BJP-led Union Government Making Systematic Attempts to Change Character of Civil Services


  • May 26, 2023
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Over 80 ex-bureaucrats, as part of the Constitutional Conduct Group, have written a letter to President Droupadi Murmu, alleging a “systematic attempt” being made by the BJP-led Union government to “change the character of the civil services”, particularly the IAS and the IPS, who are under tremendous pressure to “show exclusive loyalty” to the Union government.

 

They said that the civil services “were uniquely intended to be a protective ring around the Constitution, unaffected by political changes, having an All India perspective rather than a regional, parochial one and being secure enough to maintain an independent, nonpartisan outlook, without fear or favour.” In the open letter they accused the Union government of making “noticeable attempts” to pressure officers to “show exclusive loyalty to the Union rather than to the ‘parent’ state cadre to which they are allotted”.

 

The group of ex-bureaucrats in the letter to the President expressed concern that the Union government’s practice to compel central deputations without the consent of either the officers concerned or their state governments is disturbing the federal balance and has “left civil servants torn between conflicting loyalties, thereby weakening their ability to be impartial”.

 

The full text of the letter and the list of signatories are given below.

 

25 May 2023

Honourable Rashtrapatiji,

 

We are a group of former civil servants of the All India and Central Services who have worked with the Central and State Governments in the course of our careers. Both as individuals and as a group, we believe in impartiality, neutrality and commitment to the Constitution of India. We do not owe allegiance to any political party.

 

A systematic attempt is being made to change the character of the civil services, particularly the IAS and the IPS, which, in our constitutional scheme, were uniquely intended to be a protective ring around the Constitution, unaffected by political changes, having an All India perspective rather than a regional, parochial one and being secure enough to maintain an independent, nonpartisan outlook, without fear or favour. It is in this context that we seek to approach you on a matter which, of late, is causing much concern to us and which we are duty bound to bring to your notice.

 

The bedrock of all civil services in any democracy worth the name is their independence, neutrality, non-adherence to any political ideology in the discharge of official duties, the freedom to articulate their views to the political executive and the security of knowing that they would not be subjected to arbitrary actions for adhering to these values.

 

These foundational characteristics had been forcefully expressed by Sardar Patel in his address to the Constituent Assembly in October 1947 in the following words:

 

There is no alternative to this administrative system…The Union will go, you will not have a united India if you do not have a good All India Service which has the independence to speak out its mind, which has the sense of security that you will stand by your work…If you do not follow this course, then do not follow the present Constitution…Remove them and I see nothing but a picture of chaos all over the country.”

 

Contrary to the above exhortation, we fear that the government, of which you are the constitutional head, is now attempting to distort this basic framework and historical understanding.

 

Further, measures are being taken that threaten the unique federal design of the IAS and the IPS, which underlies Sardar Patel’s vision of a permanent civil service that would both bind the country together and enable it to maintain a balance between the interests of the Union and the interests of the States. There are noticeable attempts to pressurise officers to show exclusive loyalty to the Union rather than to the ‘parent’ state cadre to which they are allotted. On occasion, arbitrary departmental actions have been taken against those who refuse to do so. Service Rules are sought to be amended to compel central deputations without the consent of either the officers concerned or their state governments, effectively undermining the authority and control of Chief Ministers over their officers. This has disturbed the federal balance and left civil servants torn between conflicting loyalties, thereby weakening their ability to be impartial.

 

In the past governments have permitted lateral recruitment at senior levels and many such officers have distinguished themselves. Lately, however, there has been opacity in the recruitment process at mid-levels and concerns that candidates are being chosen based on their ideological predilections. The consequences of this for the future of an independent civil service requires no comment.

 

The actions and words of some very senior functionaries of the central government increases our concern on the future of the civil service and the consequent danger to democracy in India.

 

In this context we would like to mention that the National Security Advisor (NSA), while addressing IPS officers at their passing out function in 2021, had emphasised that they should treat civil society as the “fourth generation of warfare, that can be subverted, suborned, divided and manipulated to hurt the interests of the nation”. Such sentiments are antithetical to any democratic dispensation and aim at placing civil society in a position of conflict with the state.

 

On the 21st of April this year, the Prime Minister addressed a gathering of civil service officers on Civil Services Day. The address was unremarkable and comprised largely of a litany of the achievements of the present government over the past nine years, with a proforma acknowledgement of the contributions of the civil services. What was disturbing was his exhortation to the officers to be firm in dealing with malfeasance of political parties while in power. Though couched neutrally, the intent and objective were unmistakable.

 

Our concern about the future of the civil services is heightened by the reaction of some civil servants. The Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie (LBSNAA) is the foundational training institute for All India Services and Central Services. In a recent op-ed, the Director of the LBSNAA wrote, “The task of defining an Indian ethos for the civil servants began in the 75th year of India’s independence, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address where he spelt out the country’s vision….”. Such unwarranted encomiums to the Prime Minister, by the Director of the premier academy for training future civil servants, are deeply disturbing.

 

We apprehend that moves are afoot to redact Sardar Patel’s vision of an independent and apolitical civil service and replace it with apparatchiks and foot soldiers whose loyalty shall be to the ruling party and not to the Constitution of India.

 

At a time when politics is leaning dangerously towards a centralised, authoritarian, national security state with a leadership seemingly amenable to abandoning, without demur, the fundamental principles on which our Constitution is based, it has become critical for citizens to ensure that institutions and systems like the civil services which can check this frightening erosion of constitutional values in the manner envisaged by the great Sardar are protected and strengthened. By virtue of their allegiance to the Constitution and not the government of the day, the All India Services, particularly the IAS and IPS, have a critical role to play. As the Constitutional Head of the Republic, we appeal to you to convey our concerns to the Union Government and caution them that this attempt to change the character of the civil services is fraught with extreme danger and, as Sardar Patel had warned many years ago, will spell the death of constitutional government in India.

 

SATYAMEVA JAYATE

With profound regards,

Constitutional Conduct Group (82 signatories, as below)

 

  1.  Anita Agnihotri, IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Department of Social Justice Empowerment, GoI
    2. S.P. Ambrose, IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Secretary, Ministry of Shipping & Transport, GoI
    3. Anand Arni, RAS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
    4. Mohinderpal Aulakh, IPS (Retd.) Former Director General of Police (Jails), Govt. of Punjab
    5. Vappala Balachandran, IPS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
    6. Chandrashekar Balakrishnan, IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Coal, GoI
    7. Sushant Baliga, Engineering Services (Retd.) Former Additional Director General, Central PWD, GoI
    8. Rana Banerji, RAS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
    9. T.K. Banerji, IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Union Public Service Commission
    10. Sharad Behar, IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
    11. Aurobindo Behera, IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Odisha
    12. K.V. Bhagirath, IFS (Retd.) Former Secretary General, Indian Ocean Rim Association, Mauritius
    13. Meeran C Borwankar, IPS (Retd.) Former DGP, Bureau of Police Research and Development, GoI
    14. Ravi Budhiraja, IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, GoI
    15. Sundar Burra, IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
    16. R. Chandramohan, IAS (Retd.) Former Principal Secretary, Transport and Urban Development, Govt. of NCT of Delhi
    17. Kalyani Chaudhuri, IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
    18. Gurjit Singh Cheema, IAS (Retd.) Former Financial Commissioner (Revenue), Govt. of Punjab
    19. F.T.R. Colaso, IPS (Retd.) Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Karnataka & former Director General of Police, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir
    20. Anna Dani, IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
    21. Surjit K. Das, IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Uttarakhand
    22. P.R. Dasgupta, IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Food Corporation of India, GoI
    23. M.G. Devasahayam, IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Govt. of Haryana
    24. Sushil Dubey, IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Sweden
    25. A.S. Dulat, IPS (Retd.) Former OSD on Kashmir, Prime Minister’s Office, GoI
    26. K.P. Fabian, IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Italy
    27. Suresh K. Goel, IFS (Retd.) Former Director General, Indian Council of Cultural Relations, GoI
    28. H.S. Gujral, IFoS (Retd.) Former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Govt. of Punjab
    29. Meena Gupta, IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, GoI
    30. Ravi Vira Gupta, IAS (Retd.) Former Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India
    31. Vinod C. Khanna, IFS (Retd.) Former Additional Secretary, MEA, GoI
    32. Ish Kumar, IPS (Retd.) Former DGP (Vigilance & Enforcement), Govt. of Telangana and former Special Rapporteur, National Human Rights Commission
    33. Sudhir Kumar, IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Central Administrative Tribunal
    34. Subodh Lal, IPoS (Resigned) Former Deputy Director General, Ministry of Communications, GoI
    35. Harsh Mander, IAS (Retd.) Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
    36. Amitabh Mathur, IPS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
    37. L.L. Mehrotra, IFS (Retd.) Former Special Envoy to the Prime Minister and former Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs, GoI
    38. Aditi Mehta, IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan
    39. Sonalini Mirchandani, IFS (Resigned) GoI
    40. Noor Mohammad, IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, National Disaster Management Authority, Govt. of India
    41. Deb Mukharji, IFS (Retd.) Former High Commissioner to Bangladesh and former Ambassador to Nepal
    42. Shiv Shankar Mukherjee, IFS (Retd.) Former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom
    43. Nagalsamy, IA&AS (Retd.) Former Principal Accountant General, Tamil Nadu & Kerala
    44. Sobha Nambisan, IAS (Retd.) Former Principal Secretary (Planning), Govt. of Karnataka
    45. Ramesh Narayanaswami, IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of NCT of Delhi
    46. Surendra Nath, IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Finance Commission, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
    47. P. Joy Oommen, IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Chhattisgarh
    48. Amitabha Pande, IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Inter-State Council, GoI
    49. Maxwell Pereira, IPS (Retd.) Former Joint Commissioner of Police, Delhi
    50. Alok Perti, IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Coal, GoI
    51. R. Poornalingam, IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Textiles, GoI
    52. Rajesh Prasad, IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to the Netherlands
    53. R.M. Premkumar, IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
    54. T.R. Raghunandan, IAS (Retd.) Former Joint Secretary, Ministry of Panchayati Raj, GoI
    55. N.K. Raghupathy, IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Staff Selection Commission, GoI
    56. V.P. Raja, IAS. (Retd.) Former Chairman, Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission
    57. P.V. Ramesh, IAS (Retd.) Former Addl. Chief Secretary to the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh
    58. Satwant Reddy, IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Chemicals and Petrochemicals, GoI
    59. Vijaya Latha Reddy, IFS (Retd.) Former Deputy National Security Adviser, GoI
    60. Julio Ribeiro, IPS (Retd.) Former Adviser to Governor of Punjab & former Ambassador to Romania
    61. Aruna Roy, IAS (Resigned)
    62. A.K. Samanta, IPS (Retd.) Former Director General of Police (Intelligence), Govt. of West Bengal
    63. N.C. Saxena, IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Planning Commission, GoI
    64. A. Selvaraj, IRS (Retd.) Former Chief Commissioner, Income Tax, Chennai, GoI
    65. Ardhendu Sen, IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
    66. Abhijit Sengupta, IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GoI
    67. Aftab Seth, IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Japan
    68. Ashok Kumar Sharma, IFoS (Retd.) Former MD, State Forest Development Corporation, Govt. of Gujarat
    69. Ashok Kumar Sharma, IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Finland and Estonia
    70. Navrekha Sharma, IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Indonesia
    71. Raju Sharma, IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh
    72. Avay Shukla, IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary (Forests & Technical Education), Govt. of Himachal Pradesh
    73. Sujatha Singh, IFS (Retd.) Former Foreign Secretary, GoI
    74. Tirlochan Singh, IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, National Commission for Minorities, GoI
    75. A.K. Srivastava, IAS (Retd.) Former Administrative Member, Madhya Pradesh Administrative Tribunal
    76. Parveen Talha, IRS (Retd.) Former Member, Union Public Service Commission
    77. Anup Thakur, IAS (Retd.) Former Member, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission
    78. P.S.S. Thomas, IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary General, National Human Rights Commission
    79. Geetha Thoopal, IRAS (Retd.) Former General Manager, Metro Railway, Kolkata
    80. Jawed Usmani, IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh & former Chief Information Commissioner, Uttar Pradesh
    81. Ramani Venkatesan, IAS (Retd.) Former Director General, YASHADA, Govt. of Maharashtra
    82. Rudi Warjri, IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Colombia, Ecuador and Costa Rica

 

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