Breaking free from “Steel frame of India”

Sunny Dua

April 21st of every year is celebrated as ‘Civil Services Day’ where civil servants renew their commitments to public service and excellence in work. On this day in 1947 first home minister of independent India, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel while addressing probationers at Metcalf House, Delhi had described them as ‘steel frame of India’. Many refer the services as a bridge between public and government while others believed that when something goes wrong at executive level, bureaucrats, capable of bringing an order into the system, set things right. However, over a period of time an unprecedented unrest amongst civil servants and wrongs done by some of them have not only put a question mark on elite services but also corroded this “Steel Frame”.
Reports of many civil servants choosing to leave their promising careers for other professions, indulgence of a chosen few in corrupt practices, unabated efforts to get the cadres changed or allotted as per their choices, succumbing to political pressures besides many practicing lobbyism while destroying the system to the core have sent a wrong signal amongst youngsters desirous of getting into elite services. Despite this maneuvering, the only silver lining visible is that the profession hasn’t lost its sheen completely with number of those corroding ‘steel frame’ continuing to be far less than those protecting it with pure sanctity.
The recent resignation of 1983 born and 2009 batch IAS officer (Dr) Shah Faesal hailing from Lolab has given social media warriors and all others including politicians and civil society members besides officials enough reasons to ‘gossip’ about. This is not for the first time a civil servant has resigned. Earlier also a good number of IAS, IPS, IFS and for that matter KAS officers have resigned to join politics, social work, businesses or private companies for varied reasons. While many have chosen to complete their service years and then sought extensions or new assignments in Government itself others have preferred to join politics and get elected to upper houses to live their post retirement lives that way only.
There’s another lot who believed in the power of democracy, left civil services and rose to become chief ministers or union ministers and left an indelible mark on hearts and souls of their loved ones. However, Shah Faesal’s resignation has raised many eyebrows for the reason that he was first student from Jammu and Kashmir to have topped civil services examinations – a rare feat and while tendering his resignation cited unabated killings in Kashmir as prime reason of calling it quit. He, however stayed silent on ‘killings’ and didn’t prefix any word before it which could have been that of militants, civilians or soldiers. Whatever may be the reason but he chose to break free from “Steel Frame” and is maintaining a silence on his future plans setting at rest all speculations about him.
Shah Faesal’s resignation like many other issues has divided our society with many siding with him and others condemning him. But then this is like jumping the gun especially when tendering resignation is his personal choice. So far as his allegation of what he called ‘lack of any sincere reach-out from the Union Government’ is concerned it’s too harsh and needs to be understood that strengthening democracy by decentralizing powers through Panchayats and ULB polls was biggest ever olive branch that could have been extended in this state to win over masses and make them partners in development.
So far as other allegations like ‘marginalization’ of a section of society or ‘intolerance’ are concerned that’s nothing to do with any of the civil servants or their resignations. Many governments against wishes of people in past have fought wars with neighbors, crushed those who raised heads against system within the country, sent peace keeping forces to other nations, had their hands in blood of minorities and even hanged freedom fighters like Bhagat Singh, Raj Guru and Sukhdev or fired on hapless people in Jallianwallan Bagh in Amritsar. Those were their policies which sometimes failed and at other times succeeded.
These Governments met their fates but those guided by All India Services (Conduct Rules) or State Civil Services Rules continued to serve in the system and if ever their conscious was hurt, they walked out of it gracefully to do what others couldn’t and for that even if they had to join politics they did and made a difference. Shah Faesal at least didn’t chose to sit on files, spoil anyone’s career, not entangled anyone into legal battles, not indulged in corrupt practices, didn’t join any lobby for prize postings, didn’t wait to enjoy perks and salaries and then write books post retirement and instead talked about globalization, climate change, energy challenges and dreamt of seeing a Nobel Laureate from our state. Tough his certain remarks like ‘Rapistan’ and ‘Killings’ didn’t go well down the throat of majority people.
So far as long he hasn’t picked up gun, want to serve his constituency, bring in reforms or has a fire to change the game let us keep our half-baked opinions to ourselves and let him walk the talk. Though many in Kashmir too have condemned him for roping in not so well defined ‘killings’ yet he has earned quite an ire from other regions which could have been prevented by weighing words. In this era of social media we too are bound to give our opinion on just everything even if that doesn’t pertain to us or creates unrest in the society for no reasons. This resignation is one such example where everyone wants to be heard in a din created by them only.
If you take this development as a normal rather personal then it’s nothing but an individual’s choice. Prior to Shah Faisal, KAS officer Saraf Singh Nag too had resigned to join politics and contested from Reasi unsuccessfully. Sonali Kumar and her husband Arun Kumar, during service preferred to keep mum, swallowed wrongs and post retirement became ‘accidental writers’. Similarly many like B R Kundal, Vijay Bakaya and Sheikh Ghulam Rasool rose to become chief secretaries and post retirement chose to join different political parties to silently serve their terms as members of upper house. One amongst them even enjoyed a fortnight of power as a minister.
Similarly, Hamid-ullah-Khan became Advisor to Governor and many likes Naem Akhtar, Mehboob Iqbal and Peer Mohd Hussain after completion of their services are doing active politics. At national level, Dr Manmohan Singh is one such example of a bureaucrat who not only remained finance minister but also served the country as its Prime Minister twice. Having their eyes on politics as vibrant medium of serving people, several top notch civil servants had zeroed on to politics to help poor. These officials have also observed that there’s more autonomy in politics than being in a career that’s guided by rule books.
To name a few, civil servants like Yashwant Sinha, Ajit Jogi, Jayaprakash Narayan, Alphons Kannanthanam, Debabrata Kantha, Jesudasu Seelam, J Sundara Sekhar, O.P. Choudhary, Meira Kumar, Mani Shankar Aiyar, Arvind Kejriwal, Hardeep Singh Puri and RK Singh are those who not only left IAS, IFS, IRS or IPS but proved their mettle after joining politics. A couple of them rose to become chief ministers while many others are still continuing to serve in union cabinet without any blot. So, there lies no reason for Jammu and Kashmir making hue and cry over Shah Faesal resigning who is keeping his cards close to his chest.
Contrarily, Union Government very recently had revealed in the parliament that it had approved sanction for prosecution of 48 IAS, IPS, and IRS officers for their alleged involvement in corruption cases but these numbers had none from Jammu and Kashmir state despite the fact that files seeking sanction for prosecution of a couple of J&K cadre officers was also pending in Delhi. How did these officers enjoy immunity also sets an example for youngsters to watch. This worst side of civil services is also not hidden from the people as about 13 corrupt officers of different cadres were also shown doors in recent years.
To sum it up doctors, engineers or lawyers cracking civil services, civil servants joining politics or politicians saying no to polls is nothing new. What’s needed is a conviction to serve society and nation in particular in whatever capacity one can. Creating a bias opinion about Shah Faesal at this stage where he’s yet to transform himself from being a doctor, to IAS to politician or a social activist is quite premature. Instead of being judgmental the best option is wait and watch as to which way the wind blows. After that the battle ground ‘social-media’ is all yours.


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