The recent spate of attacks on men and women, who were just doing their jobs, by politicians sets a dangerous precedent
There was reason to hope that all is not wrong in this country when Telangana forest officer Chole Anitha, who was brutally beaten up by an MLA’s brother for carrying out the State Government’s afforestation programme, did not back down. Recovering from her injury, she said she would go back to the village site where she was attacked, which was legitimate forest land, plant trees and allow no encroachment. But then there was an equally discomforting question and precedent. How long could she hold on to her promise in a system where another politician, Akash Vijayvargiya, celebrated his entitlement to power, saying he did not regret beating up the officers of the Indore Municipal Corporation, who were clearing up illegal settlements. But, patronisingly enough, he would try to be more Gandhian about it. In both cases, the offenders came from the ruling parties of States, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) in the former and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the latter, and were essentially opposing what the Government had mandated by law, like scoring a same side goal. And they justified their actions as pro-people, fighting for encroachers. Clearly, this tussle between the legislature and the executive is costing those who are in the frontline of governance, the juniormost officers on the field. And dangerously privileging rule of the majority party to the rule of the law of the land. It also shows that we are legitimising an attack on the Constitution and doing so with impunity as each of the officers on duty at the time of the attacks on them was empowered, wearing the badge or uniform befitting his/her post. That the perpetrators, the TRS men and Vijayvargiya junior, have had run-ins with officials before and are even celebrated for being people’s crusaders, have set a dangerous precedent in a democracy and reduced its matrix to the “might is right” rule of the jungle. It means that what a ruling party government executes by way of existing law or its own, its members, who do not have to bear the cross of showing a performance card, willingly run down in the name of protecting their vote banks. The Akash Vijayvargiya case particularly stands out like a sore thumb because politically it weighs heavy against his father and Bengal BJP in-charge Kailash Vijayvargiya, who is charging the Trinamool Congress with transgressions that are being celebrated by his son and cohorts. It also lends credence to the theory that parties can push their agenda aggressively and make the bureaucracy kowtow by liberally dangling life threats. And despite bureaucratic associations organising token protests, there has never been an organic campaign by the services, so coopted they have become under a feudatory system perpetuated by every ruling party in this country.
Yet it is these courageous junior officers who have remarkable maturity and personal ethics to pursue the right cause and prioritise accountability over entitlement. They have the spunk to counter established compliance protocols. The name of Durga Shakti Nagpal immediately comes to mind, who was literally hounded by both the sand mafia and the Samajwadi Party for launching a massive drive against corruption and illegal mining within her jurisdiction of Gautam Budh Nagar in Uttar Pradesh (UP). Fighting false cases imposed on her and harassment of her family members, she stuck to her course that forced the country to sit up and take notice. Then there was Shrestha Thakur, the deputy superintendent of UP police, who became a viral sensation when a video of her standing up to BJP workers went viral in 2017. Or take the case of Armstrong Pame, the first IAS officer from the Naga people’s Zeme Tribe, who built the 100-km “People’s Road”, connecting Manipur, Nagaland and Assam in 2012 without government help and raising Rs 40 lakh through crowd-sourcing. IAS officer Saurabh Kumar, while countering Naxalism in Dantewada, has been gradually weaning the youth away from violence by holding counselling sessions and job camps. Countless officers have risked being shifted around in their careers and letting go of the big but easy promotions to make a difference and entrench a belief that it is possible to get things done in this country. The civil service exams may be the most competitive but these young, tough-as-nails officers have passed the test of delivering governance to the last mile despite the politicisation of their roles. Any attacks on their lives can only be a deterrent for any government.
Writer & Courtesy: The Pioneer