Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
If the Ministry is answerable to the Assembly, Orissa Assembly has miserably failed to monitor the Ministers.
It is the Speaker who has on many occasions expressed dismay over failure of Ministers in giving acceptable answers to queries from the Members. He has gone up to instructing Ministers to come with the proper reply within a time stipulated by him. This speaks volume of how the Ministers have tried to evade time and again.
It is not that this odd has crippled the Assembly entirely. Some of the astute Members have sometimes succeeded in making Ministers vomit how administration has failed in their respective departments. But it is marked, whenever this happens, the Ministers usually shift the responsibility for the admitted failures to the bureaucracy that according to them is too recalcitrant to execute programs properly. As for example after stark failure in using the available funds earmarked for welfare of Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes was established by facts and figures in course of an adjournment motion on 18th December, Welfare Minister Chaitanya Prasad Majhi has attributed this failure to the bureaucracy.
But what the Ministers themselves are doing?
Almost all the Secretaries are disgusted that Ministers are making inordinate delays in disposing of files at their level irrespective of how urgent they are. In most cases, delay is deliberate and extraneous consideration is the suspected cause.
Extra Official Elements (EOE) in fact control the offices of several Ministers.
Under the Rules of Business, a Private Secretary (PS) is the officer, who peruses the files endorsed to a Minister and briefs him in order to help speedy disposal thereof. Therefore responsible high-grade officers are posted as PS to Ministers. But most of the Ministers allow themselves to be guided by EOEs in disposing off files. No file moves in a Minister’s chamber till the EOE wants it move. The bond between the Minister and EOE is secret. But it is the EOE that really matters. As for example, no file gets disposed off unless Mishra asks Health Minister Sanatan Bishi to clear it. No file moves in the chamber of the Labor Minister Pradipta Kumar Nayak unless Mangaraj wants it to be disposed off. Mishra and Mangaraj are samples of how certain individuals, not officially engaged to do what they are doing, are controlling the officials of Ministers’ offices
A disgusted PS may be available to you on query about a file to say that he cannot place the file before the Minister unless the Minister calls for that. When Damodar Raut was Minister of Information and Public Relations, this was the reply I had got from his PS on query on an accreditation file. Unless you put up the file how should the Minister know of it and how come he will call for the file unless he is informed of the file having come to him from the Department? I had queried. From the reply of the PS, I got it that the EOE on whom the Minister was relying upon to dispose off files specifically coming from the I&PR department was a journalist who obviously was acting Mishra / Mangaraj to Dama Raut at that time. And the syndrome continues.
Watch the office of any Minister and mark how many days are delayed in disposal of files, you get the picture of how EOEs have taken over administration. Lobbies galore. Normal rule derailed.
The Assembly should have asked Chaitanya Prasad Majhi as to how speedily he has been disposing off files coming to him from the department and should have taken a stock of which sort of files have taken how many days in his office for disposal.
But, why he alone? The same question should have been asked to every Minister. If any Minister says that he / she is not guided by an EOE, the details of time he / she has taken to dispose off files vis-à-vis the nature of files read with the period of pending should be reviewed by the Assembly.
Orissa needs to be saved from the grip of lobbyists and commission agents. Therefore there should be a social audit on file disposal in the offices of Ministers with emphasis on locating and weeding out EOEs who thrive on corruption and sans greasing whose palms files seldom move. But this cannot happen unless there is a law enacted specifically for this purpose.
Can the Assembly play any role in it? Before naturally the present Assembly breathes its last, can it at least coin a resolution in this regard?
How long should we watch Ministers escaping unpunished for non-functioning / malfunctioning of their respective departments even as EOEs continue to control their offices?