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Monday, May 17, 2004

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Why not officials also

B. S. Raghavan

ELECTIONS to the Central and State legislatures once in five years are a means of affording the people who are sovereign in a democratic polity an opportunity to evaluate the performance of the governments formed by parties or their combines and to bring about a change in course or policies. In this, the Indian voter has shown himself to be an adept. His ability to synchronise his reading of the situation with other voters in far corners of a vast sub-continent like India is simply uncanny. It actually belongs to the domain of psychic powers if you remember what happened in the elections to Lok Sabha held in 1977, 1980 and 1984.

In each of those elections the Indian voter acted in concert with millions of others whether it was to punish arrogance of power (by Indira Gandhi during the Emergency), or to bundle out a squabbling, ego-ridden, do-nothing amalgam called Janata Party, or to give a chance to a decent-looking young leader (Rajiv Gandhi) who came forward to bear the burden of running the country after the tragic assassination of his mother.

In the election just held to the 14th Lok Sabha, the voter has been true to form, delivering his verdict as suited the context or performance with due deliberation. One could not but take pity on politicians seeing the lengths to which they had to go in terms of physical strain and financial drain to woo the electorate.

Why should not the members of the All-India Services and senior grade officials in Central and State secretariats, as also in public and private sectors, be put through a similar scrutiny once in five years?

They could be required to appear before an independent Board composed of eminent persons drawn from all walks of life who will go into the record of their performance and assess their intellect, efficiency, effectiveness, performance and public-spiritedness with a view to deciding whether they are fit for higher levels of responsibility, or whether they should be under observation for some time more, or even whether they should be continued in service at all.

The Armed Forces have the system of such periodical appraisals, and if an officer does not measure up to the next higher level within a prescribed number of years, he is eased out without further ado.

Only the executives of the organised sector have the indefensible privilege of continuing from the lowest to the highest levels without being subjected to a frequent and strict examination of their suitability other than some cursory methods of empanelment.

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