Source: The Imphal Free Press
At the root of the notorious lethargic work culture that has come to be associated with employees in the government sector in Manipur, is the lack of accountability. If there was a system by which non-performers must have to make the exit as a matter of rule, this work culture today would have been a lot different. The answer that naturally follows from this derivation is that to improve the government sector work culture, a way must be found to introduce accountability at every level. Non performers, starting from the state’s top executive, namely the chief minister, to the blue-collared workers it employs, must understand that they would have to be shown the door if they fail to deliver what has been assigned as their responsibility.
This especially so if the failure is on account of unreasonable excuses, established corrupt practices or else patent incompetence. It should not come as a surprise to anybody that there has been no exception till date in Manipur, and even the face of repeated inexplicable failures, no responsibility has been fixed on anybody in particular. No official or minister of worth have also had the humility or public courtesy to own up responsibility, not even to pledge that they would take it upon themselves to prevent the same blunders from repeating. Quite predictably, the blunders keep repeating, and same ministers and officials remain stone-faced and shameless as ever. The near complete collapse of government school education system is the most prominent example, but the list would be endless.
What Manipur needs today is a brave new leadership, courageous enough to acknowledge failures and sensitive enough to repent. Only when this happens would there be motivation in every hierarchy of the government order to strive to improve. But for such a dream to come true, it is not only a voluntary self reform within our leadership class that has to be awaited. It must equally be a public pressure to have the best delivered to them, engendered by an awareness of what is ultimately in their long term interest, which can induce a shift in outlook to public responsibility by those who hold public offices. This public awareness can come about only if the bar of social debates are raised, and in this mission, the intelligentsia and academia must bear the major burden.
The disturbing question is also, are those who can broadly come under these classifications of enlightened citizenry, up to the task? The nagging doubt is, a greater section of them too have not been able to rise above the same lethargy and insensitivity that other sections of the work force are accused of. That many of them suffer from the same insecurities and compulsions that have made even able men and women in the government, with the exception of a few, to allow themselves to be lulled into a state of official ennui. Under the circumstance, the story of the unwillingness to change is no longer a question of general morality and ethics but of class interests. Directly or indirectly, to promote common class interests, even if they are retrogressive, rulers and opponents within the same ruling clique end up protecting each other’s flanks when it comes to the crux.The manner in which the Office of Profit issue was flattened with a new legislation passed by the Assembly recently is just one example amongst many.
Still, we would expect some systemic adjustments from the current leadership. They must possess some of what is generally referred to as “enlightened self interest”. This will entail a bit of personal sacrifices in the present for sake of ensuring a better future, after all the future is common for all of us, and needless to say, inescapable. In this context, it will be laudable if a norm or tradition is introduced by which purging of the leadership is mandatory in the event of the failure or non performance of government departments in any particular mission. Only such an initiative can break the inertia and lack of motivation in the government work culture. We must remember, motivation is not necessarily only about perks and rewards, but also of punitive measures. We are not for a complete handover of public businesses and affairs to the private sector, for an un-reined private sector is capable of tremendous injustice and exploitation too, but in the post Cold War era, it is a demonstrated fact that an infusion of the ethos of the private enterprises into the public sectors can do wonders to the latter’s productivity. Will our leaders show the courage to learn from the lesson the rest of the successful world has learnt?