It does leave behind an unpleasant aftertaste as a retired bureaucrat becoming a critic of a system that one had once served. There was a time when bureaucracy commanded a healthy respect of political class because matured unmotivated technical guidance based on rules and regulations were the standard benchmark that mostly determined government actions. One can’t help but feel that present bureaucracy is but a shadow of the past, deliberately working under one non-transparent misadventure after another in various fronts without accountability thereby losing its sheen of genuine respectability. The courage to invoke the ‘Rules of Executive Business’ laid out for just application of law is noticeably out of fashion. One wonders how many controlling officers in bureaucracy have actually read this manual which lays down the fundamental guiding principles for just administration. By-and-large today’s crop of bureaucracy seem to be a contended lot willing to swim with their political bosses and together fish in the murky waters without conscience or reservation. Questionable orders that infringe upon ethical and legal boundaries are carried out without question. Just so that everyone is on the same page let us take a simple illustration as an example: ‘Backdoor appointment’ is unethical and violates acceptable legal procedure for all government job recruitments. The fact that it has nevertheless been rampantly indulged in by the government is for a simple reason. With every illegal instruction for backdoor appointment that comes down from the political bosses, many of the Controlling Officers of departments unquestioningly carry out the order, often taking advantage of clubbing his/her share of appointment within the same cocoon of illegality instead of questioning it. The syndrome of “I scratch your back, you scratch my back” is fashionably played out to the hilt. This non-transparent subservient system has therefore completely destroyed any sense of fair play where merit remains exiled to the outer space. Given a free hand without checks and balances, it is absolutely incomprehensible that a compromised, opposition-less government would be capable of delivering justice. This conclusion holds true even in the present ongoing standoff on ‘fuel adulteration’ between the Government and CCoFF. It is a pity having to watch the present Government mostly functioning as an “Ultimatum Servicing Government” hurriedly responding at the eleventh hour when ultimatums are shoved down its throat.
In the backdrop of such chaotic out of control government machinery that is in urgent need of ‘brake repair’, one is inclined to side with the effort of ACAUT and CCoFA insisting on CBI intervention on the critical breakdown of essential service system caused by those wielding authority for selfish ends. Fuel adulteration is a subject that hurt every single vehicle owner in Nagaland without exception. Government servants may not necessarily feel the pinch of having to frequently repair their vehicles because it is officially repaired at the expense of the public exchequer. It is entirely a different story of sheer financial torture especially for those who have no steady income having to take their vehicle to the workshop at recurring intervals to attend to fuel adulteration related breakdowns at exorbitant cost that one can ill afford. Adulterated fuel also conversely impacts on the lifespan of the vehicle. Diverting a very high percentage of essential commodities like kerosene from the State quota to deliberately facilitate illegal fuel adulteration factories is a crime being perpetuated by the elder brothers of Lucifer both in the government management system and the private sectors for unethical profits without sweat at the cost of the sweating common man. Therefore it is in the interest of the vast majority that such fuel adulteration factories must be shut down for good and those responsible should be held accountable. No matter how high or low, each identified defaulter must unsparingly be introduced to the iron fist of law that is noticeably absent in Nagaland and needs to be imported without being harassed or taxed at the New Fields Gate.
The significant magnitude of the problem lies in the fact that the portfolio of Food & Civil Supply Department rests with the “Hon’ble” Chief Minister of Nagaland. It rightly or wrongly compounds the level of suspicion that SIT will never get to investigate this case without interference…even if it has honourable intention. The likelihood that a whole lot of time may meticulously be spent trying to dilute the facts of findings rather than establish the facts for persecution is a believable possibility considering the collapsed ethical working system. Sadly, going by past experience, it may also not be beyond the “Hon’ble Chief Minister” to lower his Hon’ble status and compulsively try to influence the course of investigation…because this investigation is directly related to a Department under his immediate control. Halfway through the sitting of the High Power Committee (HPC) on “Illegal and Multiple Taxation/Price Escalation” constituted by the Government on 5th day of August 2014, the “Hon’ble Chief Minister” had requested the Chairman and members of the HPC to brief him on the progress being made. The Chairman: Justice H. K. Sema, Supreme Court Judge (Rtd.); Members: Shri. Khekiye K. Sema IAS (Rtd.) and Shri. Joel Nillo Kath took strong exception to this ‘request’. Such a meeting would have violated the independent sanctity of the HPC and subject the proceeding to unnecessary suspicion of undue influence. We therefore had no intention of compromising the credibility of the HPC. We politely refused to meet him. The candid report of HPC submitted to the State Government in June 2015 is now a museum piece collecting dust. The very intelligent bureaucracy has been studying this report for more than a year now and is likely to be overburdened to do the same in the event SIT is able to submit its report… as watered down as it may probably be. All said and done, if Chief Minister has a clean hand and clear conscience it would be in his interest to allow a neutral agency to conduct the investigation to cleanse his image and stem the oncoming tide that could very well develop into a hurricane on provocation.
It is rather unworthy of the State Cabinet to demean the people’s cry for uncontaminated justice as ‘illegal’ against hard evidence of crime having been committed. It can only be seen as a motivated attempt to cover-up the blatant illegal profiteering trail. Considering the ground realities, it is decidedly within the rights of ACAUT, CCoFF, the people of Nagaland and overall sensibility to demand that CBI, an independent investigating agency, be brought in to clear the air and set the record straight.
Khekiye K. Sema is a retired IAS officer.
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