PUNJAB IN A BUREAUCRATIC CLUTCH?
MINISTERS OF PUNJAB TOO SULK AND RESORT TO WALKOUT
The sordidly serious developments emerged from the scene of the pre-Cabinet meeting of the Punjab Government, where all the Ministers of the Punjab Cabinet walked out on May 9, in protest against the appallingly arrogant behavior of the Chief Secretary of Punjab Karan Avtar Singh. The corollary of the event as emerged from the pre-Cabinet meeting was being addressed by the Chief Secretary online, through the video conferencing mode, ostensibly from his residence and The Cabinet Ministers in attendance, which itself sounds quite incongruously. But when the Ministers objected to the mode and manner in which they were being addressed by the Chief Secretary, and in unison they sought his physical presence in the meeting.
The Chief Secretary Karn Avtar Singh who also holds the charge of Secretary Excise, did turn up for the meeting and reluctantly obliged the sullied Ministers. Thereafter, the Chief Secretary, unfolded the premeditated excise policy, allegedly finalized in consultation with the ‘Liquor Mafia’ of the State and then duly bargained and approved by the ‘Whisky Priest’; was placed before the Cabinet for its formal approval .
The excise policy, its alleged that was earlier contemplated by ‘Liquor Barons’ of the State, and not keeping in loop the Finance Minister, Manpreet Singh Badal, in utter disparity of the interests of the State exchequer. In this meeting as we learn from the credible media reports; the Finance Minister, Manpreet Singh Badal took fundamental objection to some of the salient features of the proposed ‘Excise Policy’ to which the Chief Secretary, retorted saying ‘it has already been approved by the CM, if you have any objection you better sort out with the CM’.
On this vicious retort of the Chief Secretary, Manpreet Singh Badal who is otherwise very soft and sublime Minister by temperament and well adorn decent etiquettes, felt offended and walked out of the meeting followed by all other Ministers, one by one without waiting for the arrival and intervention of the Chief Minister Amarinder Singh who was yet to join the Cabinet meeting through video conferencing mode.
With this sudden awkward development, the Punjab Government led by Capt. Amarinder has certainly plunged in to a deep constitutional crisis. The Chief Secretary to Government of Punjab is also an ‘Ex Officio’ Secretary to the State cabinet, when Cabinet is in the meeting. So in the backdrop of such an outrageous and unusual walk out by the ministers, amounts to a public expression of disparagement and complete lack of faith and confidence; in the static and unresponsive manner the state is being run by a ‘Stationary Chief Minister’ during most difficult times .
As a matter of fact, the Punjab has actually become a defunct ‘bureaucratic State’ a new phenomenon which lacks democratic fervor, at all the levels of ‘Governance’ in the State. The current crisis of paralytic relationship between the Ministers and their secretaries and the callous arbitrariness of bureaucrats towards their Ministers, is a grim reminder of complete collapse of the ‘democratic governance’ in Punjab. The current emerging scenario reflects the colossal betrayal of the expectation of the people of Punjab and also the democratic ethos and thought. If I am asked to evaluate and write a thesis on the work culture of the present Government in Punjab, my cult reply would be, ‘Sorry, the current ‘No Government’ model, is beyond my comprehension.
Unfortunately the state had already lost its rational of democratically elected government, for quite some time. The Stationary Chief Minister first abandoned his top heavy CM Secretariat, in the seat of Governance i.e. The Punjab Civil Secretariat, thereafter he abandoned his constituency (Patiala) and then he abandoned the official residence of the Chief Minister in Chandigarh’s Sector-2, which is heavily guarded by the security forces at a great expense. And the most surprisingly he is now venturing to replace the time tested ‘Cabinet System’ of the West Minister Model of the Governance with the ‘bureaucratic State’, much to the chagrin of his own Ministers.
The ascent of a non-resident Chief Minister seems to be a new and alien phenomenon of Governance which Capt. Amarinder Singh is endeavoring to discover completely ignoring the role of his Ministers. He certainly owes Public explanation; as to why he has first abandoned his constituency then his office and official residence as well? Is there some superstitious myth behind his abandoning spree which he is following blindly and quite unscrupulously?
In view of the current, trumpet and unprecedented ‘lock horns’ situation, between the Chief Secretary and the Cabinet Ministers, that too during the ‘National Lockdown’; which clearly manifests the emergence of a ‘bureaucratic State’ over the ‘democratic State’ beside complete policy paralysis . It is a sufficient evidence to testify the complete breakdown of the constitutional machinery in the State, therefore the Governor of Punjab VP Singh Badnore must intervene in the current situation of constitutional crisis in the State and invoke his constitutional mandate by sending his immediate appraisal report to the Home Ministry with the recommendation, to bring the State under the Presidents Rule, for a brief spell, followed by fresh elections in Punjab.
The writer, Bir Devinder Singh, is a former deputy speaker of Punjab legislative assembly.