News Karnataka
Saturday, September 30 2023
Brian's Subtle Humour

Commissions Vs Commissioners – The battle for supremacy!

Photo Credit : Unsplash

This column is normally an apolitical column, not a political one for distinct reasons, some of which you can guess, and for others, you can be my guest. But I am not immune to my environment, especially when the climate changes!

As you may well know, life is as compelling as it is full of compulsions. Like Politics. Sometimes these compulsions are initiated by obsessions, but they can combine to create an OC disorder, both the medical condition and the Legal, especially during elections. The obsession with politics and political personalities is what creates a cult that soon becomes the go-to vehicle for them oc-cult followers! Politics is often an OCD that cannot be cured!

Can I be immune? I don’t think so; it infects even after 2 doses and a booster, freely given and freely received (Thank God, nay, the Government!) This is especially true if there is an election fever going around in the peak of summer! With the partial immunity gained from the vaccinations, the infection is milder, but it’s how an apolitical column turns into a political column, for a brief moment in time. Not in the purest sense of the word, though.

This is how Politics is defined: “Politics in its purest sense refers to the activities, actions, and policies used by individuals, groups, or governments to gain and hold power in a society or to influence the distribution of resources and decision-making. At its core, politics involves the exercise of power and authority, as well as the negotiation and competition for resources, positions, and policies.”  But this column is not about that or the people who indulge in it! It’s about what sustains it. For clarity, what stains it, is what sustains it! Still not clear? Continue reading! Don’t begin with the end in mind; never mind Steven Covey!

And, just so that we are clear, another definition more succinctly has it as politics is about the power of one over the other, not the power to serve as we are so often told, but the power to guide one’s own and others’ destiny and the chance, nay the demand to be remembered for it!

We perhaps don’t or are not allowed to realize that our destiny is pre-determined, and whatever is attributed to “great leaders” across the political spectrum in fulfilling that destiny is already destined for them! They are destiny’s privileged, born to lift the underprivileged, restore the pride of their peoples and secure the boundaries of their writ (not subject to writ jurisdiction!) in the best way they think possible! And perhaps they don’t think as often as we think they think!

So, they say anyway! But who knows, they can say anything, and we can believe anything. That’s the difference, between the privileged and the underprivileged! It’s also the miracle of WhatsApp!

Nevertheless, the last two months were full of it. Politics. It was in your face! Not just Facetime! as the nation’s and Karnataka’s digital and TV channels, not to speak of the archaic printed News Papers and Magazines, were inundated with “Who said what to whom”, in the political context of course; a most puzzling question for me in my school days for 5 marks. First of all, I didn’t know any of the characters involved, secondly, I didn’t care, and so was willing to forego 5 marks, and finally, I hated gossip! But the news also added two new dimensions: who did what, and thankfully, not much of to whom! It would have been too much to remember after the elections!

At the end of it all, the election results came as a prize for one political party, and a surprise (or maybe not) for another. The win came riding for a part of the journey on the back of the winning slogan – “$$% Commission.” It literally, so to speak, commissioned a win, unseen perhaps by the numerous commissioners in the ranks of the Government. This got my goat. And that’s not banned! So far!

Without a Commission in hand, I commissioned myself to investigate the origins of the word commission. It shares its heritage with the term Commissioner! It has also descended from the Latin word “Commissio” which means “entrusted task” or “delegation of authority.” This authority is the authority over others’ lives – as they say at a wedding – for better or worse!

“Commission” refers to the act of granting authority, assigning tasks, and delegating responsibilities to individuals or groups to accomplish specific objectives or fulfil specific roles. It is typically accompanied by the power to make decisions, carry out actions, or oversee a specific area of responsibility. And a Commissioner is the one to whom this authority is delegated! And in this, we have the prime mover’s advantage and abundance!

But Commission is not only about just getting things done, as in “The Bridge was commissioned” or delegation of authority. In the modern context, indeed from days of yore, the term “commission” can also be used to refer to illicit or unethical payments made to someone (perhaps the authority delegated to collect it?) in exchange for favourable treatment or to secure an advantage. It involves giving him the (not a mind you!) commission to do the right things; following the rules makes things go wrong generally) It typically involves practices such as bribery, embezzlement, nepotism, fraud, and favouritism.

This commission is either covert or overt but involves an implicit or explicit exchange of money or goods for the provision of preferential treatment, special privileges, or the overlooking of rules or regulations which the commissioner is required to enforce!

Accepting a commission (bribe) for executing a commission (official duty) would generally be considered unethical, if not illegal, as it involves a conflict of interest and undermines the integrity and impartiality of the commissioner’s role.

Engaging in such behaviour can lead to legal consequences, damage one’s reputation, and erode public trust in the governing institution. Commissioners and individuals in positions of authority need to maintain their integrity, adhere to ethical standards, and carry out their duties without personal gain or bias. All this we know, and in this case, knowledge is bliss!

The tragedy of the day is that when we read the headline “The Bridge was commissioned”, we are afraid rather than delighted. At least I am, even more so after rainwater couldn’t pass under the underpass, as it was an “entry only, no exit underpass.” The rainwater misread the signboard, I guess!

These instances make a city a special needs city, civically challenged. And only a commissioner can overcome this impasse with the right commissions (of work)!

But when a torch is shone on it, more not than often, a Commission of enquiry is/can be constituted to find out the 13 reasons why. Of course, Commissions can also be formed to address social issues or analyse policy matters, but those don’t matter, do they?

Is giving a commission corruption? Some would say not, as it helps speed up necessary work in favour of members of the public. Not all members perhaps, but that’s ok we guess in our scheme for the smaller good!

The flaws of human nature, lack of transparency and accountability, poverty and inequality, weak institutions of governance, and course cultural factors influence the extent of corruption. Only the extant, not its presence; this is universal, historical, and ingrained in humanity as a whole. The reasons thereto are as complex as our society, which is why perhaps society makes complex laws, that then give common people a complex, requiring a Commission/commission to decode them, for them!

The role has evolved, adapting to various contexts and organizations. In feudal times, Commissioners were appointed by the monarchy or nobility to oversee specific duties or territories. In the 19th century, the term gained prominence within governmental structures, representing individuals appointed to supervise or administer specific areas, such as police commissioners or commissioners of public works.

In the modern era, the term “Commissioner” is used in diverse fields and organizations. It often refers to individuals holding leadership or executive positions with specific responsibilities, such as commissioners in sports leagues, commissioners overseeing regulatory bodies, or commissioners appointed for special investigations. The evolution of the term reflects the changing nature of governance, administration, and delegated authority across various domains.

But have things got better or worse? And is it time to change the nomenclature of governance? One alternative I can think of is Collector! Which is already part of our history. Or maybe when we are rewriting history, as we already are, we could change it? Would that then serve to sever the association between corruption and commission? Won’t know till we try it right?

Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash


This Article is written in a lighter vein. It hopes to bring a smile to your face, and you must not ascribe motives to its contents. There is no connection to events and characters in real life and if perchance you find a connection with any such real-life event or character, rest assured it’s purely coincidental.

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Brian Fernandes

Brian is an alumnus of Roshni Nilaya’s Post Graduate School of Social Work, HR Department and has 30 years of local and international HR and General Management experience. Journalism, poetry, and feature writing is a passion which he is now able to pursue at will. Additionally, he loves compering and hosting talk shows. He loves learning and imparting it; so, when time permits, he provides leadership facilitation and soft skills training to Postgraduate students and Corporates in Mangaluru and Bengaluru. Besides, he is an accomplished Toastmaster under the aegis of and a designated Distinguished Toast Master.

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