Civil Servants Vs Party Activists
The recently held election of the civil servants’ trade union has drawn flak from the former bureaucrats and experienced politicians for allowing the civil servants to act as party activists. They fear the civil servants who make up the permanent government may not perform their duty fairly when they are allowed to be loyal to a particular party. There were several comments in the social media against the practice of holding trade union elections of the civil servants. Articles also appeared in the online news and newspapers, severely criticising the recently held election, and majority of the comments supported the anti-election view.
However, those loyal to the ruling CPN-UML blamed the pro-Nepali Congress people for whipping up anti-election sentiments in the media. Even journalists loyal to the CPN-UML boasted about the victory of the pro-UML employees in the elections. They claimed that the pro- UML employees received 21,000 votes out of 47,000 votes in the election, sweeping all the key posts!
How wise is it to allow the civil servants to participate in party politics? Obviously, it is not good for the smooth functioning of the civil service as well as the government. Civil servants associated with the political parties could fail the government if it is led by a rival party. They can do this simply by not following or implementing the instructions and programmes of the government.
Moreover, there is a danger that they will be biased while delivering services to the people. For example, an employee affiliated to the pro-UML organisation may not help pro-NC service seekers and vice versa. When the employees enjoy their pay and perks from the state, they should be barred from involving in politics.
As individuals, they can follow any political ideology and are free to vote in favour of any party they support. However, as civil servants they must be prevented from engaging in politics. Though the trade union leaders may oppose this view, unionism in civil service will never yield good results. Time will prove this.
The public schools are a perfect example of how trade unionism weakens the performance of any government entity. When teachers, who are paid from the state coffer, are allowed to unionise and do politics, they seldom attend to their duty in the schools. They tend to appoint or accept teachers only if they belong to the same organisation of the headmaster of the school no matter how good or bad the teachers are in their performance. A few months back, this scribe came to know how the headmasters of public schools were appointing only those teachers loyal to the parties of the headmaster.
One of the headmasters asked me to help him find a talented science teacher to teach at the secondary level. So I took one of my relatives, who has been teaching in a school of Dhading for 24 years and had earned fame as a good teacher. The headmaster was impressed by my relative. The next day the headmaster called me to ask to which teachers’ organisation he was affiliated to.
It is noteworthy to recall that all the political parties in Nepal have their own teachers’ organisation. I did not lie to the headmaster, who was a staunch supporter of the Nepali Congress. But my relative was a critic of the NC. ‘If he is not a pro-NC man, I cannot appoint or have him transferred to my school,’ the headmaster said. For him, the party was more important than the quality of the teacher. And we will not have to wait long to witness such a situation in the civil service if the civil servants are allowed to have their trade unions.