Everyday I tell myself that I should quit… there was a time when bureaucrats were respected.
Everyday I tell myself that I should quit, go back to my roots and lead a happy life. There was a time when bureaucrats were respected and our word was taken seriously by ministers.
Now, it’s futile to advise most ministers on any issue. They just don’t listen. Ministers are very aggressive with bureaucrats in the presence of people. They want to show off how they control us. Minister Patangrao Kadam, in fact, has a very humiliating habit—throwing files on the floor after he signs them. You have to pick them up from the floor. We have decided we won’t pick up files from the floor. If a minister can’t show respect, we will let the file lie on the floor.
Some politicians confuse bureaucrats with peons. There was this minister who once told me to memorise the type of paan he liked. I told him I was there to memorise the decisions he took, not his paan. After that, he would humiliate me at every opportunity. He would keep me waiting outside his room for hours, or fire me for not giving him a particular file as soon as he called for it. So, I had made sure the implementation of every decision he took was delayed. Many of his decisions were never implemented. Eventually, he lost the election because of that.
We bureaucrats want stability. And many of us (in Maharashtra) prefer working for the Congress government. The rule of the Shiv Sena–BJP in Maharashtra was a terrible time for us. But even in the present Congress government, at least 60 per cent of the ministers don’t understand governance. They come up with ludicrous ideas and demand that they be implemented. When some of them talk about governance, we have to exercise great control over our facial muscles to stop ourselves from laughing.
There’s casteism in the bureaucracy. There is also a sharp division on regional lines. Politicians like it that way. We have been pitted against each other in administrative tribunals and have been divided along caste and regional lines. A divided bureaucracy is easier to rule than a united one.
But we know how to hit back. When you want a particularly irritating minister to be defeated in elections you stop doing your job. We know that the election fortunes of many ministers are in our hands. And that is our real power.
This senior IAS officer has served in various departments of the Maharashtra government, such as General Administration, Food and Civil Supplies and Education.