If there are laws there must be relevant order. But is it so in the current context ? The much discussed and less analyzed concept of the ‘law and order’ therefore needs deep analysis. The term is widely used but much in the political context rather than in its wider and deeper meaning. The concept is percolated from the British Raj. They used it to suppress or discipline the Indian population for being obedient to them. They used it harshly against leaders and activists of the Independence movement. Sadly, the concept in the same form and spirit is being used and practiced in our democracy for the last seventy one years.
In a democratic process elected representatives in state Assemblies and in Parliament are the law makers. They are the rulers who make laws which are to be actually implemented by the bureaucracy at the state, regions,district and also at village levels. Thus enacted laws are to be implemented by the widespread bureaucracy. All officials at all levels in the bureaucracy are paid by public money . So they are duty bound to implement all laws without any delaying tactics or corrupt style of working. If they do not implement laws as per their prerogative, they are law breakers and are therefore liable for penal action.
But the same bureaucracy which fails or deliberately delays working a per law tries to curb public freedom on pretext of ‘law and order’ For instance, when people or a group of social activists or even opposition political parties take out a protest procession for not carrying out provisions under the established law, the local administration prevents or tries to curb such legitimate outburst by resorting to another law or Indian Penal Code ( based on British Law ) and either arrests the agitating activists or asks to wait for the delay without any disturbing activities. For this police force is kept around to maintain the ‘law and order’.
While doing this the district collector or any authority poses as above all people and in a style of a ruler while in fact he or she is just a servant of people. The chain from state secretariat to the district level bureaucracy behaves in the same style.The recent outburst of a few Ministers in Maharashtra cabinet that their decisions are not duly carried out by the respective Secretaries andfiles are kept pending without implementation of the government’s decisions is a specimen of what is going on in almost all states in the country. The bureaucracy is not responding to the ministers’ orders and decisions. This is almost a style of a ‘parallel Government’. This is not only against the very spirit of democracy but violation of law which mandates that Cabinet decisions should be duly implemented by the bureaucracy. Similar is the scene in other States and areas in the country.
This is clear when there are cases of exposure indicating delay in implementing the schemes and provisions in various sectors despite policy clearance by the concerned Governments. The current outburst by opposition parties and the same tone expressed by the former BJP leader Yashwant Sinha regarding not realization of most of the schemes announced by the Modi government is directly indicative of the inaction by the bureaucracy. The bureaucracy which has not implemented various schemes in their spirit and words has almost failed the Government. If at all the current mess is to be blamed let it be to the credit of the bureaucracy and not the Government which has already cleared policies and Laws for the same.
The delay in implementation is a routine working style of the bureaucracy at various levels. Keeping files pending, waiting for people to approach them for the clearance, creating an agency system within the administration for negotiating for the bribe and denying the e-governance procedure which is meant for quick clearance and positive response-these are some of the known techniques in which bureaucracy at all levels seems to be clearly involved.
Maharashtra Government has passed a model Act entitled Right to Services Act. This Act aims at providing transparent, efficient and timely public services to ensure good governance. In almost 25 departments covering over 400 various services are notified as compulsory under the Act. All district collectors are the controlling officers and implementing authorities who should see that all services are promptly provided by all concerned officers and employees in government departments. As collectors are responsible for the implementation of the Act and that of various government schemes they should first improve their life style as service-oriented rather than ruling-oriented. Collector offices should be termed as service centers and their boards should clearly mention that they are service centers.
Violation of such and other Acts should be considered as punishable under ‘law and order’. Collectors who impose restrictions on people under ‘law and order’ should now take initiative to resort to the same imposition on various cadres in the administration for lapses under various Laws. The first corrective action should be launched from the collectors’ offices. They should first follow the Right to Information Act (section 4) which has made it mandatory for all Government offices including nationalized banks to display on their boards the details of names and duties of all officers and their working style and decision making process which should be known to people. Collectors should first follow this procedure under the Act and then all concerned government offices should be compelled to follow the same urgently without any further delay ( which delay is for the last 12 years ). Failure to do accordingly is violation under the Act and clearly amounts to breaking ‘law and order’
There are other laws like the ‘ Prevention of Corruption Act’ and an active authority under the relevant Act like the ‘Central Vigilance Commission’. Despite the Acts and the Commission the corruption in the State and Union Governments’ various departments is not checked..
It is going under the board of the said ‘Commission’ which appeals people to contact them if they find that the bribe is demanded. But the correct meaning of ‘Prevention’ and ‘Vigilance’ should be understood and practiced. To prevent is to take action so that no crime is committed. For this the concerned authority and the squad under it should carry out a campaign to scuttle the very system which nurtures corruption in various government departments.
The present practice to wait for the complaint and then to carry out the trap plan is not prevention but locating the crime which is already committed. Prevention is to trap the agency system which works within the administration. As the very system is openly working or the system within the administration is routinely being carried it is veryeasy to trap it and curb it. But this is not done at present and theaction is taken only when a complaint is received.
The same is the case of ‘Vigilance’. Vigilance means careful attendance. In every Union government offices ( not in government banks) there are boards appealing people to approach the ‘Central Vigilance Commission’ if bribe is demanded . But there is no system in the ‘Commission ‘ to keep careful attention in departments of the Union governments. It is only when matters of corruption are exposed by people, media or other government agency like the Enforcement Directorate’ that the Commission creeps in with comments . For instance, after the recent bank frauds and scams, the Vigilance Commission commented with its finding that the RBI did not audit the concerned Punjab National Bank’s branch which allowed undue credit to Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi who left the country by evading the repayment of the loan. Is this vigilance ? What the Commission was doing during the period when there was no vigilance nor any system to keep vigilance on banks’ dealings, RBI’s laxity in working style or crony capitalistic style of deceiving Government and people. If thereis no vigilance the corrupt system will continue in its corrupt working style either directly or through agents which are free from any vigilance. This lack of vigilance and proper care to resort to prevention which is mandatory under the relevant Acts is violation of law. ‘Law and order’ has no meaning if those who are expected to work under Acts and rules are the violators and they are kept unpunished despite violation is continued without any check and action.
(The author is a senior journalist in Maharashtra)