Bureaucrat-Turned-Politician: Fleecing the Same Public Twice

Saying negative things about others shouldn’t become a habit and must be avoided if possible. But in politics, nothing can be considered off limits, or should be, if it concerns the public. That’s why civil watchdogs and opposition parties exist to check on politicians and they must to do so by actually naming names to help the public identify the real sources of the misdeeds and omissions.  

Without going as far as the allowed limit, let me, however, use an example of a bureaucrat-turned-politician from my Angami community to make a point. This “lucky individual” started his career as a hard-working, honest government employee. He was also a well-respected church elder once. But after his retirement from bureaucracy, he joined politics. And that politics seems to have changed him into a different person or, more likely, his new-found company of corrupt politicians has changed him. In my opinion, he has fully benefited from the government as an employee for over 30 years and now as a politician for the last 15 years. Maybe he was not guilty of breaking the existing law, but the broader questions we must ask ourselves are as follows: Is our current system of government designed for all alike? Or, is it just meant for a select few like him? Is this what we call equal access to opportunities? Is this how our public wealth is supposed to be distributed?  

First, we need to ask whether or not our bureaucrats and government officers are delivering what they are paid to do. No doubt, we still have some good bureaucrats who deserve all our respect and appreciation for their hard work and integrity. But the majority of our officers seem to be in public service for themselves only, because their works are often characterized by inefficiency, impersonality, and unresponsiveness to the public. Although some of these officers have thousands of employees working under them, they have failed to produce any significant service for the people. Making matters worse, a number of them are known to have a routine tendency to protect turf, to build empires, to enlarge their sphere of control, to resist change, to hold onto projects and programs regardless of whether or not they are needed any longer. They are unashamed to use public resources and government vehicles for private purposes. They are also the ones who often form nexus with corrupt politicians to loot public funds and to ensure employment for their kith and kin in the form of backdoor appointments. Some secretly sponsor politicians. And once their candidates win an election, they automatically start pulling the strings to get whatever they want. In some cases, they virtually dictate terms to the government. In short, they make sure that they avail for themselves the maximum amount of benefits from the government. Even non-Nagas are well aware of these abuses of office by this sort of self-serving Naga officers. For example, as early as Jamir’s rule in Nagaland, Diwakar Prasad, IPS, DGP (Vigilance) for Nagaland, reported: “… don't be surprised if Nagaland has the richest bureaucrats and officers. Many of them live in palatial buildings which are unaffordable on their salary. Some bureaucrats have invested over Rs. 50 lakh at a time in constructing their houses. No questions are asked.” Then after reaching superannuation, they retire and are able to enjoy hefty pension benefits.   Next, some of these self-serving bureaucrats go into politics to gain more from the public system. Because they are still the same individuals, they end up as parasitic, opportunistic politicians again. Thus, we have politicians who are all about self-enrichment and not much about relieving the suffering citizens. Perhaps, this sort of attitude was well-demonstrated in the 12th Nagaland Legislative Assembly session on July 12, 2016, which lasted only 15 minutes. Although there were many burning societal issues which were calling for their attention, the only thing these politicians had on their mind was the increment of their salaries, allowances, and family pensions. If not the other younger politicians, the then Chief Minister or the elder-Minister who I referred to earlier should have at least said, “Please, let’s stop being so self-absorbed and over greedy. It’s a shame for us to be talking about raising our salaries and pension benefits, when our economy is broke and many of our youngsters in the teaching profession are suffering without pay for many months!” If something like that were to have been said, all of us would have possibly fallen in line behind such a person without a second thought. But sadly, the crying needs of our ordinary citizens seem to be no longer on the agenda of these elected representatives anymore.  

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that all our politicians are bad. Nor am I saying that no retired bureaucrat should have the opportunity to run for political office. Of course, they can but, in my opinion, it would be best that they are not allowed to run for elected office until the current faulty system is corrected or until the expiry of 5 years after their retirement from the bureaucracy.  

In a somewhat similar vein, the current U.S. government is undertaking many reforms in the public service sector. One of the these reforms has to do with banning government officials, especially the lobbyists, to make money from public service twice, which was a central component of President Trump’s campaign pledge to “drain the swamp” in Washington, the Capital of the USA.  

So, let’s join other reformers around the world. Let’s reform our faulty system of government by adopting a policy of banning any government officer from fleecing the same public twice.