The Election Commission of India is likely to announce the poll date for three North Eastern States and Karnataka by next week, while the political parties, both the national and regional groups are already moving around the cities with their respective party’s flag, even though most of the parties are yet to finalize the complete list. Lobbying for tickets this time is not as much as the earlier election, as most of the aspirants have already affiliated themselves with the hope of being awarded with the ticket to contest.
The colourful party flags in moving vehicles have actually set the temperature for the election fever. The social call or visits by any individual are now being observed as extending the support to the prospective candidate or the party. The marriage or funeral gathering too has taken the political colour even before the Code of Conduct is being imposed.
The government offices are slowing down, particularly for new schemes and projects, not sure if the next government will approve the same or not, therefore, most of the proposed schemes and projects are being inaugurated or implemented at lightning speed till the poll date is announced.
The final electoral rolls in Meghalaya have been published with names of 18,30,104 voters. A total 3,27,595 new voters, including 88,412 first-timers between the age of 18 and 19, were registered in these rolls that showed an increase of 21.8 per cent. Of the 18,30,104 voters, as many as 9,23,848 are women.
It is time that about 19 lakhs of eligible voters should change the governance. They elected the representatives to recognize the punctuality of the government employees working in Meghalaya Civil Secretariat for the outstanding punctuality displayed by them during the year 2015-16 in office attendance. The attendance was based on the reports generated from the Access Control System installed in the Secretariat by the Secretariat Administration Department (SAD). The total strength of Civil servants is above 3000, meaning only about 1.2 percent of them are punctual in the government office.
The award besides appreciation also carries a cash award of Rs 15,000 for 98 percent of attendance where just three out of the 38 received this highest cash award, the rest were awarded Rs 10,000 each. One can easily understand the productivities of governance in Meghalaya; where above 80 percent of the population is employed in government jobs.
Besides work culture, none other than the Chief Minister, Dr Mukul M Sangma has questioned the etiquette of the personnel. While brushing aside the criticism over his move for all to undergo etiquette classes for the newly recruited government officers a few years back, he also came up with a law known as the ‘Service Delivery System (SDS)’ to regulate the behaviour of all officers and others in ensuring timely delivery of services. This, he informed on the Floor of the State Assembly Re-assembled Budget Session 2014.
Dr Sangma is confident that the new law will go a long way in regulating the conducts of all Officers. The law is in the processes of being fine-tuned, and will be introduced soon. He assured the members of the August House that once SDS is implemented, officers found responsible for not being able to deliver on work within a specific timeframe are bound to be subjected to punitive action. Now only 1.2 percent were found performing.
The work culture of Meghalaya employees has been questioned twice during the imposition of President’s Rule here, the first by the then Governor Madhukar Dighe, as the Centre imposed President’s Rule in Meghalaya in the wake of a political crisis after the then Speaker PR Kyndiah suspended five MLAs, mostly independents, on grounds of defection with effect from October 11, 1991 to February 5, 1992.
The second criticism came from the former Governor, Ranjit Shekhar Mooshahary, when the Government was dismissed after a controversial confidence vote secured in the Assembly by the then Chief Minister, Dr Donkupar Roy during March 18, 2009 to May 12, 2009, and President’s Rule was imposed.
However, Dr Sangma was not the first to make such an attempt to improve the work culture of the government employees. Meghalaya’s youngest Finance Minister at the age of 30 - Conrad Sangma, in the year 2008 while in office, made an attempt only to allow Second and Fourth Saturday as holiday; which cost him his Selsella Assembly Constituency seat. He became the most disliked legislator of the Meghalaya Assembly for reducing the off days of the employees. The moment he was removed from the chair, all Saturdays of the month were once again considered holidays. He is now the Member of Parliament of Tura Constituency.
American author, philosopher, naturalist and social critic, Henry David Thoreau, in his version of the Axiom describes Government as ‘government is best which governs least’, as stated in his essay “Civil Disobedience.”
Thoreau’s version is very relevant when it comes to Meghalaya government, where neither the etiquette classes for new recruits nor the proposed law on Service Delivery System will help if the work culture and patriotism does not comes from within.
Yes, every individual needs to contribute to the development of the state. The work culture is individual conduct, and no law and rules of conduct can force any individual to deliver if there is no sense of accountability. Once everyone focuses on the development of the state in their respective position, Meghalaya too can have a government which governs least.
It is not only because of the absence of manufacturing or producing industries, the working hours have been cut short in Meghalaya even for the educational institutions, which begin late compared to other states. Hence the class routine of almost all the institutions has been dragged on for almost the whole day. At the same time most of the students require private coaching popularly known as tuition here which has further prolonged their study hours.
Under such circumstances, it is difficult for the student community from the state to seek part-time jobs, either to support their own tuition fee, or to lend a helping hand to the family in the present high cost of living. Besides that the young mind finds it difficult to understand the meaning of dignity of work, as most of them are not working.
The work culture in the government offices too is not as encouraging as it should be; there are always complaints that government employees are hardly found in their respective chairs. In Meghalaya, where the work culture is at rock bottom, many attempts have been made to reform this, be it by former Governor of Meghalaya, Ranjit Shekhar Mooshahary during President’s Rule, or Young Legislator, Conrad K Sangma who converted two Saturdays of the month as working days, but was rejected by the voters for this move.
If Meghalaya desires to catch up with rest of the states, it needs to adopt three mantras- Transparent, Effective and Sustainable to reform. Transparency in governance is most important; here in Meghalaya, every elected legislator wants to have a cabinet berth, and every Minister wants to be the Chief Minister. In the course of grabbing this musical chair for power, governance has taken a back seat, loosing transparency in dealing.
Effectiveness of Public Services can be witnessed through the day to day activities, where garbage can be seen at every nook and corner of the city and poorly maintained government properties; as mentioned, poor work culture is adversely affecting development.
It is time for the state government to reform the Administrative Services, with more transparent work culture, and the quality of services should not be compromised. Then and only will it be more effective and discourage political backing when it comes to jobs; let the deserving candidate fill the respective post, and make competitive spirit to excel the only yardstick for promotion. This way the governance will be more effective and also become sustainable.
Meghalaya needs to partake in honouring and paying rich tribute to Dr Kalam who breathed his last here by adopting a better work culture and walk on the path as preached by him that ‘Work is Worship’.
Lastly, a new Time Zone should be introduced, the state needs longer working hours, which will not only improve its economic status but also open up more avenues for work, meaning more employability opportunities even if it is for part-time, which will help many economically weaker section of the society to have some extra income, be it to pursue studies or improve the health and comfortable life style.
Therefore, as the party workers display their respective party flag, they should also be convinced that their candidate will deliver and perform in taking Meghalaya towards the progressive, accountable and performing governance.