Impunity for politicians encouraging physical assault on bureaucrats?

Published On: January 15, 2019 08:20 AM NPT By: Republica

KATHMANDU, Jan 15: Differences between political leaders and bureaucrats over policy matters were common in the past also. But such differences leading to physical assault on bureaucrats by their political masters has become typical following the political change in the country in 2006. 

The phenomenon of political leaders physically targeting senior bureaucrats over their failure to meet the petty interests of the former has come into focus again after Province 2 Economic Affairs and Planning Minister Bijay Kumar Yadav assaulted Secretary Bidya Nath Jha in Janakpur on Sunday. Secretary Jha had reportedly failed to fulfill some petty interest of the minister. 

Former bureaucrats and administration experts believe such incidents have shown no sign of abating mainly due to the impunity that politicians have enjoyed at the end of the day. In other countries such high-handedness can cost politicians their jobs and even their political careers. 

Under Section 191 of the Criminal Code that came into effect last August, anyone involved in beating up another person can be subjected to three years in jail or Rs 30,000 in fine or both. Although the Province 2 government has already formed a committee to investigate the Yadav-Jha incident, not many people believe the minister will face any punitive action, given the record of similar incidents in the past. 

In one notorious instance, then state minister Karima Begum in November 2009 slapped chief district officer of Parsa, Durga Prasad Bhandari, in the face for sending an ‘old’ vehicle for her escort in Birgunj, allegedly undermining her ministerial dignity.

A case was filed against Begum in court and civil servants across the country staged protests demanding action against her. But she did not have to face any further consequences after admitting before the prime minister that she had committed a mistake. 

Prior to that, then forest minister Matrika Yadav, who is a minister in the current Oli cabinet also, locked up local development officer Dundu Raj Ghimire in the toilet for over an hour in June 2008, allegedly for allowing ‘illegal’ stone quarrying. Civil servants across the country took to the street against the incident, but Yadav did not have to face the music. 

While most experts believe that impunity is the main reason behind repetition of such incidents, former home secretary Govinda Kusum said it also about a lack of basic political culture on the part of ministers. “Political leaders need to have some discipline and certain norms and values. These incidents have been occurring time and again as politicians largely fail to understand there are certain red lines that should not be crossed,” said Kusum.

Kusum, who retired recently as a commissioner at the Public Service Commission, argued that the petty interests of political leaders are also to blame.

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