You cannot get a government job without paying a hefty bribe. Goans are willing, waiting and wanting to pay the amount demanded as not only are the salaries much higher, a government job means life-long security. Even after you retire, you are assured a handsome pension which keeps going up with every pay commission. Besides the generous salary, a government job also offers you the opportunity not only to recover your investment but make a mini fortune by extorting bribes in turn from those who want out of turn favours.
We all rely on government servants to render a wide range of services. When there is a breakdown in power supply, we chase the junior engineer of the Electricity Department and anxiously wait for the linesman. When there is a water shortage or a leak in the main pipeline, we desperately try to contact the water supply division of the PWD for a tanker. The poor keep making visits to the office of the Mamlatdar for ration card. For them, it is literally a matter of life and death to get a Below the Poverty Line (BPL) ration card. Not just for subsidized rice and wheat but even more importantly for subsidized kerosene. There are a large number of homes, particularly the homes of migrants even in the capital city, who use firewood for cooking.
BIRTH TO DEATH
FROM birth to death, we are totally dependent on government servants. When a baby is born, its birth has to be registered with the local Municipal body in case the birth takes place in an urban area. In the case of villages, you need to record the birth in the office of the Panchayat. When a loved one dies, you cannot bury or cremate the body unless you get a death certificate from the Panchayat or the civic body which is in charge of the crematorium or graveyard. Contrary to the general belief, the land for even Christian burial grounds belongs very often to the Panchayat or Municipal Corporation and not the Church.
IF you want to repair your house, you have to get permission from the Panchayat or the civic body. If a tree in the neighbour’s property is bending precariously outside your door, you need the permission of the tree authority to cut the tree. Except in the case of the coconut tree which sadly has been deprived of its status as a tree. Ironically, the excuse for excluding the coconut palm from being a tree in the government’s list of trees, are complaints that it takes a long time to get permission to cut coconut trees which have a tendency to bend dangerously. Even if they are erect, there is always the risk of a coconut falling on your head. Don’t laugh as I have had the painful experience of a coconut falling on me; fortunately, on my shoulder and not my head. I can assure you that it was very painful experience nevertheless.
IF you want to build a house on your own property, you still require permission from the Planning & Development Authority or the Town & Country Planning Department. You have to get permission from the Panchayat or the civic body to commence construction. When the dream house is ready, you have to get an occupancy certificate from the Panchayat or civic body. Your troubles do not stop. You have to apply to the Electricity Department for a power connection and the PWD for a water connection. There are probably many other No Objection certificates and for them all you are dependent on government servants.
THERE are very few Goans and even fewer migrants who can afford to go to a private hospital or nursing home. Even in the case of malaria or a viral flu, the fees of the doctor and even worse the cost of the expensive branded medicine the doctor prescribes, are beyond the reach of aam aadmi or aurat. So much so, whether it is a minor illness or a life threatening disease, most of us are dependent on the Goa Medical College Hospital and the hospitals and health centres run by the Directorate of Health Services.
It is unfortunate that most of us look upon the police as a nuisance. The perception of the police is that their sole aim in life is to harass citizens. If you are not wearing a helmet or not carrying your license with you or have forgotten to renew your anti-pollution certificate, you are vulnerable to extortion by the police if not a fine. You need the police to protect you from burgler gangs who have started descending on Goa from other states ever since Konkan Railway started operating. Not that there are no burglers and pick-pocketeers who are niz goenkars. Parents are constantly worried about the possibility that their children may be molested. Even schools are not safe going by the molestation of a young girl in the MPT School in Vasco da Gama.
WE have, of course, reason to envy and despise government servants. All Goans, even those who have reasonably paid jobs in the private sector, want to become government servants. This is primarily because salaries and wages are pathetic in the private sector as compared to the government. As dramatized by the ongoing agitation of the Dhristi lifeguards who are paid only Rs.10,000 a month for risking their lives every day to save locals and tourists from drowning. As against the Rs.6-8,000 that a private employer may pay for a lower division clerk, the government offers Rs.25,000 on its minimum scale. Similarly, as against the token amount of Rs.8,000 to Rs.10,000 that even the best private hospital offers to nursing staff, a nursing graduate who is lucky enough to get a job in the GMC on health services can expect to earn as much as Rs.30,000 at the minimum of the scale.
BESIDES generous salaries, government servants, unlike private sector employees, also enjoy complete job security. Even if they are suspended for not doing their jobs properly or absenting themselves from work or even accepting a bribe, they cannot be sacked. If a government employee is caught for taking a bribe, he or she can be suspended to a period of six months and even during this time he get his basic salary. After six months of suspension he has to be paid his full salary. In addition to job security, government servants do not have to worry about their sons and daughters abandoning them when they retire. This is because the government guarantees them a lifelong pension. Which includes reimbursement of medical treatment even in private hospitals.
JOBS FOR SALE
BEFORE we envy and curse government servants, we should also sympathize with them because government jobs are not for free, however qualified and competent you may be. You cannot get a government job unless you bribe the agent of the minister or MLA or corporator or Sarpanch. Forget about high paying jobs; you cannot get even the job of a peon or a driver unless you are willing to pay a bribe. For over a year now, a niz goenkar has been pleading with me to get him a job as a driver in the fire service department. Or to be more specific, a leading doctor from south Goa has been pleading with me to get the driver who is now employed with a private firm, a government job because he is the husband of his most competent nurse!
And over the years, the scores of people who have approached me to use my “influence” to get them a government job, have assured me that they have no problem paying the price demanded. This despite the fact that even for the job of a nurse or a driver or a lower division clerk, the bribe demanded may run into several lakhs. I have known of government employees taking loans from their provident fund or even from private money lenders at extortionate interest rates to get government jobs for their relatives. If government servants, who are actually our masters demand a bribe, it is because they have to recover their investment or pay back the loan they took to pay the bribe. It is a vicious cycle. You have to pay to get a government job. So in turn, the government servant extorts money from the general public he is expected to serve to recover the bribe. And once a government servant gets used to taking bribes, he loses all sense of shame and continues to take bribes even after he has recovered the money he has paid for his job.
IF we have rotten teachers, engineers and doctors, not to mention rude lower division clerks and nurses in hospitals, and servants who will not attend to your needs, it is because they all believe that since they have paid for their jobs, they are entitled to behave rudely. They are confident that they will not be sacked as they enjoy the political patronage of the person to whom they paid to get their job. The biggest scam that has been unearthed in the country is the Vypam Scam in which it was discovered that there had been mass scale cheating in the common entrance exams held for admission to professional colleges in Uttar Pradesh. The cheating was blatant with substitutes appearing for the exam on behalf of the candidates in collusion with supervisors and examination authorities. The numbers ran not into thousands but lakhs.
THE reason why Make in India and ambitious pronouncements made by prime ministers and chief ministers on zero tolerance for corruption are not taken seriously is because the whole system is based on corruption. The candidate wins election by bribing voters. Despite all the talk of being disgusted with corrupt politicians and wanting honest alternatives, the same rouges and rascals get re-elected time and again. This is because the voter has become corrupt and votes only for those who will get their job done whether it is legal or illegal. I recall a politician telling me that he was willing to be honest if the voter did not ask him for favours ranging from money for medical treatment to money to go to Vailankanni and of course, sponsorship for football tournaments.
We are not condoning corruption. We are only pointing out the bitter ground reality. The fact is that in a system steeped in corruption nothing gets done. Whether it is a national highway or a bridge or the hot-mixing of a road. Contractors cannot afford to do quality work because they have to pay bribes to politicians to get their contract. There have been many instances where honest government engineers entrusted with the job of supervising work on the national highways have been murdered by contractor mafias. Incredibly, we read recently that the class four employees of the Food Corporation of India, who are entrusted with the responsibility of procuring and storing food grains to supply to the public distribution system, earn as much as Rs.four to Rs.five lakhs a month for carrying bags of wheat or rice from the truck to the godown. The employees have sabotaged all attempts at hiring workers on contract. Instead they demand double overtime which is how permanent class four labourer gets to make Rs.five lakhs a month at the cost of the poor who do not get their supply of rations.
IT is not all hunky dory for government servants. The government including the Government of Goa may pay exceptionally high salaries to government servants. Whether they work or not. The government may be unwilling or unable to prevent government servants from demanding bribes. The working conditions of government servants are much worse than probably the majority of private employees. The Public Works Department is the department we all turn to when we have no water or the road has developed pot holes or the construction or repair of the local government hospital or primary health centre.
A section of the media on Monday carried a report on the working conditions in the PWD Office in Calangute. The government which spends lavishly on unnecessary bridges and concretisation of roads which take forever does not discriminate and treats its own employees equally badly. The PWD in Calangute which has been hyperactive with Michael Lobo, the local MLA breathing down its neck is situated in a dilapidated building with the iron bars in the concrete structure having got corroded because they are exposed. The building is considered unsafe both for the staff and citizens who visited in their complaints. The repairs which were taken up in June 2015 have not even commenced except for putting up a bamboo scaffolding to minimize the chances of the roof collapsing.
Apparently, the Office of the Block Development Office of Mormugao is even worse. The office of the BDO is located on the first floor of a commercial building. The space is not adequate even for the staff, let alone visitors. There are files scattered from floor to roof with the result that no records can be traced. The office peon doubles up as a computer literate clerk as senior staff are not computer literate. For want of space, important files are kept even in the toilet.
SIMILAR is the condition of cops whom all of us curse for extorting money from us and failing to protect us. The Mapusa Police Station has been on the verge of collapse for over a decade. The building in which it is housed goes back to the time when Goa was under Portuguese occupation. The police station is being rebuilt and in the meanwhile is functioning from the Fire Brigade Office. There are no signs that the new police station will be ready even though it was scheduled for completion. Similarly, the work on the new hospital to replace the crumbling Hospicio Hospital in Margao, is going on at a snail pace. So while there is a lot to envy government servants about, they are also entitled to our sympathy for their miserable working conditions. Unless, of course, we take the stand that considering how rude they are and how corrupt they are, it serves them right.
GOOD governance requires zero tolerance for corruption. Zero tolerance to corruption on the part of the citizens towards politicians. Zero tolerance for corruption on the part of the citizens towards bureaucrats. Zero tolerance for corruption on the part of the citizens towards the forces of law and order. But this also means that the citizens should be honest themselves. They should not expect to buy government jobs. They should not expect to escape the penalty by bribing policemen. They should not bribe the clerk at the RTO or the Mamlatdar’s office for expediting license or ration card. The system will be as honest as the citizen will permit it. We have to break this vicious cycle of corruption in which citizen pay speed money to get things done even as we grumble about government servants demanding bribes.
Both in the interest of good governance and zero tolerance for corruption, the process of recruitment for government jobs has to be changed. The prime minister, Narendra Modi, has made a good beginning by abolishing interviews for class 3 and class 4 jobs. This corresponds to the army of clerks and peons who comprise the largest proportion of government employees. In private organizations the institutions of poen has been abolished with even CEOs collecting their own tea or coffee from the vending machine. In an age where computers have replaced rusty old ledgers, you do not need attendance to take the file from table to table. All communication can take place through the internet. So much so both class 4 and class 3 jobs can be largely eliminated.
By abolishing interviews, no doubt the degree of corruption can be controlled. But written examinations as Vyapam has proved can also be manipulated. In entrance test for admission to proficient colleges, substitutes have been employed with the collusion with the examining authorities. As in the case of communication, exams can also be conducted through the internet to minimize chances of corruption in the written test for recruitment to the government jobs.
Moreover all recruitment should be done through Goa Public Service Commission. We must revert to the earlier practice where even the class 3 and class 4 recruitment were done through the Goa public service commission.
The Article Written by Rajan Narayan, Editor of Goan Observer
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