Three IAS officers have resigned from the service in the last one month. Kannan Gopinathan, an AGMUT-cadre officer, and Sasikanth Senthil, a Karnataka-cadre officer, resigned over ‘lack of freedom of expression’ and abrogation of Article 370 by the Modi government. Last week, a 2011-batch IAS officer Kashish Mittal resigned after he was transferred to the northeast.
ThePrint asks: IAS resignations: Are civil services losing their charm in Modi era?
Civil services a dream career for millions of aspiring youngsters in India
Lalit K. Panwar
Former IAS officer
I don’t think civil services are losing their charm in the Modi era. This is evident from the fact that more than half a million Indians sit for the UPSC exam every year.
The recent resignations by two young IAS officers — S. Sasikanth Senthil (a 2009 batch Karnataka-cadre IAS officer) and Kannan Gopinathan (former secretary in the power department in Daman and Diu, and Dadra and Nagar Haveli) – surely indicate a kind of disenchantment with the central government. This is something I appreciate. However, it is important to note that these are exceptions.
One must remember the proverb, ‘the exception that proves the rule’. In this case, the rule is that civil services are a dream career for millions of aspiring youngsters in India. It is a profession that offers incredible opportunities and is an effective platform for young talents to help make a difference. Civil services enable them to contribute to nation-building and to administrative management in national sectors that are socio-economically important.
We must respect the decision of these young IAS officers, who have chosen a path that many won’t
Karan Bir Singh Sidhu
Special Chief Secretary, Government of Punjab
Yes, the civil services — read the IAS — are progressively losing their charm, but it would be fallacious to attribute this to the polity and the style of governance of the Narendra Modi government. Today, young IAS officers are highly qualified and motivated, with specialisation in diverse disciplines. Their 10-15 years of experience in “field” assignments makes their CVs highly attractive in the global job market. These officers may get challenging career opportunities outside the IAS — in the corporate sector, NGOs, personal startups, multilateral institutions and even active politics.
All these alternative career paths are capable of providing these officers a financial security comparable to the civil services. Moreover, the tag of an ex-IAS officer will also help distinguish them from other ordinary applicants, while their batch and cadre network will continue providing them a formal and informal support system.
A few civil servants may have felt restricted by the shackles of the Conduct Rules, especially with regard to freedom of speech, but then these guidelines have not been recently introduced. I feel that we should respect the decision of these young officers, who have chosen a path that many won’t. The IAS, as a service, should embrace them as its “brand ambassadors” in non-traditional fields.
Views are personal
IAS officers who want to resign usually go quietly. There’s no need to create tamasha
Additional chief secretary, Rajasthan
In context of the recent resignations by IAS officers, it is not the civil services that have lost their charm in the Modi era. Instead, it seems that the Leftist ideology has no takers now in governance-related matters, making civil servants with such committed ideology uncomfortable. It is very evident that the Left’s heydays are over.
In the case of Kannan Gopinathan from the AGMUT cadre, he was serving as the secretary in power and urban development departments in Dadra and Nagar Haveli and found his prospects of serving in Delhi limited, which is why he resigned. When you are posted in the AGMUT cadre these days, you only get to spend 30-40 per cent of your tenure in Delhi (GNCTD). Moreover, he is trying for a career in politics and is believed to be close to the CPI(M), which is why he made a show of his flood relief work in Kerala with the help of fellow travellers in media.
In the case of S. Sasikanth Senthil, who is a 2009 batch Karnataka-cadre IAS officer, he is reportedly facing a number of corruption charges and was a favourite with the previous government. He is also being investigated because he allegedly used the SC quota to get into the civil services despite not being eligible for it. Therefore, he is trying to make his resignation look virtuous before he actually gets thrown out.
In the case of 2011-batch IAS officer Kashish Mittal, I believe he just wants to stay in Delhi and does not want to be posted in Arunachal Pradesh. This reflects very poorly on him in terms of his commitment to the civil services.
It is important to note that people who want to resign usually go quietly. There is absolutely no need for loud speeches and rhetoric. I also think it is high time that a proper format be devised for resignation of IAS officers. There is no need for this tamasha.
Modi era is characterised by a sense of fear where IAS officers are forced to become propagandists
Former IAS officer and Director, Avantika Foundation
It is too early to say that civil services are losing their charm, but if the recent trend of resignations continues, then it will be cause of concern. Of the three recent resignations, two were clearly about conflict of conscience, and the Narendra Modi government should take note of this.
While teaching IAS aspirants in Mussoorie, I have seen that youngsters today are extremely focused and committed. It is a matter of great concern that people are leaving the civil services citing a crisis of conscience.
If there is a disillusionment in the IAS, the Modi government needs to take stock of this.
In the Modi era, there is a huge reliance on IAS officers and sometimes they are preferred over BJP workers, something which was also witnessed during Indira Gandhi’s regime. IAS officers are chosen for key positions based on loyalty and familiarity with the regime. In that sense, it is an extremely centralised system.
The Modi era is also characterised by a sense of fear where IAS officers have been forced to become propagandists and anyone who annoys Modi is chased away, transferred. The character-assassination and backlash faced by the two IAS officers who resigned is ridiculous.
Reasons for resignations may be varied, but they all show that civil services are calling out for help
Special correspondent, ThePrint
For decades, the civil services in India have enjoyed an unparalleled social standing. A share in power, job security, and the possibility of bringing about change have made the profession, particularly the IAS, one of the most coveted in the country.
In the past, people have left civil services for better opportunities in the private sector or to join politics. Unlike the recent resignations of G. Kannan, S. Sasikanth Senthil or Kashish Mittal, in the past, the prospect of more money or more power had made IAS officers resign.
It is too early to call the recent resignations a part of a larger trend, but there are legitimate concerns about these instances giving rise to a culture of “protest resignations”. Disillusionment with the government’s policies, resentment towards an abrupt or unjustified transfer or the reluctance to go and serve in a remote part of the country — the reasons for the resignations may be varied, but they all betray the frustrations and desperation of a system calling out for help.
The political class cannot afford to antagonise or alienate the civil servants. They may be there to execute the decisions of the political party in power, but these officers cannot be reduced to political propagandists or dummies for the government. The political class must responsibly respond to such resignations of IAS officers before they become a trend.
By Revathi Krishnan, journalist at ThePrint