The Orissa Public Services Act, 2012 will demoralize the minified Executive and create Chaos

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Punishing errant public servants for non-delivery of expected service is a method that was first conceived by Biju Patnaik when he was eager to shift responsibility for his misrule to the employees.

Once in power, Biju was misusing his position to loot the State and the aggrieved people of Orissa were refusing him mandate in the next election and thereafter, to avenge his betrayal.

When for the second and last time he had occupied power in Orissa, sure as he was that he cannot give anything than misrule, and conscious of the wrath that the people would express over his misrule, he had contrived a new method to escape.

And that method was known as ‘Mada Tattwa’, meant to physically assault the employee who does not oblige.

Even in public meetings he was openly instigating people to beat up officials as for them the people were not getting good governance despite all his endeavors.

It had created such chaos that employees of the very department under his control had used the ‘Mada Tattwa’ on Biju in the Secretariat on May 06, 1993 for his continuous misrule.
Biju had narrowly escaped a head injury as a journalist present on the spot saved him from being hit on the head by an earthen plant container that an employee, in conniption, had thrown at him. It was national news; so also his ‘Mada Tattwa’.

Taking the cue, the political government of Madhya Pradesh also wanted to shift the responsibility of misrule to the government employees. But they avoided Biju’s method of physical assault, lest the misruled people apply the same on the CM or Ministers. So, instead of ‘Mada’ (physical assault), the M.P. government provided for legal penalties against the employees for non-delivery of service in time, under the design of Right to Public Services Act enforced on 18 July 2010, which was the first of its kind in India.

After MP, with people perishing as plutocracy has engulfed India, politicians in power in various provinces that are working as facilitators for various industrial/corporate houses, in order to project the employees as means of misrule, have also notified / promulgated Public Service Act in their respective states. These provinces are: Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan.

But nowhere, the Act has been launched – in fact, no Law is ever launched with fanfare in specifically convened meetings – by the Chief Minister of the State, as it is in Orissa.

Begun with 34 public services under seven departments, the Orissa Right to Public Service Act 2012 is projected to cover 100 services, where delay in delivering the required service, would enable the service seeker to demand compensation. The employee dealing with the same would be penalized for the delay or denial of service.

In launching the Act on January 2, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who heads the BJD by virtue of being the son of Biju Patnaik, described the day as a “historic day” as this Act “provides for imposing penalties on the service providers for defaulting or causing undue delay in delivery of service”.

In a sense, it is a welcome venture. It will, to certain extent, help the general public in asserting their right to get quick service.

But, despite this law, there shall be delay in delivery of services. All the government offices are presently suffering from severe shortage of staff. When workload is highly increasing, the executive is shrinking in size. Sanctioned posts are not being filled up. Recruitment is rare. Without adequate staff, it would be impossible for the severely minified executive to comply with all the requisitions in a fixed time. Threatened with legal prosecution and penalty for delay in complying with requisitions, the staff is bound to feel demoralized.

In fact, it will shift the responsibility for misrule from the politicians in control of administration to the lower executive and give boost to a climate of litigation against the employees. So, it will help the compradors in power to escape public wrath for their misrule, when attention of the suffering public will stay focused on inability of lower executive to deliver good governance.

Therefore, instead of acting beneficial, this Act will cause a lot of harm to administration. Firstly, it will convince the people that the employees are means of misrule, and secondly, the provision for penalty in this Act, will keep the employees constantly intimidated.

This Act has been enacted without application of collective legislative wisdom in the Assembly, because the Opposition has not participated in its passing. Had the Chief Minister been honest in politics, the Opposition should have been associated with discussion on the Bill and the same could have been tested on the matrix of Opposition wisdom. But it was rushed through the Assembly when the Opposition was in the well of the House in protest against strangulation of the Congress voice of protest against maladministration by use of the Police. Had it been put under rest till the Opposition was ready for debate, the necessity of adequate staffing before enforcement of this Act could have been stressed upon and legislative intention could have been distinctly defined. But it has not happened.

Therefore, it is essential that the vigilant public should ask the Government to keep this injurious Act in hold till offices are adequately staffed. Otherwise, Orissa shall be thrown into a new wave of litigation that would be too chaotic and overwhelming for the administration to maintain normalcy.