Rank insignia plan for vehicles of top govt officials draws flak

Kathmandu, August 31

Retired, serving bureaucrats and social media users have fumed over media reports that the government is planning to assign rank insignia stickers for use on vehicles of senior government officials, arguing such a move would create a divide between civil servants and the public.

Minister for General Administration Lal Babu Pandit said no such decision was taken so far. But, he said the ministry had received such a suggestion.

At a meeting of top bureaucrats today, Secretary at the Ministry of General Administration Tanka Mani Sharma informed that a taskforce has been formed by the ministry to study if the government needs to assign rank insignia to senior government officials, according to a joint secretary who had attended the meeting.

The government provides vehicle facility to all first-class and special class officers. There was a public uproar on social media over media reports with some likening it to authoritarian practices in countries like North Korea.

Yuvraj Acharya, a former journalist, said, “A Panchayat-era minister from the far western region drove his car flying a national flag. Not satisfied, he had even tied the national flag onto his horse’s head just to show that he was a minister!,” Acharya commented on Facebook.

Former Home and Foreign Minister Madhav Prasad Ghimire said flying the national flag on vehicles would give the impression that the government is giving too much importance to the rank of public servants.

“Dress code, identity cards and official logo can easily distinguish civil servants,” former chief secretary Ghimire told The Himalayan Times. “Therefore, we need to make these things mandatory. But we need to be more careful about how the officials serve the public rather than giving too much importance to their status,” he stated.

A serving joint secretary said some officials are hesitant to use government vehicles with white registration number plates.

“The white number plate itself distinguishes vehicles of government officials. Why do we need to fly the national flag or attach other insignia on vehicles?” he questioned.

Former Chief Secretary Leela Mani Paudyal, however, shared a different view. He said flying the national flag and attaching insignia to vehicles of senior government officials would help check misuse of government vehicles and make them more accountable towards their duties.