Bureaucrats out of “power” as new govt takes charge of Punjab state

Public cries foul after Charanjit Singh Channi led government ripped off Bureaucrats from their powers to resolve issues related to Punjabis

Punjab Chief Minister captain Amarinder Singh and Charanjit Singh Channi
Punjab Chief Minister captain Amarinder Singh and Charanjit Singh Channi

India: Political turmoil or opportunism of Congress leaders in Punjab state has made the general public suffer the poor administration as most of the offices and top-ranked office-bearers are now ripped off with ‘decision-making powers’ by the new Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi led government.

The betrayal engineered by members of the Congress cabinet in the state had forced former Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh to quit as state’s head, and a new group took over the charge. Nevertheless, the ouster of Amarinder did not bring stability among party leaders. Instead, it aroused the aspiration of becoming Chief Minister in many senior leaders of the party.

Captain Amarinder Singh
Captain Amarinder Singh

It is well known that as the Chief Minister of Punjab, Amarinder Singh made minimal public appearances during his tenure. He kept himself confined in his luxury farmhouse near to Siswan in Chandigarh. The opposition attacked him for his lack of public interaction and presence. Amarinder completely disappeared after the coronavirus outbreak and always stayed confined. He often used to share major messages via video-conferencing, other than carrying out regular press conferences.

However, being a former Captain in the Indian Army, Amarinder Singh mainly relied on his subordinates and public officers on top posts. All the Cabinet Ministers and other Public Service officers were empowered to take decisions on behalf of the Chief Minister for governance in the state. The general public never felt the dire need of meeting or reaching out to the Chief Minister directly to resolve their matters, rather most of the grievances were addressed by the public service officials.

According to a senior journalist based in Chandigarh, Amarinder had given direct instructions to civil servants to provide assistance to every person regardless of their political alignment.

“Under the administration of Amarinder Singh, the government of Punjab firmly believed in the administrative officers, including the Indian Administrative Officers (IAS), Indian Police Services (IPS) or other higher-ranked officials, equipped to deal in policymaking,” the journalist added.

The situation is now different in Punjab, following the takeover of the government under a new face. The current Chief Minister Channi lifted all decision making powers from all public service officers. In fact, people are now forced to find links to political individuals across the state to get their issues resolved.

Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi
Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi

All officers, whether of lower or higher rank, are now appointed directly by the Chief Minister’s advice. Hardeep Singh, a political analyst from Sangrur co-related the situation with the previous government and said “Under the former Shiromani Akali Dal government, all officers as small as Station House Officers (SHOs) were appointed directly by the then Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal. While following the hierarchy, the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) is commissioned for such appointments.”

Another analyst from Chandigarh (Union Territory), Gurlal Singh said that civil services and administrative officers carry out government policies and deliver essential services to the public, ensuring the smooth day-to-day running of the state or a country. But currently, the situation in Punjab is similar to a building without firm pillars, as the civil servants are unable to perform their activities.

Charanjit Channi assumed power just four months before the legislative elections. The entire idea he is opting for is to make the public like him; he is presenting himself as an ordinary man who is “jack of all trades”, but it is visible that he is “master of none”.

Gurlal says that to make himself look like the “people’s man”, Channi knowingly snatched away powers from public officers. While the Chief Minister must focus on the well-being of the state, key policy structures, other issues of concern, Charanjit Channi is occupied somewhere else.

Ranjit Singh from Glasgow, Scotland said, “For instance, here in Glasgow is a similar position as First Minister is in-charge of all public grievances, but the public services provide complete assistance to the public not the First Minister himself. This means the people will not have to meet the First Minister for their issues to be resolved; rather, officials designated for providing assistance will help a person solve their grievances. Chief Minister’s priority is to make policies for public and bring unified plans for the betterment of millions and should not follow the path of one by one.”

The dilapidated condition of civil administration is a major cause of concern for the state’s general public as an unstable and inept government might end up with more complicated issues against the state. Nevertheless, this will have a significant impact on incoming elections of the state.

CM direct instructions to provide assistance in public grievances and public were treated equally regardless of their alignment towards any political party.

Punjab Chief Minister captain Amarinder Singh and Charanjit Singh Channi
Punjab Chief Minister captain Amarinder Singh and Charanjit Singh Channi