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Women gossiping in the warmth of electric heaters in the corridors of government offices of Meghalaya is a common sight. The high court in Shillong is no different. Work culture in the highest office of judiciary in the state can be gauged well by this scene. That day, they showed some promptness, in staging a hunger strike. They say the current ‘acting’ chief justice behaves very rudely with the staff. For what reason? They were mum. The protest followed disciplinary action taken by the High Court against one of the employees. The offence was not known, neither his name disclosed by the office of high court. But what is known for sure is that the current CJ became ‘unpopular’ due to his assertiveness. But, the employees have all along been used to the ‘lahe lahe’ (lethargic) system.

This was not the first time this CJ acted tough on anyone. He faced protest even from the lawyers for reprimanding them in the court. Others hail him as a hard taskmaster. The happenings in the High Court remind one of the scene in North East Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health and Medical Science (NEIGRIHMS). The new head of the super-specialty hospital was an unpopular man too, among most employees. He had to face stiff opposition from the staff for trying to abolish the era of ‘lahe lahe’. He streamlined the functioning of NEIGRIHMS to a great extent, much to the delight of patients. The hospital, which had no takers even among the people of Shillong, is now witnessing beelines of patients hailing from all across the North-east. The new director has been able to uplift the institute to a level it was meant for.

Neither the NEIGRIHMS head nor the acting CJ is paid for satisfying the employees, but to cater to the public needs. If he becomes dictatorial in approach and get the job done, so be it. Of course, he cannot violate the fundamental rights of the employee. If he does, the employee can always take the legal path. But, apparently, there was no such violation in the High Court case. Most government employees, especially in the North-east, are so used to the lethargic way of functioning that they forget they are living in a much faster globalised world. This is the age when people in private sectors are toiling 12-16 hours, and some are paid accordingly, in lakhs per month. Govt employees cannot live in a different world!

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on February 13, 2015)