While holding high offices in public life for long years, many of us experience and become accustomed to craving for self attention all the time. Such a change in persona of an individual is mainly because of the special treatment given by the subordinates and people around either due to demands of the person himself or due to latter’s endeavor to woo or please their boss or by both. For illustration, a person is provided with the personal staff to take care of his (or her) professional needs such as dictation, typing, receiving calls, managing meetings & appointments, distribution of files/papers etc but then this is too often extended to other professional and personal comforts at office and outside extending to home in many cases.
I have seen cases where a person will not alight out of his car until the chauffer or peon opens the door, enter or come out of office room or cabin till the personal assistant or peon opens the door for him or carry papers or files onto his meetings. Such habits die hard and people become so addicted that they are scared and get panicky even with the thought of retirement. Needless to say that many people in senior appointments start maneuvering to get plum and cozy placement well before their retirements. Thanks to our system of governance which encourages and provides opportunities to such public servants including judiciary rather than engaging professionals from other walks of life from the respective areas in various commissions, statutory authorities and undertakings.
Many officers become habitual and addict expecting official comfort and courtesies to be extended by the same set of subordinates to their personal life and at homes. Gradually they become used to and start seeking these comforts as a matter of right and are easily perturbed and frustrated in the event of any denial or inconvenience. Such people in fact start judging their subordinates subjectively on the basis of how much comfort and convenience they have provided personally rather than evaluating them objectively with their contribution at the professional work.
The other day, I had a visitor in my office and we were engaged in serious discussion on an important topic when he got a call from his boss – a retired and re-engaged high level official by the government to head an important Commission. The gentleman was calling from the airport. He was travelling inland ex-Delhi and his flight was delayed for a while due to some technical snag. Obviously, he was not ready to be patient and share temporary inconvenience with other passengers; therefore he wanted airport authorities to take cognizance of his position, escort him to a comfort zone to treat with a VIP status. Fortunately, my visitor who was a middle level officer, had some contacts at airport and his calls fructified to provide needed material comfort to the gentleman but not without upsetting and wasting some of our crucial time.
During this episode, I was smiling at the paradoxes of life. By virtue of being studious and perhaps having a little more intellect too as a student, you pass an examination that ensures your high placement in civil service, military or judiciary of the country but this does not guarantee your fitness or suitability for the public life as a person with right ethics and morality. If you have not simultaneously picked up ethics and values from your parents, teachers or environment while growing, you will continue with your mean behavior and prove to be a drag on society and national resources despite holding high offices lifelong.
Unless one learns to live with the fact that he (or she) is a high ranked official in his business environment but while in public, he is like any other self-esteemed civilian and he should actually act like that, a person’s mission and journey of being human would remain incomplete. And consider the reality that the system does not cater that a person will be identified as a VIP or privileged passenger. During the journey or in the event of some disturbance or inconvenience, all passengers would be treated equally depending upon the class they afford to travel. So what is the rationale that a person forces his subordinate to use his personal contacts to ensure that he is recognized and obligated with special comforts and favours?
Later I was wondering about the number of such calls daily possibly being received by the airport authorities and its possible implications. Is it really necessary, can’t people mix with and share comfort and inconvenience with the very public that they are supposed to serve? Is it possible without impinging on airport security to a considerable extent? Answer in many cases is possibly a clear ‘No’.
Notwithstanding this, such things happen due to person's selfish attitude, arrogance and greed. Otherwise there won’t be such instances and like what happened in the recent natural disaster in Uttarakhand in India, where a large number of people were stranded seeking rescue and relief, lakhs of people had lost their houses and property and thousands were dying of starvation but unfazed and unconcerned with all this, many officials detailed for the rescue operations were actually cozying in costly hotels and enjoying lavish stay and food at the cost of public money. The government swinged into action to investigate and punish guilty officials only after the media unearthed and published these inhuman activities and its disproportionate cost on the public exchequer.
This raises several questions on our bureaucracy and political system. Is our recruitment system is robust and suffice enough to select right kind of candidates in civil service, military and judiciary? Do they have necessary zeal to serve the people? Are we able to impart right kind of training to the successful candidates as public servants which inter alia include dissemination of right ethics and values too along with the professional training? Clearly our system is seriously lacking in these areas and we are miles to go for necessary change and improvement in the public order.