Tuesday, August 19, 2014

India’s 5th Most Powerful Bureaucrat: Why Mr Peon is powerful?

FOR the sixth consecutive year, BoI is coming out with a power list that includes India’s 5 Most Powerful Bureaucrats. Like in the past, our ranking is based on off-record interactions with at least 50 bureaucrats, apart from considering inputs from politicians, academics and journalists who understand corridor’s changing power equations. Then, who is India’s 5th Most Powerful Bureaucrat, 2014? For that you have to first read what…
prime minister Narendra Modi said on August 15: “The people in the government are very capable - from the peon to the cabinet secretary, everybody is capable, everybody has a power, they have experience. I want to awaken that power, I want to unite that power and want to accelerate the pace of the welfare of nation through that power...”
In BoI Power List 2014, government peons have secured the 5th position. Earlier too, BoI recognized a group as one in its power list. In 2012, for example, we said Mr Investigator (including CBI, CVC, ED etc.) was India’s 3rd Most Powerful Bureaucrat. And read now, why Mr Peon who gets an honourable mention in PM Modi’s I-Day speech is actually powerful?
Those who know the government functioning well, will tell you how everyone from a peon to the cabinet secretary has a sense of pride that he or she works with the Government of India, or for that matter a particular state government. If a letter comes to an officer, it is the peon who signs and receives it. And that’s where he draws his power, and also the responsibility, from. After all, the letter that he receives, could be of immense importance to his officer, to his minister and also to the nation.
Then again, every file that travels from the concerned Section Officer to the joint secretary, secretary or minister, depending on the subject, is actually carried by a peon. Similarly, once the decision on any file is taken, it moves downward in the same manner it went up. As the peon carries the file in the long corridors, he is actually a powerful man. You never know that very file may contain a decision that impacts a company a whopping Rs 1,000 crore!
After all, all files containing the most sensitive decisions of the government are carried from one room to another by the peons. No wonder, none other than the prime minister calls a peon “powerful”.
To most people in the village where the peon lives, he is a Sarkari man, and hence he is powerful. And why not? The officer who he serves tea in the morning and evening can pick up the phone to talk directly to the superintendent of police, forget the head constable of his locality! The officer on whose door step he sits most of the time during the day, can actually issue a certificate to his fellow villager to acquire a Tatkal passport during an emergency. The list will be pretty long if all the power associated with his Saheb or Madam is included here.
So, you can imagine what makes Mr Peon so powerful.