In his seminal essay, ‘Questioning the Constitution’, Padma Bhushan Prof P V Indiresan had said that “A good Constitution should be like the traditional Tanjore doll which, however much it is pushed and tilted, will automatically right itself…The Tanjore doll is robust and stable because of two reasons. One, lower portions of the doll are heavier than upper ones. Likewise, for a Constitution to be self-stabilising even after being disturbed by bad or foolish people, it should ensure that the people below carry greater weight than do officials and leaders above”. Doesn’t it sound familiar? The rot in Goa’s governance is not ‘only’ because we elect the turncoats but also because we have allowed a spineless and self-serving bureaucracy and grassroots democracy to thrive and survive.
Look at the state of the State. Even the absence of senior Ministers does not stop our bureaucrats from continuing their political master’s bidding in their absence. Earlier this week, Goa’s State Pollution Control Board revoked its orders against an influential starred hotel for polluting the Sal with its clandestine sewage belching pipelines after having rebuked it for the same earlier. A fortnight ago, the Courts pulled up senior cops for playing along political vendetta unleashed by principals from the ruling party. What is disturbing is the acceptance by the civil servants of politicisation of their work as the new normal. When the Apex Court demanded a Solid Waste Management Policy from each State, a spineless conformist from Goa sent a proposed action agenda instead not even least bothered that this was contempt and could land him in jail. But then the protection comes from the political masters and as a cow-belt saying goes Saiyan bhaye kotwal ab dar kahe ka (My beau is the cop then what’s there to fear).
The All India Services (Conduct) Amendment Rules, 2014 make for some very interesting reading. Something that a majority of IAS, IPS and promotee GAS, GPS Officers in the IAS, IPS cadres have been deliberately avoiding looking at and hence violating. Under Rule 3(1)(1A)(ii), every member of the Service shall maintain political neutrality. The decision to actually insert such a powerful statement reflects the fact that our civil servants have been susceptible to the greed and fears of political compulsions. One of the classic examples in Goa is the Managing Director of newly constituted Goa Solid Waste Management Corporation. The blue-eyed boy of the Chief Minister had an uninterrupted stint as MD of the controversial Goa State Infrastructure Development Corporation. The Corporation that was a cash cow of repeated governments in the State – BJP or Congress – had a common thread of continuity, the MD who stayed on in the chair for almost three terms till a new cash cow needed his intervention. Then there is the GTDC MD who is also Transport Director who is also another blue-eyed boy. These officers basking in the glory of their political Daddies may be handling major responsibilities but then they are more civil guardians than civil servants of the State.
A year after the rules above were amended, the Prime Minister remarked that “political intervention is necessary and inevitable, otherwise democracy will not work”. So where is the thin dividing line between ‘intervention’ and interference? Little political interventions in Goa converted an in-abeyance Regional Plan 2021 into a notified one, years after it was vehemently protested against a couple of governments ago. Intervention turned an unwanted Mopa Airport into an aerocity complete with its own Planning & Development Authority. Intervention translated the needs of vote banker MLAs of Dabolim, Mapusa, Mormugao, Vasco to regularise unregularised structures mostly built by migrants. The list of interventions which are lawfully vetted interference pile up every day. The bottom of Goa’s Tanjore doll is as light and shallow as the head. And as anger against our politician focused bureaucrats grow every day, governance in Goa needs to go beyond a facile revamp.