Ministers in the state government are “massively corrupt”, the performance of legislators “largely unsatisfactory,” the culture of giving gifts for securing transfers not only firmly established but “huge and on the rise”, Special Economic Zones “unjust”, and social activist Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption crusade, mostly against the state government and administration, “overwhelmingly constructive”.
This, you might think, is the verdict of Anna Hazare’s volunteers, anti-SEZ protestors, or the opposition parties, against the government. It isn’t. This stinging indictment of the state, its government, its elected representatives and its policies has been made by gazetted officers, the very backbone of the state administration and the very people who are responsible for implementing the government’s policies.
These critical remarks about the government’s ways emerged during a survey conducted among 240 gazetted officers — that is, the government’s Class I and Class II employees, up to the level of joint secretary and deputy collector, recruited through the State Public Service Commission — by the Maharashtra State Gazetted Officers Federation at its conclave in Mumbai last week.
Officers, selected from across state departments, were given a set of 41 questions to gauge the undercurrents in the administration over crucial “socio-political and economic” concerns. They were given an option of keeping their identity under wraps while answering the questions, but interestingly, most of them had no problems in revealing their names even as they slammed the state on various issues.
On the question of graft, the vote was clearly against the government: 84% of the respondents said the mantris were Maha corrupt, 50% said secretaries were no better, and 69% felt the “gift culture for transfers” was getting out of hand.
The overall performance of the government was described as just about OK by 73%, and 21% said it was unsatisfactory; only a meagre 6% found it good.
On the policy front too, the government came in for criticism: 77% said the SEZ policy was unjust, and 94% said Anna Hazare’s work was constructive.
All this is no reason for the opposition parties to gloat, though. The verdict on them too is harsh: 61% respondents said the opposition was not doing its work, and only 8% felt it was putting in enough efforts to hold the government accountable.
G D Kulathe, general secretary of the Federation, admitted such a survey was carried out to assess the views of officials. “But this is our own in-house exercise, based on which we carry out various training programmes and lectures for our members. This is not for public consumption,” he stressed.
Interestingly, the survey was not restricted to state matters. Questions were asked on the Indo-US nuke deal, Mayawati’s possible inroads into Maharashtra, the court’s intervention in matters of governance, and even on Rahul Dravid’s controversial decision not to enforce a follow-on in the third and final (Oval) Test against England.
And the babus have not held back in their replies. 85% of them said the nuke deal was in the national interest; 54% said Mayawati’s impact in the state would be limited; 62% felt court intervention in governance was “extremely necessary”; and 77% called Dravid’s decision “incorrect.”
Asked if the verdict in the 1993 bomb blasts case was just, all of them, without an exception, replied in the affirmative.
When asked to name one minister, from the state and the Centre respectively, who they thought was best, Deputy Chief Minister and Home Minister R R Patil emerged as the favourite at the state level, while — the Left may not be too happy here — Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was the clear number one among Central leaders.