By Anish Sharma. The views/opinions are solely of the author not of Sikkim Chronicle
“May I come in sir?” “Bahira Basnus” says the Officer speaking over phone” again after half an hour when I said “aaba jada huncha” then the assistant replies “Sir is in meeting with other people” and now its 1 PM and now its lunch time and again waiting for the officer to meet for just a signature outside the door now they say there is an urgent meeting with the Departmental officials, so the whole day is gone waiting for a chance to meet with the Officer of the closed door. I have faced this a number of times and i am confident enough to say that hundreds of people have been facing the problem since years daily when they visit the Government Offices.
It was on 9th October 22021 when i was in MG Marg to meet one friend and i was coming out of the ATM and suddenly a sexagenarian told me “nani ATM bta Dui hazar nikalidinus na” and he gave me his debit card and also told me his secret number and i withdrew the amount then coming out of the ATM machine i asked him where he is from and where he is going, then he narrated his story “ he told that he has come to Gangtok from West Sikkim for his official work and he has been in Gangtok since one week but his but his work has not been done in time, he said there is a small work but the officers are not doing it and have told me to come after a week but the fare to come Gangtok from my village is quite expensive so i have been staying in one of my villager’s place who stays here in Gangtok in a rented room.
He further stated that for just a small work which can be easily done within a day or a couple of days i have been told to wait for a week and the matter is also urgent and to stay here in Gangtok and to come here i have been using the pavement which i got from the MGNREGA. It was so pathetic hearing his story and he further told me that we changed the Government but the ill-functioning of administration has remained the same , poor people are being harassed in this way he added.
In this way the public coming from the different corners of the State have to wait the whole and sometime a week to meet the officers for their works and at the end of the day they have to return without their work done. Offices open at 10 AM and we can say that due to some reasons they are not able to reach by 10 but they can obviously reach at 10: 30 AM, but the sad thing is that public are waiting the Officer in the offices from the morning itself but the officer has not arrived on time and “he is on the way” is the reply of the Assistant.
As we see many Government vehicles plying on the road at mid afternoon we public too understand that some have field duties, some have to go from one office to another but we know that maximum public servants go to offices late and this issue was raised by Chief Minister of Sikkim Prem Singh Tamang and after that the Government employees used to rush to their respective offices at time but somehow and somewhere the thing has gone in the same track. The problem of public facing problems in Government offices is well – Known to everyone from Chief Minister, Ministers, MLAs to top bureaucrats and the members of the Civil Society, they know but who will speak for the sake of the poor public.
It was on 14th April 2021 while speaking on Dr. B.R Ambedkar Jayanti Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang had stressed on the work of the Government employees and their performances and the obstacles faced by the public in the Government offices. Chief Minister then directed the Departmental head to ensure that the Government officials are coming in time and if not then necessary actions should be taken against them he added and he further stated that the work of the public should be done at the top priority and this is the ultimate aim of the administration. And days after that people of Sikkim watched videos through social media wherein the video of employees coming late to the offices were circulated.
This gave a big relief to the public as they thought that now we can have our work done in time and the work will be done without harassment. But in a long run this couldn’t be successful the dream of the Chief Minister and the essence of the public administration has not been achieved till date in real. In 2018 – 2019 I was one of the member of the Students Representative Council (An elected students body in Colleges which was in Sikkim till 2019) and we along with President, General Secretary, Treasurer and other members used to visit Education Department for placing various demands and other purposes and one day one officer whose name i won’t disclose here he said “bhai aaju mo busy chu aaju vewdina arko din awnu la mero meeting cha aaju”
It was in such a disgraceful tone and our President Pradeep Tamang gave a tight reply to him and in the evening we went to a meeting where all SRC members were present and it was a political meeting and that officer was also seen there and he begged for sorry to us at that time while he was addressing that political meeting. And it was after the 2019 elections we had gone to Education Department office for some work and we had just a simple prayer to the authority but the concerned officer denied to listen us and told that she has to attend the programme of the Chief Minister which that officer said it was more important than ours so we came back without our prayer being listened. So, here what can we understand ? We can clearly understand and say that the poors, the young , students are not given preference in the offices as we couldn’t get the good responses from the Officers of the Department because we were students, we were from rural areas, we were young.
So, students are treated in this way then one can imagine how the illiterate people will be treated when they are visiting the offices. But not all Officials have same nature, because some officials are very enthusiastic in doing public works and they have been the backbone of the administration. So, the thing here has been clear that poor people, un-taught people, students are ill treated in the offices when they have their work and they visit the offices. So, the offices and the officers are not for doing the work which the people from rural area, uneducated people and students bring before their table?. Few months ago a Peshkar was arrested in Gangtok for taking a bribe of Rs. 5,000. But he was only the person who had taken bribe? I am sure that numbers of readers reading this must have paid bribes, the local contractors narrate the story as how much bribe they have to pay to the employees for their work to be done in time.
The problem is with our people also as they don’t have guts to report to the concerned authority but what they fear is that it will further lead to the delay of their work so they prefer to pay some amount inside the closed door and they get their work done in time. So, i must say that the people coming from the rural areas and the illiterate people should be made aware about the bribery and they should be made aware as where to lodge the complaint if they are asked for bribe by the public servant. People should be made aware of the laws like: Indian Penal Code, 1860 (Which deals with the punishment for the public servant taking bribe) , Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, Right to Information Act, 2005, Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003, Whistleblowers Protection Act, 2011 as well as the public should be made aware about the procedure of making such complaints.
It should also be well known to the public that any person who reports offense of corruption shall be protected by the Whistleblowers Protection Act, 2011. According to a survey, 38% of land and property deals in India involves bribes, 62% of law enforcement officers take bribes, INR 222 crore is paid by truck drivers every year to police, forest officials, excise officials, etc. A study showed that 60% of people having driving license have never appeared for a driving test.
The monetary value of petty corruption in 11 services of the Govt. like education, healthcare, judiciary, etc. amounts to INR 3,19,72,50,00,000 annually. And Sikkim also has a huge contribution to it.
The next thing i want to highlight here is that in many purposes there are phone numbers given as helpline numbers to contact in case of query, problems and for the complaint also but the phone is never answered. And how is this so?. There are many numbers that are provided in the Social Welfare Department’s website for the Scholarships and its issues but the phone is never answered neither the reply comes when we send email. So, what is the purpose for assigning these things if it cannot serve a purpose?. Now, it’s high time for the public to come up and speak in these issues because the wait is over and we have been waiting since decades. We have been waiting for a Government official a whole day for just an attestation also.
The government has been trying to make the government officials, employees public centric but the objective has not been fulfilled. So, its high time for the Government to set up a helpline number mainly for the raising such complaints of the public, active functioning of the anti- corruption helpline like in Punjab, where the new AAP led government has done within 10 days of its governance.