‘CM Good Governance Associates-Sarkari Jasoos’

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A government should not only talk, but walk itself well. The Jat agitation early this year saw the Manohar Lal Khattar-led BJP government merely drawling on about the horrendous events unfolding on the streets of Haryana. In the middle of the year, the CM has clutched at the administrative straw to shed his naïveté, in order to be seen to be believed, both by bureaucrats and politicians within and outside the BJP. Young professionals, 21 of them, have been brought in to “help” him govern. And how: As Chief Minister’s Good Governance Associates (CMGGAs), they would oversee government’s functioning at district headquarters. The 21 descended on July 18 after a brief training. It is an experiment, government says, in a rebuttal of criticism of it being seen by many as a parallel system emerging from the BJP’s “lack of faith” in bureaucrats. This is not the first time that a government has sought to rope in young professionals from outside. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, when he was the Gujarat Chief Minister, had appointed ‘CM Fellows’ with an almost similar mandate, though they were not sent to the district headquarters. More recently, Chandrababu Naidu appointed ‘CM Fellows’ for the Vision Monitoring Unit of the Andhra Pradesh Government.The state government signed an MoU with Ashoka University located in Rajiv Gandhi Education City, Sonepat, for the programme. The monthly salary of Rs 50,000 plus vehicles to the CMGGAs are not coming from the state exchequer. Their pay and perks come from the knowledge partner as part of its corporate social responsibility.A month on, there are expected reactions from the government as well as the Opposition. The reality may not come out anytime soon until the next elections. Yet something akin to shadow governance is in evidence. But that’s again largely minus the people’s response, which might not be in consonance with the air of expectation in the CM’s office. First, what the government thinks: “Even in this small period, they have been able to make their impact felt,” says Khattar’s Additional Principal Secretary Rakesh Gupta who looks after the project. “The associates have been studying the functioning of the Power Department, particularly the aggregate technical and commercial (AT&C) aspect. The CMGGAs will be a bridge between the government and the department. As they report the state of affairs of the department, they will also give their own opinion,” says Gupta.“The associates are also observing the functioning of anganwadis, schools and health centres in relation to the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao scheme to ascertain loopholes. In fact, some of them have already identified a few gaps in health centres,” says Gupta.The young Deputy Commissioner of Sirsa, Sharandeep Kaur Brar, is very happy with assistance rendered by her district CMGGA Vrashali Khandelwal. She says it would definitely help her bring about a qualitative improvement in governance.“Being an engineering graduate, she is quick on the uptake and makes valuable suggestions and solutions. With her efforts, fewer grievances are pending in the CM Window. While the core departments get the attention of the administration regularly, Vrashali has been focusing on peripheral departments such as the Veterinary and Animal Husbandry and Horticulture,” says Brar.Another district-level officer, who doesn’t want to be identified, says the mere presence of CMGGAs was enough to send out a message to officials that someone was watching them.Meanwhile, the emerging governance concept has some senior bureaucrats worried. “It is a general impression that the associates have been sent to keep a watch on the DCs and SPs. They will merely breathe down their neck,” says a senior IAS officer.Former CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda is highly critical, alleging that people with an RSS background have been made to sit in the districts. He fears the move will “demoralize” the administration as the associates will “interfere” in its day-to-day working. “This decision clearly proves that the government has lost faith in its officers and a parallel system is being developed. It is an insult to the 2.5 crore people of Haryana,” he says.The jury is still out, in the meantime, here are field reports from four districts:

‘Sarkari jasoos’?

Hisar: An engineering pass-out from YMCA University of Science and Technology (Faridabad), GGA Manisha Bhatotia (25) has been in Hisar for about one-and-a-half months. Her eagerness landed her in trouble on August 10: she accompanied a team of the Dakshin Haryana Bijli Vitran Nigam (DHBVN) and the police to check power theft in Niyana village. The villagers assaulted the team and Manisha was caught in the free-for-all. The officials had a tough time rescuing her.“She has been visiting several institutes and offices. Often, she summons officials for information and is promptly obliged. But we are helpless when she doesn’t inform us in advance about her visit,” said an official.Another official said, “In bureaucratic parlance, these GGAs are known as ‘sarkari jasoos’ (government informers). Officials are wary of their presence and get alerted on finding her around,” he said.When Deputy Commissioner Nikhil Gajraj went to Gangwa village to supervise a government school recently, she followed him to have firsthand experience. Manisha doesn’t want anything published in newspaper about her job. “It’s too early to say anything. I am trying to learn,” she said. — Deepender Deswal


Quietly, she enters

Kurukshetra: Sanyukta Sharma is 22 years old and an Electronics and Communication graduate from Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar. She joined as a research associate at Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, in the domain of public policy. As government’s associate, she works without publicizing her work. Sources said she is scheduled to work in close association with the Deputy Commissioner to oversee implementation of the flagship programmes such as Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, Chief Minister Window and other social and administrative initiatives.“We are aware that CMGGA is working as eyes and ears of the Chief Minister and is authorized to visit any office. She mainly visits rural areas, but no one knows her daily schedule. There has no introductory meetings,” says a district official. “I have time-bound assignments. I have nothing to comment,” she said. Sources said neither has the CMGGA asked any query nor given her feedback. “Officials fear being watched by the CM office directly through the CMGGAs. Going by government’s commitment of improving governance, such checks should not be feared,” said another district functionary. — Vishal Joshi


Work in progress

Bhiwani: After a few “misimpressions” about his presence in top government interactions, things seem to be settling down for associate Gaurav Dhankar. Sources said initially the Deputy Commissioner was unclear if the CMGGA was to supervise the flagship programmes’ or intervene in daily affairs of the administration.A graduate in social work with specialization in rural development, Tata Institute of Social Science Young India Fellowship, Ashoka University, Gaurav (25) comes from a small Rajasthan village.“The DC has asked the city magistrate to help him in completing his assignments. Both do their task in sync,” says a senior government official. “The associate is here to observe, examine and report directly to the Chief Minister’s office. Since they joined a month ago, it would be premature to say anything about them,” said Deputy Commissioner Pankaj.Another official said during one such meeting with CMGGA, there were long discussions on old complaints, but there was no definite conclusion. “Except frequent meetings, from last one month, nothing has changed”, he said.Dhankar declined a request for a meeting citing his busy schedule.RTI activist Capt Pawan Anchal says there has been no visible impact of the CMGGA as government officials remain as apathetic as ever towards public issues. – Sat Singh


Doctor’s drive

Jhajjar: As a homeopathic doctor, Dr Anita Phalswal has worked with Women and Child Development Department under National Rural Health Mission. Her latest assignment of being a government associate is turning out to be helpful for district officers in receiving public feedback and suggestions about speedy execution of government schemes. Narhari Singh Bangar, Additional Deputy Commissioner (DC), says government officers seem to be more accountable after the CMGGA concept.“Being a third eye of the state government and the administration, the associate also keeps a tab on behaviour of every officer,” said Bangar. Dr Rakesh, Deputy Civil Surgeon, describes the CMGGA as a helping hand for those officers who really want to do something worthwhile.For residents, things haven’t changed yet. Says a local resident: “People continue making rounds of government offices even for their genuine work. Citizen Charter has become merely eyewash as not a single work is done as per the deadline.” Associate Anita says she is focusing on finding out a better solution in a given situation where the district administration is in direct touch with the common man. “We work as per work modules designed by the programme team.”  — Ravinder Saini 

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