Arts & Culture

Silence Amid A Storm: The Bureaucrats of India

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 The ailing Indian Bureaucratic System needs reforms to counter obstinacy and silence assumed by the officers.

Kannan Gopinathan, Former Indian Civil Servant, told The Hindu in October 2019 that, he was ‘more disturbed by the silence of good people than atrocities committed by the administration’. A few days after the abrogation of Article 370, Gopinathan resigned from the services as a mark of protest. This raises an important question: Why are Indian Bureaucrats silent?

The Civil Services Examination holds the responsibility of assessing these bureaucrats before they become one. To sail through, candidates must be well versed with subjects like polity, history, and geography, among others. Most of the candidates eventually get ‘manufactured’ in order to clear the examination, owing to a humongous syllabus. These candidates, therefore, have become word-perfect in Indian Polity and the holy book which is supposed to steer it, the Constitution of India. The Civil Servants of India have an innate responsibility of guarding the Constitution. But, silence is the weakest weapon in times of crisis. Except for Gopinathan, diplomats of India have assumed utter silence.

Historically, civil servants have been at one with the Government, owing to laws that prevent them from taking a stand. The Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1964, clearly state that “no Government servant shall resort to or in any way abet any form of strike in connection with any matter pertaining to his service or that of any other government servant. It provides for disciplinary action.”

Silence is one thing, obstinacy is another. Civil servants are known to be inflexible and stubborn when it comes to ideological preferences. They tend not to alter their leanings, and history is a witness to that.

Harsh Mander, Former Civil Servant, who quit after 22 years in Service, told the Outlook India Magazine, “There are two factors that guide the bureaucracy: conscience and obedience. I’ve always believed one’s conscience has a higher value as obedience pushes you to fascism. Bureaucrats are servants of the people and not of the Government. How can one be faithful to partisanship especially when it is part of state policy? Bureaucrats enjoy a lot of power. It is in these moments their services are called to test.”

Harsh Mander protested against many laws enacted by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Government. So did S. Sasikanth Senthil, a 2009 batch Karnataka cadre IAS officer, who resigned in 2019, when he felt that his fundamental Right to Expression was being hindered by being a part of the Bureaucratic System.

Their ability to dissent lies in resignation. The system is shaped in such a manner that there is no way for a people’s servant to exercise Freedom of Expression. Naresh Chandra Saxena’s book, What Ails The IAS And Why It Fails To Deliver: An Insider’s View explains why the Indian bureaucratic system is flawed.

Structural reforms in the system are required to counter the injustice faced by the officers. It is time for bureaucrats to speak up.

Feature Image credits: The Print

Kuber Bathla

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Journalism has been called the “first rough draft of history”. D.U.B may be termed as the first rough draft of DU history. Freedom to Express.

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