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Durga Shakti Nagpal's suspension is a reminder of how good administrative efforts are often hampered
Sometimes it takes a flagrant example to draw attention to an undesirable pattern. Durga Shakti Nagpal's suspension appears to have roused the public conscience to the ways in which a determined official can be thwarted, even punished, for doing the right thing. By all accounts, as sub-divisional magistrate, Nagpal had been actively going after illegal sand mining in her district, which involved powerful political interests. She was summarily suspended by the Uttar Pradesh government, which cited her lack of judgement for directing that a wall of a mosque in Gautam Budh Nagar be demolished and allegedly touching off communal tension. The harshness of the order and the patent flimsiness of its justification have caused many to rally behind Nagpal. The matter has taken on a political aspect with UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi urging the prime minister to intervene to the extent possible. Given the fluctuating relationship of convenience between the Congress and the SP, and with the countdown for 2014 having begun, it is tempting to read between the lines of the Congress president's letter. Whatever her motivations, however, Gandhi underlined the core issue — the need to make sure that executive functionaries doing their work with a sense of mission are not hampered.
In its pique, the Akhilesh Yadav government has overstepped the line. The loud talk about the mosque is clearly a red herring. It was built on public land, without permission, and the Supreme Court has explicitly ordered that such unauthorised construction be removed, and reports submitted. Further, any law and order repercussions arising from the decision are the domain of the district magistrate and administration, not the political executive's burden. While transfers are common, suspension is a drastic step. The UP government evidently broke with procedure, since neither was the district magistrate's permission sought nor the chief secretary consulted. This arbitrary decision must be challenged when the state government presents its chargesheet to the Department of Personnel and Training.
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