Sikkim chief minister Prem Singh Golay. (Twitter)
Sikkim will soon have a separate department for non-performing babus. Chief minister Prem Singh Golay announced this while addressing a meeting of entrepreneurs in Gangtok. It wasn’t an April Fools’ Day gag, in case you are wondering but said with some seriousness, and in the presence of some very senior babus. But those in the know say that this is not the first time that Mr Golay has expressed his exasperation with bureaucratic apathy.
Last year, an extensive drive was conducted against officials reporting late for work in government offices and the latecomers were reprimanded. But the drive petered out within a month and babus were soon back to their old ways.
However, this time, Mr Golay has a definite plan to discipline the obstinate babus. The government is setting up a new "department of coordination" under the home department with immediate effect, where all engineers, accounts officers, and even the likes of additional chief secretary-level officials, who are known to be lax towards their duties will be transferred. Or sent to Coventry, as the old saying goes!
And to rub it in further, these ostracised babus will not be given official vehicles and other perks they’ve enjoyed thus far, only their salaries. The aim is to separate these employees from those who are efficient and productive.
For a public long resigned to the inefficiencies of the system, it all sounds too good to be true. But it is also hoped that steps will be taken to ensure there is no victimisation of honest workers in the name of improving governance.
Subbarao sparks debate on civil service’s existential crisis
A recent exchange between two former senior IAS officers on the state of the civil service drew some attention in babu circles. Some noted it with dismay and some with concern. It started with D. Subbarao, former RBI governor and former finance secretary, bemoaning that the IAS had turned into elitist, self-serving babus who were out of touch with reality and lost the courage of conviction to stand for what’s right.
The sceptics among the public would say that it has become a sort of a trend for some babus to run down the service and distance themselves from it, of course after retirement and with the wisdom of hindsight. But Mr Subbarao has always been known for his sober views, and what he says cannot be discounted easily. Yet Deepak Gupta, former chairman of UPSC and the author of a serious history of the IAS, wrote a riposte to counter the issues that Mr Subbarao had raised.
Undoubtedly, both views merit study and reflection. It’s not often that two senior babus cross swords over the fundamental issues of administration. Some observers feel that this debate may have been triggered, especially now, by potential changes to the system the government may be contemplating. The coming weeks and months will likely clear the air.
Netagiri beckons babu?
A little bird tells us that Haryana IAS officer and whistleblower Ashok Khemka, recently promoted to chief secretary grade, could dip his toes into politics. It appears that a party with national ambitions after having tasted success recently is now keen to create a space for itself in Mr Khemka’s cadre state.
The whistleblower is best known for canceling Robert Vadra’s illegal land deal in Gurgaon and having run into trouble with politicians across the board. He has been transferred 54 times in 29 years by various state governments after he exposed corruption in the departments that he had served. The forever-in-transit officer is even the subject of a bestselling biography detailing his checkered career, which can be viewed as either exemplary or a cautionary tale!
Will Mr Khemka cross over to the other side, as is being whispered by some observers? If he does, he certainly won’t be the first babu to do so — or the last! We’re waiting with bated breath.