Minister for Economic Affairs and Planning of Province 2, Bijay Kumar Yadav was in the headline this week for all the wrong reasons. He allegedly slapped Secretary Bidya Nath Jha in Janakpur on Sunday for refusing to award some contract to Yadav’s NGO. This is a deplorable act and the minister must be punished for his wrongdoing. As per the Section 191 of Criminal Code, “anyone involved in beating up another person can be subjected to three years in jail or Rs 30,000 in fine or both.” There is no reason why this provision should not be applied to a person just because he or she has become a minister. We have seen a disturbing pattern of physical violence against bureaucrats in the recent years. Former Minister of State Karima Begam and Minister Matrika Yadav also made headlines few years ago for beating up and locking up bureaucrats respectively. None of them were punished for their action. The bureaucrats who were subjected to the deplorable humiliation were given no justice. This sets a bad precedent, and emboldens others to do the same.
The incident of Province 2 comes at a time when the government and the bureaucrats are fighting over the provisions of Civil Servants Adjustment Bill. Bureaucrats have strongly objected to the Bill saying those deputed to provinces won’t have career growth prospects as they would not be allowed to come to the federal service. Incidents of physical assaults unnecessarily complicate healthy discussion on the Bill. That none of the political leaders faced action for their wrong doing is emblematic of the mindset of Nepali polity. Political leaders consider themselves above and beyond the law and feel they can do as per their wish. Those in power often exhibit such tendencies through their actions, speech and overall conduct. This has detrimental effect on our young democracy. We cannot envision a free and fair society if the system fails to punish those who violate the law.
Incidents like this also have negative impact on our children. Those who aspire to grow up and join civil service will be disappointed. They will have deep impression of incidents like these. Political leaders should set examples for children and youth by their conduct. Moreover, with federalism in place, political leadership should work closely with the bureaucrats to make this project a success. Bureaucrats play vital role in the functioning of our governing system. Their cooperation is a must for any government to work smoothly. Insulting and abusing them only make things worse. We urge the Province 2 government to expel Minister Yadav and he should publicly apologize to Secretary Jha. This will be a lesson to other politicians who have the tendency to denigrate those working under them. We cannot and should not tolerate cases of violence anywhere, but even more so in government offices.