Walls Have Ears or Even a Recorder!
If we know anything about the bureaucratic practices of Bangladesh then the term OSD wouldn’t sound unfamiliar. An officer/bureaucrat on special duty (OSD) basically means an officer with no duty at hand. Making a government official OSD is quite a common phenomenon in Bangladesh. Here’s a story of a government official whom we shall not take the name of and his story of getting “OSD”ed.
For Joint Secretary Mr. Soon to be “OSD”ed, it was just like any other day in the office of Directorate of Archives and Libraries. As it will be hard to mention that name every time we speak of him, let’s just call him Mr. X. Before talking about that day let’s get to know Mr. X. Mr. X belonged to one of the oldest batches of BCS and was first in line to become an additional secretary. Rumor was that the gadget for the new additional secretary list will be published anytime soon. As he was left out twice before, this time he was certain that his name will be on that list of additional secretaries as he has, over time paid his due.
That day, Mr. X was having a friendly conversation about the country’s politics and its direction with his fellow colleagues. After a few days, he got to know from a source that the gadget is soon to be published and his name will be on it. He had already told his wife and children about the promotion. But opening the newspaper the very next day, he saw the list and his name was not on it and was replaced by someone who ranked quite below than him in seniority. He immediately made a call to the Minister of Cultural Affairs as he had a good professional and also a friendly relationship with him. When Mr. X asked him about what happened with the promotion, he was as surprised as Mr. X. The Minister had no idea why Mr. X’s name was not on the list. The Minister made a call to the Prime Minister of the country and set up a meeting to discuss this matter regarding Mr. X’s promotion. As Prime Minister reviews the final list of promotions, the Minister of Cultural Affairs asked the PM why Mr. X’s name was cut off the list. In reply the PM made the minister listen to the recorded conversation that Mr. X was having that day with his colleagues( Apparently one of the colleagues had recorded the whole conversation where Mr. X was saying quite some unpleasant things about the ruling party) . Then the PM asked back the minister, that why does she have a better knowledge than him about party loyalists in his own ministry. The minister who has “acted” his whole life didn’t know how to act to that comment made by the PM. Mr. X never got a promotion rather retired as an OSD joint secretary.
I believe the politics-administration dichotomy is a scenario for fantasy writers even in developed countries like USA and UK. In a country like Bangladesh which has a long history of colonization it’s rather impossible to take politics out of administration. Politicization of bureaucracy is not a new idea in democratic countries. However, the intensity of use and reasons for politicization vary from country to country. Developing countries like Bangladesh consider party “loyalty” as one and only guiding standard for appointment and promotion in the civil services. Thus, the bureaucracy in Bangladesh, is now dangling between professional neutrality and political loyalty. Since 1991, almost all the democratic governments politicized the civil services for serving their narrow and own political interests. What is the consequence of politicization on bureaucracy? An obvious consequence is that bureaucracy is becoming inefficient and ineffective in the absence of professionalization, fairness and impartiality. Thousands of brilliant civil servants have been penalized from time to time in the name of “loyalty.” If this goes on, it will discourage qualified and talented graduates who are willing to bring positive changes to the table from competing for the civil services.