I'm On Mission Mode, Not A Ceremonial Head

Published: April 07, 2017 10:53 IST
I am not defending any one officer, but upholding the rule of law. Because this could otherwise be a pernicious practice and no public official will work in the field on his own fearing a contempt proceeding.

An MLA claims that Puducherry Municipal Commissioner R. Chandrasekaran held a meeting  of the Resident Welfare Association of Sudhana Nagar as part of Swachh Bharat initiatives without inviting him to the event.

The officer concerned had held the meeting with the Resident Welfare Association as part of his duty. The local bodies are mandated under Solid Waste Management Rules 2016 to create awareness amongst waste generators. The awareness meeting was haneld as a follow up of my weekend morning visit to Sudhana Nagar on March 18. I had visited the residential locality on the request made by the representatives of the Sudhana Nagar Resident Welfare Association. The MLA, Shri Baskar, was invited telephonically to be present during the visit. The member did not turn up for my visit, instead went on to obstruct the meeting of the Municipal Commissioner, saying he was not invited.

The commissioner reported the incident to the police and the following day, the MLA complained to the Speaker. The Speaker referred the matter to a committee but ordered to move out the officer without waiting for an investigation. The Chief Secretary hastily carried out the orders.

Under Rule 47 of Rules of Business of Government of Puducherry, 1963, the Administrator exercises the powers and functions of regulating the conditions of service. Therefore, the orders of the Speaker had to be put up to the Lt. Governor for approval as per law. Orders having been issued without due approval of Administrator, as envisaged under law, it was non-est in the eyes of law and therefore necessitated the intervention.  

I sent a mail to Chief Secretary to wait for my return from an official tour. I had clearly stated in the mail that he could come on Monday and discuss the issue relating to orders passed by the Hon'ble Speaker in the Assembly. In disregard to the instructions, Chief Secretary, issued the orders and caused it to be pasted in the house of the Officer concerned late in the night at 11 pm.

I met the Home Secretary, Shri Rajiv Mehrishi, the next day and appraised him of the facts. The Home Secretary in front of me called the Chief Secretary (over phone) and asked him as to how the orders had been issued without the approval of the Administrator, as envisaged under Rule 47 of the Rules of Business. Based on these discussed, directions were passed again, by email, that the orders were invalid and the existing officer will continue to hold the post of Municipal Commissioner.

Since the Chief Secretary had issued the order under his authority despite instructions not to do so and had not submitted the file to the Administrator as envisaged under rules, a compliance report in the matter was sought from him. He has been evasive about anything asked by Raj Nivas so far. 
I have an efficient and highly experienced secretary, Shri Theva Neethi Dhas. It has always been our endeavour to dispose the files that are received in the Lt. Governor's Secretariat as expeditiously as possible. Files are disposed as per law and as per financial norms. Disposal of files as per norms ensuring financial prudence could hardly be taken as an hindrance to the functioning of the Government, as I am duty-bound and responsible for spending public money. The Lt. Governor is not clothed with the immunity under Art. 361 in the discharge of functions and will be responsible as much as any Public Servant for any omission/commission. Therefore, I could hardly affix signatures like a notional head clothed with immunity powers. I am squarely responsible for financial prudence. The financial situation of Puducherry is very poor. It is under heavy debts with not much generation of internal resources.

If an all-party meeting is called to discuss asking for my recall, I can only say this: in a democracy, every section has the freedom to have their own opinion. It is open for them to have their views and present their demand to the Centre.

I wish we would unite against corruption, cleanliness, resources generation, skills development for youth, rural development, water harvesting, and training of our public servants. They are wasting their time on me. Instead, work with me and see what a miracle Pondicherry could be within months. They are not using my experience for the good of the Union Territory, instead just competing with me. They do not understand I am here only for the good of Pondicherry for a limited time. Whatever good happens, they will harvest the benefits even politically. They seem very short-sighted.

I hold weekend morning visits every Saturday and Sunday at 6 am. I have done 69 rounds so far. I have introduced the Beat System in the Police. I have opened the doors of Raj Nivas to the common people for "Open House" and to the people of outlying regions through video conferencing on all working days from 4 pm to 5 pm. I have transformed Raj Nivas into People's Nivas by having interactive meetings and bringing children to watch films in Raj Nivas through film series etc.

It is these functions that are seen as interference. I leave it to the wisdom of the people to judge if my above services of cleaning Puducherry, making it safe, encouraging people's participation, enthusing students, are interference or are needed initiatives. We could have transformed Puducherry into the cleanest Union Territory by now...provided this is a shared vision.

Therefore, when I look back, I don't think there is much that I would have done differently, for I have had the right priorities laid down before me in discharging my duties both as per written law and ethical principles. I am here not for ceremonial functions but to ensure a people-sensitive administration. 

The Hon'ble Chief Minister V Narayanasamy is a seasoned politician and an experienced public servant, having been a Minister of State at the Centre. Every individual has his distinct style of functioning. I am sure he will appreciate that a Union Territory is not a full-fledged state and that as part of the Territory of the Union, it is governed by the laws laid down by parliament. As for using WhatsApp to communicate with officials, the changed scenario of utilizing IT tools for efficient and effective governance needs to be harnessed. He needs to respect those.

Finally I think the Honourable Judiciary alone shall settle the matter!

Kiran Bedi is Lieutenant Governor, Puducherry. She is the first woman to have joined officer ranks of Indian Police Service. Recipient of Magsaysay Award (1994) for police and prison reforms, she has also worked as a UN police advisor. A tennis champion, she earned a PhD from IIT Delhi and is a Nehru Fellow. She's founded many NGOs and is the author of several books.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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