A bureaucrat in India is often viewed in the eyes of the public as someone who has a monopoly over the enterprise of corruption and is responsible for all the misgovernance and lack of development throughout the country. Politicians and bureaucrats are often painted by the same brush. One fails to differentiate between the elected representatives and the functionary executives. Therefore, all the rant that is directed towards the politicians is often deflected to the bureaucrats. The act of “bureaucracy-bashing” is something our country has never grown tired of.

Today, for a change, the entire country is rallying behind a brave, young officer of the Indian Administrative Services by the name of Durga Shakti Nagpal in a fight between right and wrong. The news of her suspension for presumably taking on the sand mafia sent shock waves across the country. She, in a way, epitomizes what bureaucracy actually stands for. She justifies why the bureaucracy is considered “the steel frame of India”, as dubbed by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. She is the ‘ideal’ bureaucrat.

While there are many Durga Shaktis throughout the country in the form of officers who go beyond the average call of their duty to protect the interest of the country, the kind of treatment meted out to them by the so-called “political masters” is disturbing. A generalization cannot be made in this regard as there are many parts in the country where the political establishments work hand-in-hand with the bureaucrats for the betterment of the society. But, the fact that an unholy nexus between the mafia and the politicians exists in most parts of the country results in deterring the honest bureaucrats from discharging their duties appropriately. Most bureaucrats then shed their “honesty” and join hands with the unlawful authorities. Some of them, like Ms. Nagpal, fight the system from within. They are the ‘ideal’ bureaucrats.

The recent course of events has highlighted the need to have safeguards in place for the bureaucrats who are willing to go the extra mile in fighting tooth and nail against those who violate the rule of law. There should be strong mechanisms to ensure that honest officers are not suspended, dismissed or harassed by the arbitrariness of the political authority. Our country is vehemently confronted with the challenge of preventing the ‘ideal’ bureaucrat from becoming extinct.

As I write, the fate of Ms. Nagpal is yet to be decided. One can only hope that better sense prevails and her suspension order is revoked. But, irrespective of whatever happens, what this saga has done is it has aptly demonstrated the power of an ‘ideal’ bureaucrat.

Roneet Mohanty
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