Amid the on-going tussle between the Delhi Lieutenant Governor (L-G) Najeeb Jung and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, a futile attempt to regain trust and confidence of the ‘babus’ in the Delhi government has apparently failed.
A meeting called by Kejriwal and his deputy Manish Sisodia on 20 May to remove the ‘trust deficit’ between the bureaucrats and the government didn’t cut much ice.
Delhi Chief Minsiter Arvind Kejriwal. AFP
Despite a three-hour long meeting on Wednesday, the CM failed to instill faith among the bureaucrats in the Delhi government. Now the biggest fear among bureaucrats is related to their annual confidential report (ACR), which they dread might get adversely affected due to the ongoing feud between the Lieutenant Governor (L-G) and Kejriwal.
“Openly maligning acting Chief Secretary Shakuntala Gamlin or locking out Principal Secretary (Services) Anindo Majumdar of his office was just symbolic. The main apprehension of the working bureaucrats is that their careers may get spoiled. The ministers in the Delhi government may damage their ACR by making an oblique remark,” revealed two bureaucrats in Delhi government on condition of anonymity.
The ACR is based on the review of performance of an official and points are awarded. “On the basis of ACR, one gets promotion. Even, if six points out of a total score of ten are awarded, it’s termed as ‘good’. But, in fact it goes against an officer. In this age of stiff competition, one has to get around eight points or above, which is outstanding, and only then chances for promotion are better. But, now the fear is that they may go for average marking and an officer’s career will get spoiled due to their whims and fancies,” the bureaucrats added.
In a directive issued on 17 May, Kejriwal had asked the bureaucrats including the chief secretary to first consult him and other ministers about any communication from the L-G before acting. The government had said that the meeting with the senior bureaucrats was called to provide a ‘correct and coherent understanding of the constitutional provisions and other norms in handling administrative affairs’.
Former Secretary of Delhi Assembly, SK Sharma said, “There’s a confusion that Delhi functions like an independent state, which is not true. One needs to understand that Delhi is a union territory and is run by L-G, who is the representative of the President of India. If one goes strictly by the Constitution, working in Delhi is considered as working in service of the Union. Here the L-G’s authority is final.”
Added Sharma, an authority on Constitutional matters, “Earlier, when the BJP formed government under Madan Lal Khurana as CM in 1993, the Congress was at the Centre. Again, when Sheila Dikshit became Delhi’s CM, it was the NDA at the Centre. The four chief ministers Khurana, Saheb Singh Verma, Sushma Swaraj and Dikshit occasionally clashed with the L-G on issues and petitioned union government for full statehood in their own varied way, but there had been no major feud or disturbance like now. Since then, there has been no change in Constitution or in business rules.”
It’s not only Gamlin and Majumdar, who faced Kejriwal’s ire; member-secretary of the Delhi Dialogue Commission, Ashish Joshi was the first to get axed. The other casualties are Special Secretary Ashutosh Kumar and Principal Secretary (Home) Arvind Ray.
Both the bureaucrats in service and the retired ones feel that the damning comments on officials by the CM, Dy CM or ministers has not only dampened the morale and tarnished their image, but it’s a threat to their career as well. “The way they maligned Ms Gamlin or Anindo Majumdar, who was just performing his duty as per law, they may damage any officer’s ACR any day. Who would like to work in such a negative atmosphere,” a retired bureaucrat remarked.
The IAS Association, Delhi Chapter in its resolution has strongly condemned the humiliation recently meted out to senior bureaucrats. It has urged the President, Minister for Home Affairs, Delhi CM and Deputy CM to create a conducive working atmosphere.
Former member-secretary, Delhi Dialogue Commission, Ashish Joshi said, “The way senior civil servants were humiliated and their image publicly tarnished are tantamount to attack on civil services institution, which is an integral part of constitutional democracy. Good governance can only be successful, if civil servants are given due respect. It’s high time that a code of conduct is also defined for political executives in the line of code of conduct of civil servants.”
Fearing damage in ACR, many ‘babus’ in the Delhi government are looking for deputations at the Centre. “As per the Supreme Court order, Civil Services Board needs to be constituted and a government has to give valid reason, if an officer is transferred prematurely before two years,” remarked a senior bureaucrat, who was a part of the meeting with the CM and Deputy CM.
Added Joshi, also former member (Finance), Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board, “It’s hoped that the recommendations of the second Administrative Reforms Commission that stresses on security of tenure of civil servants among others be implemented sooner than later. The system of integrated finance system existing in central government needs to be implemented in states to check arbitrary expenditure and pressure on civil servants.”
Joshi’s three-year tenure was abruptly ended by the AAP government and he was shunted out.