Thousands of khadars and good will were exchanged in the last two days as people poured in to congratulate the members of parliament and the cabinet ministers.
It was a busy time for most in the capital but many would agree that the work done was minimal. As well wishers including civil and public servants rushed from one venue to another, the traffic and the staircases and corridors that led to the offices and homes of the cabinet ministers remained choked until late into the night.
The outpour of well wishers was expected. What was not expected was the mismanagement of the crowd at the venues and the vivid display of the weight of the symbols of power and positions. Top bureaucrats and secretaries, coloured scarf officials, CEOs of public offices and banks and staff of international organisations in the country cut queues to offer their congratulations.
For those who had queued for hours, the conducts of those who are and were in leadership positions were not surprising. Some observed that it is the occasion and the colour of the scarf one dons or positions they hold matters in not only moving papers but even in gaining privileged access to offer their best wishes. It was observed that our expats wouldn’t have flouted the queues abroad. The inequality was blatant and our privileged lot unapologetic. Others took out their frustration on journalists when they were allowed to squeeze through the crowd to attend the press conference at the prime minister’s office. We understand their frustrations.
Many observed that under democratic governance, governments change but not these norms. The stubbornness of the bureaucracy and the system we have institutionalised was hard to ignore even though the government personifies change. When he was working at the hospital, the prime minister was known for not differentiating his patients. He had reportedly kept his father waiting in the queue to avail medical check-up at his chamber. This example is not much about the patients but about his values and principles. People appreciated his principle of not giving the who’s who a preference. We saw the system upending his principle on his first day in office as the prime minister.
Breaking this norm in the system the bureaucracy and the public institutions have created could pose a challenge to the new government that promises change. We have seen elected governments getting swallowed and overwhelmed by the system despite attempts to change the way we work. Many say that occasions such as these do not happen everyday and that norms that follow are acceptable. But the traffic, the pollution, the long waiting time in the long queues that our bosses keep cutting and the zero work done in offices are more a consequence of mismanagement than of celebrating an occasion.
We could have done better. We had a choice to organise the felicitations and manage the crowd better. We did not only because this is how things are always done.