AP Babus are in a fix?

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(M S Shanker)

Forty-six year old Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Jaganmohan Reddy appears to have demonstrated political ‘will’ to find a ‘solution’ to take governance to grass roots.  Without mincing words, he has directed bureaucrats to spend a night or two in a village to understand ‘real issues or problems’ faced by them in day-to-day life.

Jaganmohan Reddy’s missive to the bureaucrats during his conference is quite explicit.  He wants to ensure effective and efficient governance thereby ensure beneficiaries,  particularly poor in rural areas, benefit from numerous welfare schemes directly without going through middlemen or paying “cut-money or commissions” to local leaders.

It is quite common knowledge that the funds sanctioned by the government as part of many welfare schemes and subsidies besides financial allocations made as part of “Rural Development” programs to provide basic civic amenities get siphoned away by middlemen.

Many Babu’s who attended the meeting, might have nodded their heads in acceptance;  but how many of them would really venture and spend a night or two in the villages?

In fact, Jaganmohan Reddy  has advised the “Babu’s” to visit villages unannounced – surprise visits – with a view to experienced the grass root realities or shortcomings.

Furthermore, during the overnight stays in the village, Jaganmohan Reddy  expects the “Babu’s” to interact with the people to ascertain problems faced by them and also their demands and aspirations.

“’Rachabanda’ – village level mass-contact program was the brainchild of his late father Dr. Y S Rajashekar Reddy after winning the second term to know peoples difficulties first hand so that their inputs are taken into consideration to rectify plans and implementation processes.

Is it possible for a Babu heading a district as Collector  make such an attempt unanounced?  With vibrant media and local channels showing the glimpses of their ‘collector’ on small screen none in the village can give amiss.  Thus far, senior Opposition leaders like Gorantla Butchaiach Chowdary of Telugu Desam feels, the ‘idea’ may good.  But, practically just impossible!  Moreover, which of the present day bureaucrat after enjoying a comfortable life make such sacrifice? “Politicians can, but not bureaucrats’, was his gut feeling.

However, he would not like to rule out some committed and spirited professionals undertaking such visits and intermingle with people to understand their problems.  But, who can guarantee them the ‘risk factor’ that is involved.

He reminded how a group of IAS officers who ventured into deep jungles to reach out to people living in hamlets to part take in some program discreetly (without informing police) in the past were abducted by the naxalites in mid-eighties.  (Eight bureaucrats were abducted by the naxals in deep jungles of Rampachodavaram in East Godavari district, which hit the national headlines.  After hard bargain the IAS officers were released in exchange of their hardcore colleagues lodged in Central prisons).

So, Butchaiah Chowdary feels it is easier said than done.  Instead of such ‘dramas’, there are other ways and means to keep checks and balances to ensure every rupee that government allocates reaches the  beneficiary  and spent on the programs with very employee at the ground-level made accountable.  Stringent actions, without any political interference will also help improve the system.

Yet another view point expressed by a senior bureaucrat on condition of anonymity: “Well, I appreciate the CM’s intentions.  Yet, he too should understand that IAS is not everyone’s cup of tea.  We work hard, spend precious time to acquire knowledge to crack the most competitive exam.  And, an IAS officer’s role is clearly cut-out to administer or execute the policies of the party in power.  As a monitoring body, our job is to ensure that orders down to base-level are implemented judiciously and effectively.

But, you and I know why this is not happening.  Due to few black sheep within our administration as well our political bosses, the corrupt practices do creep in.  Can anyone ensure if I take action against erring official will not get support of party in power?”

This bureaucrat who all through lived upright and ‘faced the wrath of powers that be’ and shunted out more frequently as he refused to toe the political bosses line or his corrupt ‘seniors’ advisory.

In the same breath he says, the young chief minister could have assured his bureaucracy, hereafter there will no political influence on executing the work and asked them, if there any, may be brought to his notice directly.  “Only such assurance publicly repose confidence among the young, upright offiers, though they may be in few numbers in the present lot,” he added.

When Outlook tried to reach out to some other serving bureaucrats, they were reluctant to respond.  Yet, few of them felt, nothing wrong in doing so as we too get first hand information.  “In the past some of our seniors have done this, but may not have sought publicity.  Some of us do in our own way and there is nothing wrong in CM advising us to do so,” said a bureaucrat on condition of anonymity.

This also reminds me of a district collector in late eighties narrating a tale to group of journalists, while heading the most backward district called Adilabad.  He shared his stunning experiences with media colleague saying, ‘when I drove into a small tribal hamlet, I saw people rushing towards his car as if they haven’t seen it before.  Also, heard of them whispering into each other’s ears ‘jurru-burru’ kaaru of that sort.’  He was MVPC Sastry, who retired as Additional Chief Secretary rank and was also one among those eight bureaucrats abducted in East Godavari forests in 1986.

In that backdrop, one wonders how can the present day bureaucrat give amiss as media is vibrant and moreover Jaganmohan Reddy ‘advisory’ too have came in ‘open’ instead of  ‘close door’ meeting.

“Can we still give a slip to media friends to fulfill the promise of Chief Minister?” asks a senior bureaucrat. A million dollar question!

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