At the outset, I wish to congratulate all of you for having come through a competitive examination and interview schedule to join the Indian Administrative Service. I extend a warm welcome to the officer-trainees of the Royal Bhutan Civil Service.
I learn that it is your third day in the Bureau of Parliamentary Studies & Training. I hope you have already got a feel of the heritage, yet, living structure of the Parliament House. I believe that you have already heard distinguished Members of Parliament talk about Parliamentary procedural devices, the budgetary and also the legislative processes.
Very soon we will be celebrating the sixtieth anniversary of the first sitting of Lok Sabha after the first General Elections of 1952. Parliamentary democracy has come of age. Its success is a tribute to the Indian voter who is fully conscious of the power of his ballot. Every individual, be it the richest and the highly educated or the rural rustic who has spent his youth grazing cows, has just one vote and he knows its worth.
As you are well aware, under the Constitutional scheme people are sovereign. The House of People or the Lok Sabha consists of people's representatives who are directly elected by about fifteen to twenty lakh voters. The Indian electoral laws, the model code of conduct and the election machinery are widely acknowledged to be the best. Despite few aberrations, the process ensures transparent and fair elections.
The Constitution of India is supreme but it is the Parliament, representing people's will, is competent to amend it and also to impeach the Constitutional functionaries. The Parliamentarians have multifarious duties and responsibilities. They have to attend the House and participate in the proceedings, they are members of various Committees and Fora. Then they are given responsibilities within their parties also. Despite their onerous responsibilities, they like to participate in various functions and programmes in their constituency to share moments of grief and joy with their electors.
Since you will be joining in the districts very soon, I wish to impress upon you the need to associate public representatives with all meetings and events. They should be informed well in time and their effective participation should be facilitated. Often young and busy field officers tend to forget it. Last year, Department of Personnel and Training of the Govt. of India has issued revised guidelines and I would expect all of you to go through them carefully.
I also wish to tell you about a scheme which is very dear to all Parliamentarians. It is called the 'Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme'. The Government of India gives hundred percent funding for execution of small works of local significance. These works are taken up on the recommendation of the Members of Parliament who are aware of the felt needs of their constituents. This Scheme is not new as it has been in operation since 1993. However, it has come to my notice recently that seven hundred works were executed by the district authorities in eight States without even the recommendation of the Member of Parliament. How could this happen except by sheer negligence? Similarly, quite a few works had been taken up which are not permissible under the scheme. I learn that despite clear Guidelines that a work must be sanctioned within forty five days of the recommendation, in many cases, it had taken upto one year. These are just a few illustrations which reflect a sorry state of affairs. I am confident that as highly motivated officers you would be able to ensure strict implementation of this important Scheme.
Another issue, which concerns the district administration, is that of atrocities on the underprivileged particularly the Scheduled Castes. Unfortunately, we have inherited a social system in which certain castes are looked down upon. Our esteemed leaders like Babu Jagjivan Ram stood for inclusive development so that benefits of economic development programmes could reach one and all through positive discrimination. Since the awareness of laws has spread, the underprivileged are trying to invoke the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 and the Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. Hence, they are often subjected to physical violence and torture. Once you go to the districts you will realize that most people suffer indignities in silence. Very few have the courage to complain and if the administration does not take timely action, atrocities take place. It is here that alert administrators can supersede the mindset of traditional machinery and prevent ugly incidents. Such incidents leave deep scars on the society. I hope a day will come in my lifetime when these special laws would become redundant. I call upon all of you to display exemplary sensitivity and to ruthlessly implement the laws as long as the scourge of untouchability survives. And please do not look for rewards. You will not get any awards. But your conscience will compliment you.
You belong to the category of highly educated and enlightened citizens. I don't need to tell you about climate change and the need to preserve our water bodies. But the point that is often missed is that once known as mighty rivers – be it Ganga, Cauvery, Godavari, Chambal, Mahanadi, Kosi or Brahmaputra – are all getting choked by discharge of sewage and industrial effluents into them. The quantum and quality of water flowing in them is deteriorating every day. We cannot afford to wait. I urge you to create awareness in the villages and towns wherever you are posted. Further, as revenue administrators you can identify those who violate The Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and prevail upon the concerned authorities to take concrete action against them. We owe it to future generations to make water conservation a way of life.
I have focused only on those issues which concern the district administration. I hope you will ponder over them and make them a part of your success story. I wish you all the best in your careers.