mail on the social media, bureaucracy is blamed for stalling all pro-services measures – endless litigations, rank pay, equipment deficiencies and so on. Are we being fair to them? Are they really culpable? Can bureaucrats disobey the political leadership and block OROP?
The answer to this convoluted mystery lies in the Indian bureaucracy’s split-personality syndrome. It is a neurosis disorder in which the personality becomes dissociated into two or more distinct parts; each of which becomes dominant and controls behaviour from time to time to the exclusion of the other parts. A modern name for this condition is dissociative identity disorder.
Regrettably, Indian bureaucracy suffers from triple split-personalities. Each personality manifests itself as per the target group. A bureaucrat is an arrogant ruler while dealing with the public. In this persona, he looks at the citizens as seekers of favours and considers himself to be the dispenser of largesse. As a result, he behaves in a haughty, pretentious, condescending, pompous and supercilious manner.
The second personality becomes dominant when a bureaucrat interacts with the American and European authorities. He becomes an epitome of humility and decorousness; and displays immaculate manners (bordering on servility). He seeks scholarship and green card for his progeny. Further, he craves for a lucrative appointment under UNO, World Bank and other international organisations. They know that his candidature would need positive support from the developed nations and hence puts up a show of ‘good behaviour’.
However, it is the third personality of a bureaucrat that concerns us with respect to the implementation of OROP. It manifests itself when he interacts with his political master. He becomes the most servile, timid, gutless and spineless creature on the earth. Even the most degrading treatment meted out to him is endured with inexplicable reticence. Some states treat bureaucrats in an offensive manner but there is not even a whimper of protest.
No bureaucrat ever opposes or questions his minister. During a social gathering, a senior bureaucrat was candid enough to admit, “I stay in my job as long as he is happy. Otherwise, I will be shunted to some innocuous job in some NE state. Who wants to risk it? Therefore, during meetings, I keep looking at the facial expression of my minister for clue and tailor my response accordingly”.
It is commonly joked amongst the bureaucrats that their degree of impotence is directly proportional to the nearness of their retirement date. Every bureaucrat dreads retirement and consequent loss of power, recognition and perks that he had got so used to during his long innings with the Government. Thus senior bureaucrats become the most pliable officials. Fading away gracefully is not a trait that most bureaucrats can be accused of suffering from. They, by their very nature, are ‘lingerers’ and hate the sight of an ‘exit door’. For re-employment, they need to cultivate their political mentors and stay on their right side.
Governorship is by far the most sought after appointment. The next option is to grab a vacancy in UPSC, CEC, CAG, CIC and such other establishments. Many functionaries initiate proposals for the constitution of monitoring/regulatory commissions to create suitable slots for themselves. As a desperate resort, some bureaucrats ‘offer themselves’ for appointment on an expert committee, howsoever obscure it may be. Committee members get office, staff, telephone, car and other perks along with honorarium.
In view of the above, is it ever possible for any senior bureaucrat to go against the wishes of his minister? It takes no time for a minister to remove a recalcitrant bureaucrat. Bureaucrats are ‘survivors’ by nature and swim with the tide. No bureaucrat stopped scams related to 2G spectrum, coal mines and Commonwealth games.
To prove the point, let us recall Rahul Gandhi’s demand for an increase in the number of subsidized gas cylinders from 9 to 12 per year at a Congress rally at Delhi on 17 January 2014. The Cabinet approved it on 30 January and the new policy came into effect on 01 February 2014. Wishes of the Congress Vice President were implemented within a period of 15 days. Although the then Oil Minister M Veerappa Moily estimated the increase to cost the exchequer Rs 5,000 crore annually, no bureaucrat objected to the huge fiscal penalty to stall it. They knew what was good for them.
The contrast is obvious. In the current dispensation, one year has passed; neither the Defence Minister nor the Prime Minister can fulfill the solemn promises made by them on the OROP issue. Progressively, Modi is appearing to be a weak and powerless leader, whose writ does not run at all; making some wonder if Rahul has a bigger chest than Modi’s proverbial 56 inch one to enforce orders.
Therefore, it is grossly unfair for us to blame the bureaucrats for the OROP logjam. No bureaucrat can dare to stall it unless so instructed by his ministers, whose bidding he does so very diligently. Someone in the apex authority is sabotaging the issue by asking the bureaucrats to keep raising infructuous and irrelevant queries. They are simply following orders.
OROP has ceased to be a question of financial compensation. It has become an article of faith with immense emotive connotations. It symbolizes reluctance of a government to fulfill its solemn commitment to its soldiers and is considered symptomatic of the moral deprivation of the worst kind of a two-faced political party.
The Modi government could not have handled the issue in a more senseless manner. It is surprising that Modi remains unconcerned at the inordinate delay denting his credibility. In a short period of time he has frittered away goodwill of 50 lakh strong military community and their family members, whose en-block support ensured his electoral victory. Modi is certainly going to rue it.