Telangana government has been facing a host of issues, more prominently in the past several months. To list a few – teachers’ protests, lawyers’ and judges’ protests, protests for new districts, Mallannasagar protests etc. These are quite recent issues and it could be argued that these are simply political issues upon which one should expect protests. But with a closer look at two recent issues – EAMCET leak and GO No. 38 issues – a pattern seems to emerge.
2016 EAMCET, the state level Engineering and Medical entrance examination in Telangana for admissions to courses commencing in 2016, is now a full blown political issue in Telangana. After some vigilant citizens reported inexplicable variance in some of the ranks between EAMCET-1 and EAMCET-2 examinations, a CID investigation was initiated. CID, today issued statement that there was firm evidence indicating that both EAMCET-1 and EAMCET-2 examination papers were leaked.
Preliminary reports from media houses seem to indicate that the scandal was run by a well connected and financed network. The whole scandal is reportedly worth 40 to 50 crores of rupees. The center of the conspiracy seems to be a preparatory institute in Bangalore and the scandal was run by various players in Bangalore, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. News reports also indicate that the paper was leaked from New Delhi based printing press, where the paper was supposed to be printed.
Around 70 students are reportedly involved in the scandal, as per CID investigations. Rest of the students and their parents have been protesting in a bid to preempt any move by Telangana government to conduct EAMCET examination again. A decision to continue counselling with EAMCET-2 ranks would be a total violation of Malpractices Act.
GO No. 38 Issue
Telangana government issued an ordinance (GO No 38) which vastly dilutes regulations concerning appointments of Vice Chancellors in Telangana State run universities. The GO seems to bypass Governor consultations in VC appointments and makes experience requirements flexible. These are gross violations of UGC norms. A retired OU professor moved high court against this ordinance. While hearing the issue, high court issued stay orders on VC appointments. Today, high court squashed all VC appointments made via GO No. 38. Telangana government appealed and the matter will be heard in 4 weeks’ time.
It is of course astonishing that Telangana government didn’t perform necessary consultations before issuing such a GO. Even though ordinances are purely based on government convenience and necessities, they cannot violate norms as required by law. GO No. 38 is a glaring example of either insufficient homework by TS CMO or shows that Telangana government is uninterested in deliberations with bureaucratic machinery before passing such ordinances.
Series of Flaws in Bureaucratic Process
While Telangana government has had issues from the inception of Telangana State, EAMCET issue is the most devastating of all. Not only does it expose glaring flaws in bureaucratic processes, but also shows the impact of inexperience of TRS ministers in performing executive duties.
Farmers’ protests and subsequent suicides during initial days of Telangana State’s first government could be waved off as teething issues. However, Telangana government has had multiple such issues. Recent face off with judiciary and teachers is another example which is inexplicable given that Telangana also successful put its “local status” strategy in action. Even in cases of working out finer details of electricity PPAs with Andhra Pradesh, there was something completely missing showing cracks in bureaucratic process. While Godavari and Krishna water sharing issues continue to cause serious differences between AP and TS governments, there is a clear lack of a comprehensive approach from Telangana government’s side.
To put it in simple terms, Telangana government’s intentions, actions and results don’t seem to show any correlation. Like any other government in action in India, Telangana government too declared several populist measures – all with total confidence that they have good revenues and a working civil services machinery to take precise action. While it is a fact that Telangana government is enjoying good revenues, it seems as if civil services machinery is not functioning as per TS government’s wishes. Flaws in bureaucratic process are unmistakable.
Does Telangana Government Enjoy Confidence of its Bureaucracy?
It remains to be seen if cracks in bureaucratic processes continue to show in future too. In all probability, they would. In this author’s opinion, Telangana government doesn’t seem to have control on its bureaucracy. It is probably because of lack of adequate executive experience. Handling a huge beast like bureaucracy in India needs no small amount of tact and craft. Despite having immense experience, leaders across India have had to and continue to face hindrances in putting their policies into action just because of a fat and lethargic bureaucracy.
To top it, Telangana government didn’t perform an exercise to spot and retain talented civil servants from erstwhile AP’s civil servants. Instead, Telangana government pursued antagonistic policies and probably lost many civil servants who understood the inner workings of the bureaucratic machinery. For instance, it is inexplicable that in case of GO No. 38, Telangana government and its bureaucracy couldn’t spot that GO would violate UGC norms. Questions arise as to whether they did the necessary homework in ascertaining whether any possible legal issues in future. In another instance of inexplicable bureaucratic failure, Telangana government couldn’t secure electricity PPAs in 2015 resulting in several farmers’ suicides for lack of power.
It leaves only explanation – either Telangana government has no control of its bureaucratic machinery; or Telangana government and bureaucratic machinery are simply inexperienced.
Telangana Government Should Take Help from Other States
While EAMCET issue is now a full blown political issue in TS, AP has already finished EAMCET counselling and are on the verge of commencing courses. Both states had issues with NEET and both states worked in the same constrains. Given the history of these two states, they have more or less similar criterion for CETs. Yet, TS is facing serious issues.
It would be advisable to TS government to reconsider their governance strategy to first empower bureaucracy by asking them to get acquainted with bureaucratic processes in other states. AP is a quick and easy choice for historical reasons. An immediate short term action TS government should consider is to strike a deal with any of the neighboring states for thorough knowledge sharing on bureaucratic processes. Such a process would not only enrich TS bureaucrats but would also help them learn from their own mistakes.
Further, TS government should also seriously consider retaining talent from erstwhile AP at least in key positions in the bureaucratic machinery. Though such a policy would be difficult to execute for TS government due to the past 2 years of antagonism, it would be worth an attempt.
Take Control of Bureaucracy
TS government must take control of its bureaucracy to put an end to series of bureaucratic failures. The process would not only be difficult but also taxing. Yet, it is a necessity for any state government, especially for a new state like Telangana. In the immediate aftermath of EAMCET issue, TG government should proceed with EAMCET-3, so that law is not violated, despite protests from across the state.
Populist governments need complete co-operation of bureaucrats and civil servants because the success of populist schemes depends entirely on delivery mechanism. Government could only bring policies but the ultimate action happens in the hands of public administrators, civil servants and bureaucrats. If TS government wants to create “bangaru Telangana”, they have to take control of the bureaucracy forcefully and make it clear that they mean business. A good point to start the process is the Education Ministry where the cracks came out in the open.