Political interference driving away UP's upright officers?

Lucknow, Sep 19 (IANS) Is the Uttar Pradesh government's working style hounding out good officers from the state? Akhilesh Yadav, soon after he took over as the youngest chief minister of India's most populous state, had assured IAS and IPS officers of "protection and encouragement". But in the short 18 months of his tenure, many of them have chosen to migrate from the state to "more professional climes".

With Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Arun Kumar proceeding on leave Friday, after writing to be relieved for central deputation, the state government has been yet again been pushed into a corner. In the past too, many officers have chosen to go out of the state, either on long study leave or have pushed their cases for central deputation.

Arun Kumar, an upright officer who has served as a joint director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), was elevated to the top post but apparently found his hands tied in acting against criminals. The officer has off and on aired his helplessness, so to say, a senior cop noted, while pointing out that the state government, "for now is blinded in the pursuit of votes in the (2014) Lok Sabha polls and has lost all sense of accountability towards officers, in favour of party cadres and supporters".

Senior IAS officials Amrit Abhijaat, Parthasarthy Sen Sharma and a few others are off to foreign shores for year-long studies while insiders say many senior IPS and IAS officers have decided to go on deputation to New Delhi. This is largely owing to the "failing system and growing interference of the ruling Samajwadi Party cadres in the state's functioning", one officer said.

Good officers like Avanish Awasthi, who was shunted from one post to another in the past two years, chose a joint secretary's post at the centre rather than being a "ping pong ball," a senior bureaucrat pointed out.

With more than 5,000 transfers in less than a year and growing instances of Samajwadi Party leaders intervening in day-to-day affairs, an officer told IANS that "working was becoming extremely difficult."

"In such a situation, where the SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav says from a public platform that officers should listen to party workers else action would be taken leaves us with little chance of independent functioning," a senior officer said, speaking only if he was not identified by name.

Close aides of Akhilesh Yadav maintain that he "hardly interferes in the daily functioning of officers" but admit that the "party leaders do".

A senior IAS officer pointed out the case of suspended bureaucrat Durga Shakti Nagpal was an instance of SP leaders saying: "Do as we wish or perish." The chief minister, he added, had shown enough promise to clean the system and allow freedom to work but things somehow did not work out the way he wanted due to interference from senior party leaders.

"In a recent TV channel sting, officers right from a sub-inspector and a sub-divisional magistrate have openly aired their anguish against political pressure and interference," Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state spokesman Vijay Bahadur Pathak said, adding that when ministers like Azam Khan were asking for accused in crimes to be let off, little hope was left.

He also blamed the Akhilesh Yadav government of subverting the bureaucracy to serve political ends.

"Minister after minister has openly challenged the officers and even threatened them with transfers and manhandling if they did not heed to the demands of the party workers," Pathak pointed out. Recently, Azam Khan, the urban development minister, had issued a public statement charging senior IAS officer and Principal Secretary (Health) Praveer Kumar of being "anti-minority", meaning against Muslims.

Actions like this, an officer said, were hurting the morale of the bureaucracy.

Leader of opposition in the assembly Swamy Prasad Maurya (Bahujan Samaj Party) said the "morale of the officers in the SP regime had hit rock bottom. If you are honest and do not yield to the demands of the goons and mafias affiliated to the ruling party, you are booted out", he alleged.

(Mohit Dubey can be contacted at mohit.d@ians.in)

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