LOADS of platitudes are doled out along with grants to the chief ministers of the North-east when they go with their well-chalked-out plans to convince the Planning Commission members about their need for development funds. The Prime Minister, Union home minister and other big cheeses don’t miss an opportunity to patronise the politicians and bureaucrats of the North-east when they visit Delhi. The region is given different labels at different times. Sometimes it&’s called a region in turmoil, a conflict region, a region with great potential, a region with rainbow people( a la BG Verghese), a region populated by amiable people who have been misled to take up arms against a benevolent Centre.
We are advised to be less belligerent and more “nationalistic’”(what does that means anyway?) so that we can catch up with the pace of development elsewhere in the country. I wonder what that pace is, given the rupee&’s status today and which has sunk to such an abysmal low. So much of shallow rhetoric flowing out of the mouths of the learned sages and mandarins in North and South Blocks of Delhi have taught the people of this region to take the money and come back to do what they like. After all. Delhi hardly cares how the money is spent!
Perhaps because of our belligerence, the recent posting of governors shows that more policemen and spooks will be occupying our palatial Raj Bhavans across the region. While it can be stated that governors don’t really matter because their post is more ornamental than anything else, some governors have not endeared themselves because they have just been used as political instruments. The Congress has often used governors to impose President&’s Rule arbitrarily to jettison non-Congress-led governments and to facilitate Congress rule in different states. The Congress does not care about qualifications of governors. It places a premium on loyalists. Hence, the party uses former Intelligence officers, retired CBI directors, etc, to exert overt and covert control over Raj Bhavans.
This raises several unsavoury points about the police force, particularly its Intelligence and Investigation wings. Police officers on the verge of retirement ingratiate themselves with the powers that be in Delhi so that they have uninterrupted careers for themselves. Such a self-serving police force cannot be doing its job too well and this is evident in how the CBI is conducting itself — as an extension of the ruling party and as an advocate of its shenanigans.
The appointment of ex-CBI director Ashwani Kumar as governor of Nagaland had elicited some very scathing comments from the BJP and other non-Congress parties. BJP leader MM Joshi says the appointment of an ex-CBI director as governor suggests a quid pro quo, meaning that he had done the Congress&’s bidding during his tenure in the CBI. An editorial in a leading national newspaper some time ago alleged that intelligence, security and police officers were almost always close to the political party in power and therefore they made for even more loyal governors. By promising them governorships after retirement, the nexus became even stronger. The editorial went on to say that while all governments may have used gubernatorial appointments for political purposes, the Congress&’s use of former cops or spies as governors stood out for consistent misuse. It showed that the post was not at all supposed to be politically neutral.
This also implies that officers who do not toe the government line and are honest enough to tell the ruling mandarins the truth (that they often disdainfully choose to brush aside) will never be rewarded. So the message to the entire hierarchy of the police establishment — from security, law and order to intelligence and investigation wings — is clear: Do your duties at your own peril.
Why then are we surprised when the police consistently fail to deliver and when they flounder and fail? They are conditioned to steer away from professionalism. Those are the undertones that the government delivers to them at the personal level even as it waxes eloquent about police accountability and professionalism at memorial lectures that are organised at sundry forums in the national capital. For those who know how the system actually works, it is a frustrating journey of watching their hard work compromised by their seniors and juniors after them at the altar of expediency and politics.
But retired police officers and Army generals are not the only culprits who help extend the rule of the Congress to non-Congress-ruled states. Former Bihar governor Debenanda Konwar, now governor of Tripura, was known to have acted arbitrarily in appointing vice-chancellors in the universities of Bihar.
Normally, in private universities created by the states, governors hold the post of Visitor. While the appointment of a vice-hancellor of a private university is the brief of a search committee put together by the governing council of the university, once a vice-chancellor is appointed the university would seek the consent of the Visitor and also inform the state government. Konwar did nothing of the sort. He never once consulted the state government on this matter, which is what irked Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar.
The Bihar assembly went to the extent of pushing through legislation to curtail the powers of the governor but Konwar sat on it. He also delayed the passage of the Bihar State University (Amendment) Bill, 2010, for curtailing the powers of the governor in the appointment of V-Cs — the Patna University (Amendment) Bill, 2010 — for giving the government a greater say in appointing V-Cs; the Bihar State University Service Commission Bill, 2011; and the Bihar University Tribunal Bill, 2011, which wants to set up a tribunal to reduce the number of university disputes that clog the courts.
In the case of Meghalaya, outgoing governor RS Mooshahary, a former top cop who commanded the National Security Guard during the Akshardham encounter, has played a key role in exposing the scams in a private university at the fagend of his governorship. The self-appointed chancellor of CMJ University, Chandra Mohan Jha, is still absconding even after several FIRs have been filed against him personally and against the university for turning it into a degree-awarding factory. CMJU had literally set up educational shops across the country asking people to register for their PhDs and promising to give that degree to them in three months. Thousands of scholars wanting to take a short-cut to acquiring a PhD have been duped by CMJU.
Mooshahary is remembered by the people of Meghalaya for the short stint of President&’s Rule he advocated after a political turmoil in Meghalaya between March- May 2009. During that time Mooshahary took over the administration and, true to form, made surprise visits to government hospitals, the Secretariat and other state-run institutions. At the Secretariat, he caught employees playing computer games and hauled them up. The streets at the time were free of traffic jams and things just moved like clockwork.
This made many people welcome President&’s Rule and even suggesting that it remain in force for a longer period since the delivery system had improved remarkably. Mooshahary, though a Bodo tribal, could recite lengthy shlokas better than most pundits.
He was also intellectually inclined and never read from a prepared text at any function. In fact, Mooshahary, who had studied in Shillong as a college student, very quickly endeared himself to the people. He had quickly shed the formality of his uniform. The people of Meghalaya wonder if their new governor, KK Paul, a much-decorated policeman, will be able to do that. They must wait and watch, I suppose!
The writer is editor, The Shillong Times, and can be reached at [email protected]