During my long years in government service, I have so often noticed this typical syndrome of being opaque and biased in dealings among many officers. While climbing the ladder of material success in terms of promotions and increments, the ingredients of arrogance and ego in persona keep increasing while the levels of trust and accessibility constantly decrease. I often wonder as to why and how the basic personality attributes can change because of certain positional or monetary achievements which are purely temporary and ephemeral in life.
Authority with responsibility and accountability are key factors of good governance. This needs no emphasis that good governance is a pre-condition to achieving any socio-economic and political development which is the chief concern or mission and the ultimate goal of any state’s programmes and activities which it carries out mainly through its permanent bureaucracy.
While working in any office, and for that matter in any walk of life, a transparent and judicious approach towards the work and people is of paramount importance. It is often said that transparency and accountability are two of the central pillars of good governance. Transparency and judicious approach is also a necessary condition for being responsible and accountable, and to my mind, arrogance and ego are our biggest enemies and road-blockers while non-accessibility breeds ground to inefficiency and opaqueness in the system.
In the above context, I recall a particular happening more than two decades ago while I was working as a senior time scale officer in a medium sized city in Uttar Pradesh, India. I was holding charge of the administration at the middle level in an office with the employees’ strength of over two thousand people. There was a brewing resentment for some time amongst the staff against certain discriminatory practices adopted by the Head of the Organization and this ultimately escalated to a sabotage and fire incident in the office, followed by a mass agitation resorting to gherao and dharna by employees led by a hostile Staff Association who were demanding transparency and fair dealings at senior administration level with certain immediate corrective measures and punitive action against some alleged wrong doers.
In an endeavor to restore normalcy in the office campus and work, during the negotiations between the highest management and agitating two Staff Associations, the latter pointed out that only my candidature was acceptable to them among about a dozen Group ‘A’ officers to carry out a free and fair inquiry to look into the causes of the sabotage and fire incident and fix responsibility. The trust and confidence reposed in me by the staff associations and agitated employees was more so a pleasant surprise because I was handling administration at the middle level and the employees’ anger and agitation itself was mainly against officers of the administration. Needless to mention, I carried out the stated inquiry objectively in the given time frame and its outcome paved way for the peace and normalcy in the office campus.
This trust and confidence of staff was not achieved by me in a day rather it was an outcome of almost two years’ fair, transparent and unbiased dealings with all employees. The incident was never forgotten and the learning lesson for me was that when you are holding a position of authority and responsibility in a public office and you are transparent, fair and judicious in your dealings, in return you enjoy credibility, trust and confidence of your subjects. I always considered this a big reward for me. Needless to mention that future promotions and monetary increments could never affect my erstwhile openness and accessibility to my subjects.