By Wg Cdr GB Athri (retd)
It is common knowledge that there are a set of standards laid down by the government, both central and state governments, for taking up any activity in India.
For example, if you want to build a home, commercial building, road or a bridge or anything, there are specific standards along with certain mandatory requisites. You want to run a school, college, hotel or a bar and restaurant, you will encounter set of stringent mandatory government guidelines, which if not adhered to, can be a source of legal action against you. There is actually nothing in the public space which can be undertaken without following government standards. Good for ensuring quality and safety, one may think.
There are various government departments and agencies to monitor such mandatory guidelines. The BIS sets the standards, and a whole lot of inspecting agencies are there to verify them and penalise the offender.
But ironically, while the government sets guidelines for everything, it is found wanting when it comes to meeting its own guidelines in all its activities.
Take for example a government school. It usually runs without adequate staff and toilet facilities. It has no playground, decrepit structure, no nursery, packed classrooms, unhealthy kitchens for mid-day meal, no proper drinking water and many such mandatory requirements are missing. But there is no or little action against the officials of the education department concerned, which has the responsibility of running and ensuring standards.
Similar is the case with a government office. The building will be in a dilapidated condition or will be short of basic facilities or no public facilities available at all. But the office functions merrily in such a condition. Such a scenario can be extrapolated to most of the government functions.
It is the responsibility of officers belonging to the Indian Administrative Service cadre to ensure that the government maintains the standards and honors all guidelines. In fact, while politicians come and go, it is the IAS officers who are the one constant in administration. So, is it wrong to question both their ability to ensure and maintain both the standards and mandatory guidelines when it comes to government departments?
Undoubtedly, failure to maintain standards in government departments should wholly and squarely rest on the shoulders of IAS officers heading such departments. They should be made accountable. Only then will the IAS really become a true administrative cadre.