You haven't heard of Leeladhar Borikar, nor had I until two days ago. He is a Superintending Engineer at the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company (MSEDCL) in Nagpur. He is in the news because he dared snip off the power connection to Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh's official residence in Nagpur. Why ? Because the CM's department forgot to pay up some Rs 1.5 lakh worth of dues.

You might have heard of Yakoob Qureshi, the Uttar Pradesh minister for Haj (imagine, you can have a minister for the Haj when maybe a good travel agent would do) who put a price on the head of the Dutch cartoonist for his drawings of the Prophet. Well, he is in the news again, this time for threatening to kill (yes kill unless there is dire misreporting here) Indian Railway officials for catching him while traveling ticketless on a train to Lucknow. To compund matters, the railway officials made him pay a fine of Rs 14,000.

What's common to both cases ? Both incidents took place in the last few days. And both smack of incredible arrogance and utter shamelessness. On the part of politicians, bureaucrats and their collective ilk. In both cases, the persons concerned or their side kicks (of which they are always so many) were furious that they were hauled up by a government authority. And both reacted in a manner that can only be termed feudal.

"I Will Get Your Whole Family Killed"

In the Nagpur power cut case, `Senior IAS officer' Jayraj Phatak, labelled as a Government spokesman, went on to say that position of Chief Minister called for special treatment. "It (the treatment) cannot be the same for the tehsil office and the CM". So, the action of suspending Borikar was justified.

The Haj minister went a step further. "Tumko jaan pyari nahi hai kya. Poorey parivaar ko jaan se marva daloonga...pata bhi nahi chalega." Yes, the translation of this reported utterance, "Are you not afraid for your life ? I will get your whole family killed. You won't even know." Given the methods used to settle differences of opinion in some parts of our great country, I am inclined to believe the Haj minister may well have intended to carry out his threat.

Deshmukh whose boundless administrative incompetence needs no introduction, responded as any infuriated politician and feudal lord would. He ordered a `thorough' investigation into the cutting off electric supply and as to why the Public Works Department (PWD) did not pay the bills, though apparently it had adequate provisions for the same. Possible, but Mr Deshmukh, when did you last speak to your state finance minister. Last I did, your state government's debt stood at Rs 100,000 crore ($22 bn) and rising. Despite all the announced, fresh investment intentions.

"Don't You Know Who I Am ?"

While he tries to do that, I would like to know the result of the thorough investigations that his Government has conducted into:

1. The July 26 floods in Mumbai and the Mithi river disaster. And what is the status report on work done ?
2. The Vidharbha starvation deaths which show no sign of stopping.
3. The Mumbai bomb blasts two months ago. What has changed in law and order staffing and structure that can make me the citizen feel more safe ?
4. State of Mumbai itself. Even something as simple as potholes cant be fixed.

Would like to add to the list but really would not want to strain our overburdened administrations. Moving on, Qureshi apparently asked the Ticket Collectors (TCs) how dare they enter his compartment and ask for a ticket ? And then the immortal line, "Don't you know who I am ?" Qureshi did have some form of documentation, but predictably, not in order. One was a fax copy of a ticket for two people from Hapur to Lucknow and the other a ministerial requisition form - neither were valid travel documents.

There is nothing new in what either minister did. Just that the brazenness with they flout every basic tenet of behaviour expected of an elected representative baffles me. And this is despite a hungry media, a more open society et al. And as always, we have an amazing knack of being straddled with wannabe fedual lords for politicians. For whom democracy is a joke and their reign in political power, an extension of their fedual reigns in their ghettos, hamlets or villages or wherever they come from. And the unfortunate truth is that we allow them to rule over us.

Owning Up A Mistake

A good politician, gentleman and a good citizen would have owned up a mistake immediately and paid up. Or, if he or his department was bankrupt, would have requested a small moratorium. And demonstrated to the citizenry that he was indeed serious about this apology, serious about not commiting this offence again and how he would cut back on costs. It would have been a great opportunity to show some basic courtesy and decency if nothing else. And maybe got some votes.

Obviously, such phrases or actions are alien to our fine politicians and their men who did what comes best to them. Cajole and threaten. So, Deshmukh's men suspended the righteous engineer and Qureshi warned that blood would be shed if the Railway officials persisted in doing their job. After all, the honour of a politician lies above all laws of the land and blood of its citizens.

The good news it there was a huge outcry and Borikar has been reinstated. The technical line is that the suspension did not follow the normal procedure. Which means Borikar has difficult days ahead. Deshmukh and/or his cohorts will not rest till they have run him and his family to the ground.

I am pretty sure both he and the Haj minister, or their loyal followers, will set out to finish off these `ordinary' citizens and `public servants' who came in their way - and tried to do their job. Not knowing their job is only to catch people like you and me. Not them, particularly whilst in power. Unless of course you and I can help it. And take these guys on where we can.


Anonymous said…
Sometime in Year 2000, the British Home Secretary was on road from London to South West England. He was ticketed for overspeeding. Couple of days of news more focussed on the person implicated. No focus on the police officer who issued the ticket.

Regards - ravi
Anonymous said…
It is shameful indeed that as country, we still have incidents like these happening on a daily basis. It is pathetic and ironic that this is happening to the largest democracy in the world. I wish the media did more than just reporting on these stray incidents, instead have a dedicated channel(or news program) that deals only with these kinds of high handedness. On a more emotional note, I wish our politicians understood the emotions of the nation. We want to improve and show to the world what we Indians are capable of, yet these idiots(politicians) keep obstructing and delaying this.
Anonymous said…
I think the junta who elects these guys should be ashamed. Another example of the same in bangalore.
Anonymous said…
Sorry the link got cut.

Minister makes fuss in police
Balaji said…
Long live vilas rao deshmukh and Quereshi....

Both of them will not bother to read this article and will continue to issue threats, run down people, kill innocents...This will unfortunately continue...

Truthful, honesh officers career will be over...his strength destroyed....

Nothing will change...That is how India works...and unfortunately i don't foresee any change in the near future.
Sunil said…
why hasn't this made much news in the MSM? Can't you write this for rediff or something at least?

May be if there's enough noise something might happen that's right.
Anonymous said…
Dear Govind
Very interesting comment.It is worth publishing this in Express on Sunday so that more people can read and decide to stand up to these thugs . I remember the last time there was such an article was when a young IIT grad got killed for whistle blowing in Bihar- some PWD racket.
We need more people to come forward.So we ned to see more artciles like this


Anand Gadiyar said…
One more example.
Anonymous said…
Hard hitting and well written. Politicians' egos rules India and we need a kick in the backside for electing these johnies repeatedly. Just goes to show that even the best system arguably, democracy, does not throw up qualified and decent people to take it up and thats the other problem.
E Pradeep said…
Thankfully with the media around, such stories get reported atleast.But I wonder what will happen to the engineer in the future once all the media furore dies down?
Thanks to the ever pervasive media, either newspapers & T.V., such news does get highlighted. We at least come to know of such things and have an opportunity to react.
Having said that, such instances of feudal behavior has been the tradition, and we Indians have been, accepting it and voting them to power also.
Recently a small but positive change has been taking place. Though it is minute yet people are protesting and trying to prove their point.
The best example is that of Borikar being reinstated. Not that the path is easy, but those who take on our mighty politicians, are similar to "DAVID VS GOLIATH".
Here's to hoping that our tiny Davids can overcome the giant Goliaths completely one day or other!!
Last but not the least, the power lies with us, for us, and by us. Hope common man remembers that!!
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