Former bureaucrats and defence officials who have served in senior government posts and are still active in public life came together on Saturday to discuss the challenges being faced by civil servants under the current regime. Brought together under the banner of India Inclusive, the retired government officials were unanimous in their opinion that political pressure has increased in last four years and the rights granted to people by the Constitutions are now in peril.
Former Navy chief Admiral Laxminarayan Ramdas, former Air Marshals Veer Narayan and Kapil Kak, former chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, Commodore Lokesh K Batra, Aruna Roy, Ashok Bajpayee and retired IAS officer Tuktuk Ghosh were some of the main participants in this discussion.
Admiral Ramdas noted that the Constitution, the most ‘sacred’ book of the Indian democracy, was under attack under the government. “Be it defense services or civil services, all are accountable to the people of this country. But now political commitment is being made the benchmark, and this is dangerous,” he said.
Air Marshal Kapil Kak, too, raised questions on the increasing political control over civil and defense services. “Defense services are kept incharge of civil services, which is why the requirements of the defense are not being paid proper attention. In the present environment, it is becoming increasingly difficult to save the independence and integrity of the services,” said Kak.
Talking to National Herald on the sidelines, he said, “Tension is being whipped deliberately in the name of Kashmir so that it spreads across the country and the Modi government benefits.”
Referring to Jammu and Kashmir, Air Marshal Kak said that the conditions there were deteriorating constantly. “The coming days will be very problematic in the region,” he noted.
Retired secretary from the Planning Commission, senior IAS official NC Saxena mentioned the cases of those officers who were harassed for their good work and said that such a situation is being created that if you are working efficiently following the laws and if you are courageous and uncompromising, then you will be harassed- whether it is the case of Durga Shakti Pal or Sanjeev Chaturvedi or the police officer Rupa. He also said that political pressure existed even earlier. But now it’s become very clear, direct and strong.
These officials talked openly about communal discrimination and bias and told that in 1992, after the Babri mosque demolition, celebrations were held in Missouri Academy and sweets were distributed. The anti-Muslim tendency has now crept deep inside.
Former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah emphasised that the class of people joining UPSC had also changed. “A large number of people from ordinary backgrounds, Muslim professionals and other professionals are also joining the civil services,” he noted.
“Therefore, it is our responsibility to keep the UPSC unbiased. It is our responsibility to protect our Constitution,” he added.
“Undoubtedly, we want changes in the civil services. We want it to be more pro-people. But the way the Modi government is acting, it is sudden, one-sided and dangerous. We must save the reputation and credibility of UPSC,” said Habibullah.
Former finance secretary Tuktuk Ghosh said that there was always an effort to create an impression that civil services were very great, which is wrong. “We always try to impress political leaders, and do not focus on our work,” began Ghosh.
Elaborating it with an example, she said, “If the pradhan sevak, the prime minister, talks about ease of doing business, then all the bureaucrats start focusing on that,” she said.
Ghosh went on, “Nobody bothers to think that it is more essential to work towards creating a condition conducive to ease of living. Bureaucracy needs to look at itself, only then the institutions will grow stronger.”
(Translated into English by Pragati Saxena).