A government is often as good as the bureaucrats under it, for all the decisions and policies have to be executed by the ‘babus’ not by the members of the political party or alliance in power. Which is why it becomes important for a government to find ways to make the babus work the way it wants.
Often a government has to adopt carrot-and-stick policy because it can’t afford either to be entirely driven by what the babus want or become so hostile towards them that working together is not possible.
However, it appears that the Delhi government led by Arvind Kejriwal has got no carrots but only sticks to offer to the bureaucrats. This is a bit strange as Kejriwal himself was a bureaucrat once, and one would expect that he would know the key to how to make the babus work. But the state government appears perennially in pugnacious mood with respect to the bureaucrats.
Just recently when there was outcry over the availability of ventilators in Delhi hospitals and the kin of the patients needing to provide manual remedy to keep them alive, Kejriwal asked ‘Satinder‘, the Health Minister of his government, for clarification. The minister responded and blamed it on a bureaucrat:
There is a death in LNH due to negligence.I requested Sec health to reach Hospital with me.He refused to come saying unavailability of car.
— Satyendar Jain (@SatyendarJain) December 11, 2016
Not only the Health Minister shrugged off the responsibility, Chief Minister Kejriwal himself re-tweeted a message that made personal comments on the particular bureaucrat and dragged him into party politics:
Triggered by this incident, the IAS and DANICS (Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar Islands Civil Service) cadre associations convened a joint meeting on Tuesday to highlight this approach by the state government. The association claimed that their members were continuously humiliated and their image tarnished by the political executive of GNCTD (Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi) and they were not even allowed to defend themselves, which was hurting their morale and functioning.
Following is the copy of the resolution passed by IAS Association and DANICS Association:
This isn’t the first time Kejriwal and his government has been accused of humiliating the officials. Back in 2015 during the Shakuntala Gamlin fiasco, after being removed as the principal secretary by Kejriwal, senior bureaucrat Anindo Majumdar was humiliated by being locked out of his office.
Similarly in June of this year, a Delhi Jal Board official had resigned after Kejriwal suspended two engineers and humiliated other top officials in a meeting to review the water supply. The President of the Engineers association had also claimed that Kejriwal had used foul language against the engineers.
Apart from humiliating, Kejriwal government has also been infamous for deflecting responsibility by blaming the bureaucrats. Just recently the state government had received a rap from the Supreme Court for blaming officials for the Chikunguniya outbreak in Delhi.
While a government must have control over the bureaucracy, a working relationship is not possible if the two are always at loggerheads.