ESIC: A review in Heavens – Episode III

Mr. Adharkar, Mr. Beveridge, Mr. Dengill, Mr. Murray and Mr. Wagner are sitting under a tree. An innocent person who was a factory employee and  a beneficiary under the ESI Scheme arrives at the spot and talks to Mr. Adharkar. “Sir, I was an insured person in India when I was living on earth. I want my posterity to get similar or even better benefits from the ESIC. But, I find that you were all somewhat apprehensive about various things. May I just be present here?”

“Dear brother, you are most welcome. We would, of course, be delighted to hear your inputs too. Please be seated”. Adharkar then continues to explain to him. “I can summarise the problem this way. Suppose, there is a small village in which there are around 100 families. That village does not have proper approach road to the Main road, which is four kilometers away and in which buses ply. A proposal to lay the approach road of four kilometers is cleared by the government and the outlay is Rs. 2 crores. Now, a team of officials arrives at the village to lay the road. The team is headed by an Executive Engineer. When the road is being laid, it is being supervised by an honest Junior Engineer who is brimming with enthusiasm and devotion. He joined the team of this Executive Engineer just six months back, on his request for the present station, and was working earlier in a far away station for more than ten years.

He notices, at the initial stage itself, that the contractor was laying the road with a thickness of only 4.5 inches instead of 9 inches as per the approved plan. He objects to this kind of work. But, the contractor simply ignores him. The plan of the contractor was to eat away a neat 50% of the allocated amount. When the bill for the first stretch of the road is presented, the Junior Engineer refuses to clear the Bill of the contractor, as the work had not been performed as per rules. The contractor has some understanding with the Executive Engineer and complains to him against the Junior Engineer. The Executive Engineer summoned the Junior Engineer and advised him to clear the bills of the contractor. But, the Junior Engineer said that the contractor had not done his work as per rules. His explanation enrages the Executive Engineer. He, immediately, transfers the Junior Engineer to a far away station, relieves him all of a sudden and does not give any time to him even to represent against the transfer. He did not even inform the Chief Engineer about his orders. It is the Chief Engineer who is the competent authority to transfer the Junior Engineer and not the Executive Engineer.”

“Oh, My God! What happened to the road, then?”

“The road was laid fully, as desired by the contractor. He got the entire amount cleared. But, please tell me, who was affected in the entire process?”

“The honest Junior Engineer and the people of the village. The Junior Engineer who had already been working in a far away station and came to the present station on his request is punished again because of the malafide motive of the Executive Engineer. But, the villagers are the most affected as they have been provided with a link road of 50% deficiency and would suffer when the road vanishes after a rain or two.”

“Okay, you have understood the problem in correct perspective. What should the villagers do now?”

“They must organize a protest against the substandard road.”

“Of course, they should! But, what caused the substandard road to come into existence, in the first place?”

The insured person thinks for a while. He says, “Yeah! The road would not have come into existence this way, if the objection raised by the Junior Engineer at the initial stage itself had been taken cognizance of. But, the Executive Engineer had, instead of hearing the Junior Engineer, transferred him to a far away station, even when he had no power to transfer him beyond the area of his jurisdiction. This transfer had been effected, in spite of the fact that the Junior Engineer has completed only six months of service in the present station.”

“Okay, you have analysed the issue well. Now, where does the problem originate?”, said Mr. Adharkar.

“The problem arises because of the absence of proper Transfer Policy of officials in the department. If there had been some assurance to the officials about their tenure in a transferred station, they can settle their personal problems accordingly. They can also plan their future. When there is uncertainty on transfers, the officials think that their life depends upon the whims and fancies of the higher officials. They, therefore, would try to please the higher officials instead of doing the work assigned to them as per rules. Their loyalty will not be towards their duty but to their higher officials.” said the Insured Person.

“Yes. In the present case also, if the said Junior Engineer had acted as per the desires of the Executive Engineer, he would not have faced the transfer to a far-away station again. But, he was honest by his choice. The system as evolved by the corrupt officers of this department, did not permit honest people to survive. Now, what would you suggest?”, asked Prof. Adharkar.

“If I were aware of these intricacies and if I were one of those villagers, I would organize an effective protest against the absence of proper Transfer Policy in the department”, said the Insured Person.

“Hurrah! Well done!”, said Mr. Wagner, patting on the back of the Insured Person. “You have correctly understood the problem. The Administrative Procedure of every government organization affects the public directly. Because, the defects in the Administrative Procedure affect the delivery mechanism. It is, therefore, essential for the people of the nation to feel really concerned about the internal administrative procedure of every department. They must agitate, if there is no proper policy or defective policy. In this case, the Executive Engineer who had no authority had exceeded his authority to transfer the honest Junior Engineer. There was no system, in place, even to represent against such transfers. These defects work against public interest”.

“Yes, that precisely is the problem now with the ESI Corporation in India”, said Mr. Adharkar. “Mr. Sahib Singh Verma, who was the Minister for Labour in the early 2000s was trying very hard to take over the power of transfer of officers in the ESIC and the EPFO. The ESIC resisted a lot. Mr. Sis Ram Ola who succeeded him wanted to follow only him in the matter of transfer of officers in the ESIC. The Labour Ministers, who are politicians, should not be given the powers of transfers of the officers of the ESIC. They do not want to follow any system in the matter of transfers. They want to wield arbitrary powers in the matter of transfers. These Ministers demonstrate irrepressible desire to acquire the power of transfer of officers. They issue unlawful directions to the ESI authorities in the matter of transfers. They believe that the people would not bother themselves about such unscrupulous activities indulged in by them.”

“Mr. Sis Ram Ola is interfering in and preventing proper administration of the ESI Corporation. It is time someone filed a Public Interest Litigation to prevent the role of the politicians in the matter of transfer of officers of the ESIC. When Mr. Sahib Singh Verma was recklessly interfering in the appointment of officers in the EPFO, the Officers Association passed resolution against him. Such things did not happen in the ESIC as the office-bearers of the ESIC Officers Federation were also not interested in evolving proper system. They were concerned only about themselves and not about the system. Fortunately, after Mr. Rao came into power, proper transfer policy was evolved. But, things were back to the same chaotic era, after 2007. Now, when the Administration took steps to bring the system back on rails, Mr. Sis Ram Ola is playing the villainy. He wants to wield powers, which are not vested in him. He does not bother about the areas in which he should, rightly, concentrate and for which powers are vested in him. For example, he can examine how the Parliamentary Committee of Labour was hoodwinked when it asked right questions about the need for undergraduate medical colleges. But, he does not do that. The ESIC has to be salvaged now, by overcoming the urge of Mr. Sis Ram Ola also to interfere in the matter of transfer of officers. Very sorry state of affairs that the nation has to face this kind of politicians. The only way out is to make them answerable to the public”, said Mr. Adharkar.

“Haiti was once a famous island nation, famous for its prosperity. It prospered, because the institutions of that nation were doing the work assigned. But, there came some politicians to wreck the institutions. Now the country is in ruins.”, said Mr. Murray.

“I do not understand”, said the Insured Person.

“You see, when a person who was robbed goes to the police station, he believes that the police would hear him and help him. If it happens that way, the institution commands respect of the public and helps the nation to progress. If the policemen there support the robber instead, the public loses confidence in the police station and try to take law into its own hands or suffer in silence. There will, then, be more robbery and conflicts. The nation cannot progress. It is the case with every organization. When unscrupulous officials or politicians try to unsettle the system and acquire arbitrary power to favour or harm the subordinate officials, the entire institution collapses. The institution will not serve the public then but only the person who has acquired such arbitrary power. The ESIC is now facing problems from the Minister. As the activities of this over-ambitious Minister conflict with public interest, the public must take action to resist his attempts, effectively.

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Filed under Amendments 2010, For Trainees, Transfers

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