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Examination hall ticket to a donkey! Why not?

180513 Open Page - Donkey

180513 Open Page - Donkey  

In the maze of the bureaucracy, there is a certain way things will always work

A recent news story that a hall ticket was issued to a donkey, complete with its passport-size photograph, for a recruitment examination conducted by the Jammu and Kashmir government, must have caused astonishment, amusement and derision. Imagine generating a hall ticket for, of all things, an ass! What is this world coming to? That must have been the normal reaction of most of us superior human beings.

One concerned citizen took to social media to bemoan the wastage of energy and resources on such pointless diversions. I beg to differ. A recent experience makes me believe the author of that prank was perhaps trying to convey a subtle but profound message.

A few months ago, in the context of an article that I was asked to contribute to a technical journal on the ‘Make in India’ (MII) campaign personally launched by the Prime Minister in September 2014, I sought some information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflows into the various sectors identified for the MII campaign over the last three years and the number of jobs created in those sectors after the campaign was launched.

While I received the required information regarding FDI inflows from the Commerce Ministry, my query regarding the number of jobs created was referred by that Ministry to another, which I will call the Ministry of A&B (to save embarrassment), where apparently it landed in the wrong section. And then the “donkey business” started in earnest.

I am a veteran of almost four decades in the government sector (Railways) and am fully aware that the exchange of correspondence with (and between) Ministries/government agencies often resembles a game of tennis, particularly if you are seeking some information under the RTI Act. So your initial letter, however crisp and strong like a Roger Federer first serve, will be returned with equal vigour, usually by obfuscating the issue. Your subsequent ‘shots’ tend to be weaker and after a few such exchanges, out of sheer exasperation, you are ready to give a walkover.

Coming back to my letter, instead of the section of the Ministry of A&B that deals with job creation, it landed in the Social Security Section. It was like the ball landing in the wrong court in a tennis match. You would have expected that human common sense would prevail and the ball would be sent to the correct court for further play. No way. Instead, ‘donkey sense’ was in play and I was informed that “as a far as Section 1-2-3 of the Ministry is concerned the information sought by me is NIL”.

If aggrieved with the response I may approach the appellate authority, an official sitting in the same section but higher in the hierarchy.

I then lobbed the ball back with some ‘top spin’ (that is, strong language) to the appellate authority, only to receive a contemptuous ‘overhead smash’ return, enlightening me that ‘Section 1-2-3 deals with Employees State Insurance Corporation and ESI Act, Payment of Gratuity Act, Maternity Benefit Act and Employees Compensation Act’, ending with this clincher: my appeal, “being devoid of merit, is disposed of”. Match over. Finis.

Thankfully, I was still given a life-line: if I was not satisfied with the order, I could approach the Central Information Commission, which I have since done. There the matter rests, six months after I sent the query.

The hall ticket prank was no pointless exercise: there is no dearth of asinine and mulish behaviour among humans, a few of whom might even have migrated to government service.

balakesari_ k@hotmail.com

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Printable version | Jul 2, 2020 1:07:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/examination-hall-ticket-to-a-donkey-why-not/article23865707.ece

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