New Delhi: With anti-China sentiment intensifying across the country in the wake of the death of 20 Indian soldiers in Galwan Valley, a section of Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers seem to have joined the chorus against China on social media, and have called for a boycott of Chinese products and mobile applications.
On 30 May, days after the first reports of incursions by the Chinese soldiers into the Galwan Valley were reported, Chetan Sanghi, a senior IAS officer who is the chief secretary of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, tweeted: “My next phone will be #MadeInIndia”.
Sanghi’s tweet was accompanied with a picture captioned “Congratulation You are awesome, No China App found in your system (sic).”
— Chetan Sanghi (@ChetanSanghi) May 30, 2020
A day later, Sanghi’s subordinate in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Anjali Sehrawat, a young IAS officer of the 2013 batch of the AGMUT cadre, wrote on Twitter: “Throwing away already purchased Chinese phones will not hurt their economy! Boycotting new purchases will!”
Sehrawat was responding to a tweet by a user, who pointed out that a picture tweeted by Sehrawat was clicked by a phone made by Chinese company Redmi.
‘Boycott is about refusing stuff before it is bought’
Another IAS officer of the 2013 batch, Rajendra Bharud, who is posted as a collector in Maharashtra, urged people to boycott Chinese products.
“Salute the courage & sacrifice of brave officers/soldiers who laid their lives protecting territory of our Nation, condolences to their families — China must be sent a strong message registering India’s protest & anguish #IndiaChinaFaceOff #BoycottChineseProducts,” Bharud tweeted on 16 June.
Salute the courage & sacrifice of brave officers/soldiers who laid their lives protecting territory of our Nation, condolences to their families -China must be sent a strong message registering India’s protest & anguish #IndiaChinaFaceOff #BoycottChineseProducts
— Dr Rajendra Bharud IAS (@IASRajBharud) June 16, 2020
Aditi Garg, another IAS officer, echoed Sehrawat’s views Wednesday, and argued it was imprudent to first purchase Chinese products and then boycott them.
“Mostly #boycott is about refusing stuff before it is bought. And not about paying for expensive, foreign stuff through your nose and then smashing it to pieces. A classic case of cutting off your nose to spite your face! #JustAThought #BoycottChineseProducts,” Garg tweeted.
Mostly #boycott is about refusing stuff before it is bought. And not about paying for expensive, foreign stuff through your nose and then smashing it to pieces. A classic case of cutting off your nose to spite your face!#JustAThought #BoycottChineseProducts
— Aditi Garg (@AditiGargIAS) June 17, 2020
Rules prohibit officers from speaking on govt matters
An IAS officer, who spoke to ThePrint, said these are one-off cases, and the sentiment is not shared widely by all officers.
He also said it is against the conduct rules of officers to opine on sensitive government matters unless they are authorised to do so.
“Strictly speaking, the rules prohibit officers from opining on Indian or foreign affairs, while visiting foreign countries,” said the officer, who didn’t want to be identified.
“But the point is there are several other rules, which prohibit officers in general from opining on government policies… The problem seems to be that when you are on the same page as the government, no action is taken, and when you are not, then they invoke all those laws to censor you,” he said.
According to Rule 7 of the conduct rules: “No member of the service shall, in any radio broadcast or communication over any public media or in any document published anonymously, pseudonymously or in his own name or in the name of any other person… make any statement of fact or opinion, which has the effect of an adverse criticism of any current or recent policy or action of the central government or a state government; is capable of embarrassing the relations between the central government and any state government; or is capable of embarrassing the relations between the central government and the government of any foreign state.”
Referring to this rule, the above-quoted officer said: “If you want, you can use this against officers for saying they embarrass the relations of the country with a foreign government… But the point is who will?”
T.R. Raghunandan, a retired IAS officer and author of the book ‘Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Bureaucracy But Were Afraid To Ask’, said the conduct rules “are completely useless and archaic”.
“… They were drafted in the 70s when the only way for officers to communicate publicly would be by talking to the press or by radio,” he said. “They say nothing about social media, giving governments complete subjectivity to penalise some officers and look the other way in other cases.”
“Like in this case, one would imagine that the government would like this groundswell of patriotism so nothing would be done,” he added. “But if I was an officer, I would never ever comment on foreign policy as a matter of principle.”
ThePrint reached the spokesperson of Department of Personnel and Training Shambu Chaudhary via texts, who said he would get back with a response. This report will be updated when Chaudhary responds.