Except for the seven-eight hours per day for five days, a government employee spends most of his time in the week at home, in the society. An active person can hugely contribute to the society without hampering his government job. In fact, government employees have had great roles in major social movements. Normally, government does not interfere with an employee’s engagement with social organisations. But the Meghalaya government had to act tough on such employees. In its recent amendment to the Meghalaya Services Conduct Rules, 1990, the government barred all its employees from holding office in any community-based organization, ostensibly meaning the powerful Dorbar Shnong and other traditional bodies recognised under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.

Meghalaya is notorious for its perennial tension between the autonomous district councils (ADCs) and the state government. Both the government and the ADCs – one each for Khasi Hills, Jaintia Hills and Garo Hills – confront each other from time to time on issues related to jurisdiction and powers in various subjects. The ADCs represent the interests of the traditional bodies such as Dorbar, Raid, Hima etc. A lot of the traditional bodies are headed by government employees and even political leaders. However, there was no problem in such employees running the affairs of traditional institutions, till the confrontation with the government. The headmen of Khasi-Jaintia Hills, allegedly influenced by political elements, recently held open protests against the government over delay in passage to the Village Administration Bill. When the government tried to take the views of ‘stakeholders’ on the negotiation table, it faced the irony of having to talk to own employees. That, perhaps, had pushed the government put an iron hand.

It is but natural for the government to expect loyalty from its employees. A government servant, whose survival is looked after by the government during and even post service till death, has to serve the government first. It is true for every organisation one is involved with. It’s like a mother protecting his criminal son from police! After all it’s in the family. But, a government employee holding office in traditional body sometimes act against his own employer, at the same time being taken care of by the government for life! This dual role of a person should stop. There should be no dearth of efficient person, who is not a government servant, to hold office in the Dorbar.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on January 9, 2016)