NEW DELHI: Beating about the bush is as old as bureaucracy itself in India, but a recent instruction issued by the Union Agriculture Ministry to its officers seeks to elevate it to the level of high craft.
The letter suggests that assurances given to Members of Parliament be made ambiguous as far as possible. It even lists 32 such phrases like “the matter is under consideration” or “Enquiries are being made” and “Will see what can be done about it”.
Why so? The problem with giving specific assurances in Parliament is that they have to be fulfilled within three months, not more. Going by the way the system works, it could require more than three months to collect information and supply them to the lawmakers concerned. So, the ministry ends up seeking extension of time to fulfil the assurances.
The workaround: craft your assurances in such a way that they are not time bound. Ambiguous statements buy the bureaucrats enough time, including an option to ignore addressing them as well.
However, the ministry’s letter said: “Wherever essential, efforts should be made to fulfil these assurances at the earliest possible.” But does that really happen? Not really, suggests data released by the Committee on Government Assurances in RS. In its December 2014 report, the committee said 1,999 assurances were pending. The panel was critical of the babus, saying there is “Serious lack of knowledge on part of the ministry officials”.