IAS officers
PM Modi addressing IAS officers | Photo: narendramodi.in
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New Delhi: Hounding of senior officers, protests across the country and attempts — perceived and real — to change the constitutional ethos of the country have sparked a kind of unrest among civil servants, who have taken to WhatsApp groups to share their concerns and grievances.

Several IAS, IPS and IRS officers who ThePrint spoke to said there is a palpable sense of vulnerability, insecurity and concern among officers, which they are wary of expressing publicly, but do so in the safety of closed WhatsApp groups with their peers from the services.

While several officers who support government policies have started taking to Twitter and Facebook to throw their weight behind the government, those critical or skeptical are taking to closed WhatsApp groups to express their fears.

Among the messages being circulated are lines from the classic poem by German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller, “First they came for the socialists…”, excerpts from George Orwell’s Animal Farm and those from the Constitution underlining the democratic and secular foundation of the country.

There is a growing sense among officers that the government can come after anyone they find inconvenient,” said an IAS officer who did not wish to be named. “Officers aren’t named but when the likes of (Election Commissioner Ashok) Lavasa are targeted, then messages suggesting that it could be any of us next, are forwarded.”

Let’s not fool ourselves. There’s no protection — not even constitutional protection. It’s a Master-Slave relationship,” an IAS officer wrote in a message to his group.  


Also read: Modi govt plans to scrap ‘opaque’ empanelment process for civil servants, to advertise posts 


The spectre of investigating agencies

The growing sense of insecurity among senior IAS officers stems from the perception that the Modi government is unleashing investigative agencies on several civil servants — serving and retired — who are seen to be close to the Congress party or those seen to be antagonistic to the current dispensation.

Earlier this year, six IAS officers, including former NITI Aayog CEO Sindhushree Khullar, were brought under the CBI scrutiny in the 13-year old INX media case, in which former finance minister P. Chidambaram was arrested. Subsequently, over 70 bureaucrats wrote to PM Modi expressing concern over the prosecution of the officers and that the development has had a chilling effect on diligent and honest officers.

At the same time, agencies like the CBI and the ED have been investigating Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa’s family ever since Lavasa, a retired IAS officer, dissented in the clean chits given by the EC to Modi and BJP President Amit Shah in cases of alleged violation of the Model Code of Conduct in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Moreover, with the government shunting out or abruptly transferring several secretary-level officers like former finance secretary Subhash Garg or former human resource development secretaries R. Subrahmanyam and Rina Ray, there is also a sense of unpredictability and insecurity among senior officers.

Officers agree that the cases have had a chilling effect on the bureaucracy with several officers fearing a backlash from the government if they do not fall in line.

While not all officers are willing to put their views out on WhatsApp groups — given the possibility of “moles” on groups, some officers send private messages to vocal officers extending their support, the officer quoted above said.

A lot of times when I have posted something on groups, some officers send me messages personally saying they agree with me, sometimes they ask me to be cautious,” said the officer.

Another officer said while closed WhatsApp groups are considered “safe spaces,” officers know they can be “exposed” by fellow batchmates. “Yet, people are sharing their views because people are genuinely concerned… Otherwise, even we know that when you put something out in cyberspace, there is no hiding after that.”

Officers did point out though that the ones in crucial positions always refrain from expressing their views. 


Also read: To break IAS grip, Modi govt is picking more non-IAS officers for top jobs 


Policies being discussed, criticised

While civil servants are barred from criticising any government policies openly, on private group chats, voices against the Modi government’s Citizenship Amendment Act, the government response to nationwide protests, among others are growing.

On private groups, parallels are being drawn with (US President) Donald Trump’s travel ban… Not all officers, but certainly a few of them are talking about how Article 14 is being turned on its head,” said the IAS officer quoted above.

Some of the messages sent on groups are as follows: “Going ahead, the government could start prescribing different punishments for offenders of the same religion”, “India is becoming a noisy country with no real power – soft power or hard power”, “India can never become China, and now India is not even the India we knew.”

There is also concern about the civil service reforms initiated by the Modi government. “When we read about the government wanting to change cadre and service allocation rules or government wanting to end empanelment, concerns are shared on WhatsApp that these times could see the end of the civil service as we know it.”

The second officer quoted above said not all officers have the means to leave the civil service and take up another career, but there is a sense of frustration at the government policies.

An IRS officer agreed. “We do talk about how the priorities of the government are misplaced…That instead of building the economy, they are breaking the building blocks of our democracy,” he said. “The bureaucracy is seen as separate from the people, but we are an extension of the people, and have the same fears.”

We also wonder why the government is perpetually in election mode, but have to put our heads down and keep working — lest we are sent to kaala pani,” the IRS officer said.

However, an IPS officer was not optimistic about what may come out of this. “Civil servants by and large are the privileged of the privileged. They are driven by self-interest… Most of us will criticise in whispers, but do nothing more,” the officer said. “When the BJP loses power nationally, then many of us will come out and write books on how these were turbulent times.”  


Also read: Modi govt to slash IPS posts by 50% at Centre as ‘states refuse to spare them’ 


 

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45 Comments Share Your Views

45 COMMENTS

  1. Why are people showering so much shade on IAS and IPS officers over their concern on government policies? It’s crystal clear that our present government is doing favourism on
    their supporters n on religion with various hideous excuses…no matter which govt., India should stand on our supreme constitution but sadly even our constitution is at stake! you will understand this only if you are a non-hindu or u awaken your conscience but clearly many don’t want to just cus they’re on the safer end.

  2. They have enjoyed powers with zero responsibility for far too long. Now when slowly they are being made accountable, they say they are feeling vulnerable ! Don’t get scared. Discharge your duties properly and Perform….

  3. Well ofcourse “some” IAS officers will be criticizing the government policy. After all no government can please all.
    I am sure if you were to interview officers from Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Narsimha Rao, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Manmohan Singh’s times you will find the same observation.
    If you were a true Journalist you would provide statistic in percentage terms to draw any conclusion. But we all know you will not do that because of your biased reporting. Let me have a go at it.
    “Some readers of The Print think Sanya Dhingra is a biased journo trying to manipulate opinion according to her own political leanings”.
    “Some” here is subjective and open to interpretation.

    When you do this you border on fake news because this is speculative news. If you can do it then so can the people you seem to be targeting. Are you really any different then ?

  4. Enough is Enough you people have looted India and their people for 65 yrs. It’s the time to snub these officers let them be afraid at least now you understand you are civil servants give responsibility to serve India and people of India

  5. There is an absolute schism between honest and corrupt lot amongst civil servants . On ground zero they are the saviour of society and common mass , yet do they act so ..They donot , mostly . Most of them , act at the behest of their political masters ..A few who are reverred are upright and don’t fear any one ….
    Those who are hand in glove wity corrupt masters , may fear the present regime and can use any terminology to have falsely perceived threat, which largely suits them .

  6. These are the very same bureaucrats who built the red tape forts within which they looted to their hearts’ content in collusion with the Congress govts of the past. It was these bureaucrats who stonewalled every attempt at reform, be it economic or defence or foreign policy. It is their inefficiency & ineptitude that has been responsible for India’s anaemic economy, advising viciously the govts of the day. The arrogance & lethargy with which these babus respond in any govt office, be it the DG Shipping or Customs or IT, an ordinary man would want to see these people humiliated and targeted just as Modi GOvt is doing. Let them quit and find their careers outside. How many of these IAS & IPS are advocates with experience in the Supreme Court to adjudicate on violation of article 14? That is clearly political and the bureaucrats must pay for being political. The hounding, insecurity & fears are all well deserved.

  7. Is NRC n CAA, NPR necessary at this time?
    Do we not hv to deal with economic slowdown, unemployment, farmer suicide, inflation etc..
    Remember! There was an expense of 1600 cr for NCR in Assam alone.
    If implemented Nationwide NRC will cost India over 44,000 cr. On top of that every businessman has to stand in line leaving his business thereby further slowing down the economy.

  8. go back check skeletons past nehru.indira , rajiv and EVEN UPA ….CHECK IPS IAS ASSETS AND ACCOUNT JN DIFFERENT BANKS

  9. There is one master squander Atul Chandra most corrupt sitting in DGCA..with 03 cases against him including sexual harassment..and see our Govt still not transferred him out despite the clear case of conflict of interests…kudos to such contradictions.

  10. I see no elections in the near future, why this propoganda? Whom are you proping up, 2024 is clearly 4.5 years away…..save it for 2023

    • It seems you are not understanding anything about what the IAS and IPS want to say they are implying that whenever they stand against the government they are transferred and demoted even if the government is wrong…thats what happened to EC he pointed out the mishappenings done by bjp in election he was accused of some 13 year old case that he didnt even commit…it doent matter if you are corrupt or not you will be punished if you speak against the government…this is pure dictatorship…all those who are supporting bjp are nothing but people who only care about their religion and not india as a whole

      • True! These things people are n’t willing to accept. Whoever may b the govt. honesty should prevail without snubbing any ones freedom. If the govt. is good, he should be open to critics thus allowing diverse opinions for paving the path of development.

      • What is important why an issue officer allies fear if he/ she is honest and noble.simply standing against the govt implies his/ her vested interests or doubtful integrity..

  11. The Concerns raised by the IAS & IPS officers are similar to the ones acting as Judges on various levels in Indian Judicial system. The Govt. is directly interacting these guys in the name of training programs, seminars or conferences. Some are favored due to religious alliances and are given higher post and responsibilities, even travelling to a foreign land for training purpose e.g. many training sessions held in Israel which was newer seen earlier. At times it seems the Govt. is taking a direct view of governance from a foreign country creating a world of fear for its Citizens and specially for someone going out of line. The concerns of these officers are legitimate and more worrisome in the event of economic slowdown with the IMF sounding warnings time and again to set the house in order or loose the shine. The Rightist doesn’t bother to look into these grievances , instead the basic fabric of the democracy is at target, to be brought down by changing or hitting the constitution hard enough and make it just a piece of paper in back office. The unemployment ratio has already touched 50% mark and all these unemployed youth become a soft target to run a propaganda of hatred among us all. Dividing people on the basis of religion was left on us by the erstwhile Britishers who successfully applied this weapon and ruled 200+ years. The same weapon is more successfully applied with a technology touch to reach every citizen it wants to target and these officers are helpless in curbing this challenge. The moles are getting more power against their own performance and officers with guarded homes and quarters are feeling more insecure. Newer has been this India after independence which recently took two Hiroshima like bombs in the form of Demonetization and GST which has wiped out the status of being a dignified businessmen to a road side beggar left behind to commit suicides like farmers. Much more challenge will be faced by these officer to the extent that IAS and IPS will be the least seeked job in coming times.

  12. Only corrupt IAS, IPS and IRS fear of Modi government. These corrupt officers should be placed where they should be i.e. in Tihar jail.

  13. This that we see is nightmarish. All round, 360 degrees is just the beginning of the end. The India we bloomers came to believe and grow up in, steadily rose to heights to be considered as strong politically, economically, education wise, skill sets wise, as a leading performer such as in cricket are now witnessing a cataclysmic fall from a very hard northward curve. What a shame, what a cruel act by a force that lives in a past that never succeeded in destroying a 5000 year old civilization. The beginning of the end is what is being played out unless some magical counter force emerges for RIGHT/ GOOD to prevail over WRONG/BAD.

    • Yes… From the fear it’s very visible they are corrupt.. I never feared anyone in my life unless I myself committed a mistake…

  14. Only a sinner fears the punishment. If a few beureaucrats are afraid of CBI, it means they have committed mistakes in the past and are liable. Any investigation agency can go only after a liable person and not the honest. And the honest is never scared. Beareaucrats took advantage of weak governments in the past and had their fun time. When a stern government is enforcing accountability and responsibility they feel uncomfortable, suppressed, vulnerable, insecure what not!!?

    • It is this very mindset that is troubling the country. It seems you are completely unaware of transfers or postings that are in effect demotions for any civil servant that speaks out against the govt/minister or takes a stand on any matter. In your critique you make three assumptions, all of which could be wrong: 1) that this govt is always doing the right or good thing and 2) that any civil servant that doesn’t speak out has a negative past and 3) that this govt will not do anything to anyone that speaks out or acts against them.

      • Transfers are the prerogative of the govt, FYI. Kejriwal (anti-bjp) has been crying to get transfer powers of delhi officers for years.
        And saying “it is this very mindset that’s troubling the country” is also your assumption, and can be false.

    • BJP only learnt these tactics from Congress. Moreover, why did they not raise their voice when kashmiri pandits were evicted from JnK. I am aware IAS and IPS are self centred and rarely care for the welfare of their subordinates.

  15. corrupts always appeal to higher ideals to hide their corrupt ways. i am happy that finally these congi lapd*gs are being shown their place by a strong govt.

  16. Ultimately it is the output of the system that is diminished. That is visible in all domains. Mandarins do not have to contest elections every five years. If the air quality in Delhi has become injurious to health, they can head back to the states. There are still enough sheltered lagoons in each cadre where they can while away the hours, dreaming / hoping, This too shall pass. 2. Not even a child in kindergarten believes WhatsApp is encrypted beyond interception.

  17. After all for what purpose these IAS, IPS and IRS for? They are servants only. Government servants. They can master with their subordinates. But not with the public.
    If India could not develop, it is only because of these government servants.

    Can you name any central or state government which had utilised their workforce to its full potential?

  18. “Civil servants by and large are the privileged of the privileged. They are driven by self-interest… Most of us will criticise in whispers, but do nothing more,” Officers with a backbone are a rare spices . But nothing will happen we all gave up hope as a nation and will just hope this too shall pass

    • I believe most of the IAS officers, at least in the initial phases of their career are lot more idealistic, society driven…. maybe it is something in the milieu of the bureaucratic system that makes them lose their ideal or backbone as you say……

      In Karnataka we had two valiant IAS officers Kannan Gopinathan and Sasikanth Senthil who quit the government service in protest against their perceived injustices in kashmir after revocation of Article 370 .. Upright, honest and determined people are there every everywhere…

      • Kannan Gopinath was a wonderful officer. I respect him as an IAS officer than what he is now. I call him a coward to throw away the post when compared to officers who got transferred 10 times in 10 years of service. As an IAS officer you can serve people far better than being an anarchist.

        • Rajesh bro first become an IAS officer, get the pain of becoming it then speak.. an ordinary man won’t quit his job.This is an example of bravery. It’s like Non Co-operation movement when Gandhiji called to quit govt.job in British rule for Country’s Independence.May I know what the post u hold,this time atleast be honest?

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