Corruption in Himachal- The bureaucracy factor

This is the second chapter on the series Corruption in Himachal Pradesh. In this article I will discuss why bureaucracy remains one main reason for corruption in the state. Though the country moved to liberalized economy back in the late 20th century, Himachalis are still living in the 1970s era in terms of dealing with the bureaucracy.

When I talk of bureaucracy I do not only mean the IAS class alone but the entire government machinery from bottom to top. It is the lower level bureaucracy which a common man has to deal in daily life. The experience is miserable as lot many readers can vouch for this. One main reason is there being no accountability and  responsibility fixed. Walk into any office in Himachal Pradesh on Saturday post lunch and almost entire office is empty as these people travel to their native place. Saturday is as good as a holiday in Himachal offices.

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Our offices still have the same 10-5 working hours. The manner of performing work remains the same as was in the British’s times. Though this country is regarded as a IT power, the government offices still are in the year 1909 mode of working. We still have to travel to Shimla or the district head quarters to get our petty works done in government offices. There is no transparency and accountability in the working of the Government. At village level, the most important revenue official, the patwari, remains absent for days. They demand money for doing a basic work like issuing a copy of land record papers. This is the first level of corruption in bureaucracy which a villager comes across. If one may notice, largest number of cases in the courts are because of the bungling done by these patwaris in land records. Lure of easy money is too good to resist and ultimately a person has to go to courts to seek relief which is neither cheap nor timely.

Earlier, the bureaucracy had an excuse of low salaries being one reason indulging in corruption. With the sixth pay commission recommendations already in force in the state, this aspect has also been taken care off. But what has happened is the opposite. With salaries going over the roof, the bribe amount too has trebled. You will be surprised how well paid our government babus now are!! Sample this; The salary bill of the state was at Rs. 3000 crore, 30 percent of the gross budget expenditure before the sixth pay commission recommendations came into force. Increase in salary bill is to the tune of Rs. 1500-2000 crore once the state government employees started getting salaries as per revised recommendations.

Our rulers have generously squandered the hard earned tax payers money on the under-performing government babus but there is still no improvement in the work culture. Ideally, in any organisation whenever a raise is given, it means more accountability and responsibility. Himachal government is miles away from enforcing any form of work culture in any of it’s ‘public’ offices. The employee unions in the state fight for every single paise which they deemed is due to them but when it comes to work output none is willing to speak a word. Nothing moves around till bribes are paid.

Corruption thrives because there is too much government in our lives. Corruption thrives because government believes in being Lord and controlling our lives. Corruption thrives because it does not invest in reliable tools of governance which in present times can be IT and skilled manpower. Corruption thrives because there is lack of accountability and above all there is no sincere will to punish the corrupt.

How could a system serve the people when it was meant to exploit . Add to this the bungling done by our leaders and we are left with complete trash for a system full of corruption!

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