More than 10 lakh candidates applied for the Civil Services Examinations or CSE in 2021. 10 lakh candidates would face each other for a mere 710 seats. Several years’ worth of preparations, the desire to “serve the community” and the allegiance to the constitution, being a civil servant is surely a dream come true for lakhs of Indians.
In the past two years, India came across ginormous problems, some of them never seen before and some, accustomed to India. Starting with the anti-CAA-NRC protests held across the nation by civilians and the subsequent over-use of the police force in many areas. Something that is guaranteed under the constitution of India as a right [see article 19(1)] came under serious threat. People were detained, some of them arrested under stringent laws just for the mere act of protesting. Lest we forget the brutal use of force by the police force on the (unarmed) students of Jamia Millia Islamia and Aligarh Muslim University. 23 months have passed on since the incident, yet there’s no accountability from the administration. This was followed by the pogrom that took place in the National Capital and the subsequent police investigation. The quality of investigation in these cases was so “poor” that even the courts came down heavily on the police. One of the courts pulled up the police for its “lackadaisical approach” in prosecuting the cases related to the violence. Once again, there can be seen no urgency in fixing accountability from the government’s end.
The nation was still recovering from the deadly pogrom when it was put under a massive lockdown due to the coronavirus epidemic.
The Ministry of Health had stated on the 13th of March in 2020, “COVID-19 isn’t a health emergency”. Regardless of which, complete scenes of mayhem followed. More than four hundred thousand lives were lost (at least according to the official records, although the numbers have been questioned). The problems faced by the countrymen and women were similar throughout; un-availability of beds, medicines, doctors, medical-grade oxygen, ambulances, and whatnot. Many questions arose, especially after the second wave of the pandemic in April-May 2021- Why were massive election rallies held during the pandemic with no visible adherence to protocols? Why was there a shortage of oxygen despite two parliamentary committees warning the government of a possible oxygen crisis? Why weren’t there clear guidelines on the usage of medicines and different therapies, including the usage of Remdesivir and plasma, for which people had to spend lakhs of rupees, inspite of no clear evidence of it helping in the treatment of the virus? Why was ICMR tasked with pandemic related policy-making when it is primarily a research body and isn’t an expert on epidemiology? And the list goes on.
India has come out of those dark times and is continuously vaccinating its citizens against the virus. Once again questions were raised on the pace of vaccination, with the government constantly failing its daily target of administering 10 million doses (the only plausible way through which will they be able to vaccinate each adult by December 2021), although a significant proportion of the population has been vaccinated with at least one dose. The other question that arises is that why did the government set up this over-ambitious target of vaccinating every adult by December when there is not enough supply of vaccines? This question remains unanswered; once again no accountability from the government.
The only thing similar in all the cited instances is the government’s attempt to evade accountability. Being held accountable is the backbone of any and every successful democracy. Accountability to its citizens is what makes the government democratic, for it cannot and should not do anything for which it has no constitutional authority to do so. Evading accountability is one of the signs of a degrading democracy. India is still a democratic Republic, guided by the constitution and hence the government cannot escape from being held accountable. Bureaucrats are supposed to be the safe-keepers of accountability, for they have their allegiance to the constitution and not their “political masters”.
It isn’t as if none of those aspirants who are now in powerful positions did anything for their areas. Commendable work has been done by many such as Rahul Kumar, who being the district magistrate of Purnea in Bihar, solved the oxygen crisis in his area to save more than 200 hundred lives or the commissioner of Greater Chennai Corporation, Gagandeep Singh Bedi, who during the second wave of the pandemic, brought down daily cases from more than 7000 to less than 2600, within 14 days of his appointment as commissioner.
Similar cases can be cited from many major cities and small towns where these officers did their job and ‘served the community’ in literal terms. One does not want to paint the entire bureaucracy under the same brush and does not intend to do so either, but this doesn’t give the government a pass to escape from accountability. Perhaps, the notion of being held accountable should also be included in Old Rajendar Nagar’s curriculum.
Aditya Jha is a student pursuing Psychology from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Reda Aamna