For Akhilesh Yadav, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Durga Shakti Nagpal is a trouble maker.
Nagpal, the young IAS officer was suspended on July 28 by the Akhilesh government after she inspected and “ordered” the demolition of an under-construction mosque in Kadalpur village in Rabupura area of Greater Noida. Its construction had not been cleared by the authorities, based as it was on public property (land) and there were allegations that the structure also encroached on parts of a private plot owned by a Congress
However, it is understood that the District Magistrate of Noida (Gautam Budh Nagar), Ravikant Singh, has sent a report to the Uttar Pradesh government, saying that Nagpal did not ‘demolish’ the wall of any religious structure. The report has said that Nagpal had asked residents of Kadalpur village to dismantle the wall or to seek permission from the Government to build it legally. The villagers then proceeded to demolish the structure.
For the Samajwadi party-led government, Nagpal committed what it considers the biggest crime, the crime of hurting Muslim interests even if these interests are blatantly against the laws of the country. “Nagpal’s actions disturbed the communal harmony and would have created communal tensions”, said the state government while suspending her.
But, this was not all. Some cabinet ministers of Uttar Pradesh and senior Samajwadi party MPs like Naresh Agarwal have gone to the extreme of threatening Nagpal to dismiss her from the IAS or shift her out of the state to “the Maoist areas”. Ahmed Hasan, a minister in the state, said in replying to mounting criticisms from all over (normal citizens, political analysts, IAS Officers’ Association and IPS Officers’ Association), “She should apologize. She did not do her duty… she destroyed the credibility of the cadre.” Calling her mindless, he further added, “When we reveal which family she belongs to, then you will realize what are you supporting.”
Ironically, after “punishing” Nagpal, the same government, which is so concerned about the outbreak of communal tensions over taking actions against the illegal religious structures, carried on its normal business even though officials in Noida authorities demolished an “illegal” temple. None of the authorities involved in the demolition of the temple here was touched, and there was no communal disharmony either. But then that is how Akkhilesh Yadav’s party has always behaved when in power—it has one system for Muslims and another for others. It does not believe in the simple dictum that in a civilised country rules or laws are same for all.
It may be noted here that Nagpal, in a sense, was ensuring the Supreme Court’s directive that no unauthorized religious structures “shall be allowed to come up in the name of Temple, Mosque, Church or Gurudwara on public streets, public parks and public places”. However, community-based vote-bank politics practiced in the country has now come on its way. In other words, India is now witnessing a phenomenon that should be better described as politicisation of religion, not communalization of politics.
When one talks of politicisation of religion, its practitioners justify all their misdeeds (or hind behind) in the name of religion. And the same thing seems to have been applied in the case of Nagpal. Her real crime appears to have been the unpleasant discovery by the leaders of the Samajwadi party that the IAS officer had taken on the notorious sand mining mafia of the area. The officer got 17 FIRs lodged against the mafia, and seized 24 dumpers, four earthmoving machines, four dozen tractors and 300 trolleys used for illegal quarrying in the Yamuna and Hindon river banks. She got 15 people arrested with a fine of Rs. 2 crore. The sand was confiscated and was put on government auction. In the process, some politicians involved in illegal mining came under the radar.
One of them happened to be Samajwadi Party leader Narendra Bhati, who has a cabinet minister rank as the UP Agro Chairman. In fact, Bhati claimed while addressing a rally in Noida (he has been selected by his party to contest the Lok Sabha polls from the constituency) that it is he who got Nagpal abruptly suspended. “I spoke to Mulayam Singh Yadav and Akhilesh Yadav at 10.30 am and at 11 am the suspension order arrived…She behaved so badly and couldn’t last for 40 minutes after that. Within 41 minutes, the order came from Lucknow and she was suspended,” a TV video showed him as saying. A month ago, Nagpal had reportedly lodged an FIR against close aide of Bhati in the sand mining case!
Be that as it may, Nagpal’s case is the latest manifestation of a bigger phenomenon—the unhealthy relations between politicians and bureaucrats in the country. If you are a pliant bureaucrat, the political masters of the day will reward you. If you are a law-abiding and honest bureaucrat, go by the content and spirit of the rules, and do not compromise them to the benefits of the political masters, you will be punished. And when it comes to punishment, the commonly observed practice is to transfer (if one cannot be suspended immediately) the bureaucrat and deny or delay a promotion due to him or her. No wonder why Sanjay Dhoosreddy, the secretary of the IAS Officers’ Association makes a lot of sense when he says that “frequent suspensions and transfers have a very demoralizing effect on civil servants. A minimum tenure should be ensured so that they can efficiently and fearlessly do their job.”
According to the data released by the IAS Officers’ Association, Nagpal joins the club of over 200 officers across India suspended over the years on political whims in various states. Importantly, Uttar Pradesh tops the list with over 100 suspensions in 20 years. And, in 100 out of 105 suspensions in Uttar Pradesh, no action was finally taken as there was no real evidence of the officer’s wrongdoing. Incidentally, 60% of the officers were suspended in the previous BSP regime of Mayawati, while 35% have been suspended by the Samajwadi Party government.
Enlarging the phenomenon in the national context, it is instructive to note the observations of Lakshmi Iyer and Anandi Mani. In a “Working Paper” for the Harvard Business School, titled Traveling Agents: Political Change and Bureaucratic Turnover in India, the two authors have developed a framework to empirically examine how politicians with electoral pressures control bureaucrats with career concerns as well as the consequences for bureaucrats’ career investments. According to them, politicians use frequent reassignments (transfers) across posts of varying importance to control bureaucrats. The best way to defy this trend is noticed only in those bureaucrats who are high-skilled in certain areas and subjects and are thus indispensable.
The authors have built a theoretical model, based on empirically verified dataset on the career histories of 2800 IAS officers between 1980 and 2004, combined with data on political changes in major Indian states over the same period, proxy measures for bureaucrats’ ability, and a measure of the relative importance of different posts as viewed by the bureaucrats themselves. They found that that IAS officers were transferred quite frequently. Over the period of 1980-2000, the probability that an officer gets transferred is 53%. The average tenure of the IAS officers is merely 16 months.
Secondly, consistent with the hypothesis that the politicians use transfers as a control mechanism, Lakshmi and Anandi find that the average rate of bureaucratic transfers increases significantly, by 10% over the baseline of 53%, when there is a new Chief Minister (CM). Most of these transfers take place in the first four months after a new CM takes over. Further, a CM, who comes to power along with a new party in power, is twice as likely to transfer bureaucrats than a CM who comes to power without a change in the party in power. The majority of such transfers are what the authors call ‘lateral’ transfers, i.e. not accompanied by promotion. Thus, these transfers are not for a reward for past performance or routine promotions that merely coincide with a new CM coming into the office.
On the other hand, the bureaucrats with a higher ability invest more in developing expertise; they undergo longer durations of training over the course of their entire career. These officers are also significantly more likely to be recommended for senior positions in the central government (‘empanelled’). But there is another way of obtaining important positions- by being ‘loyal’ to specific politicians. Lakshmi and Anandi say that the officers are more likely to be appointed to important positions when they belong to the same caste as the CM’s party base. Disturbingly, the average importance of the posts held by an officer over the course of his or her career does not vary significantly with his ability- the officers with high ability are no more likely to be assigned to important posts than other (say, loyal) officers, the authors say.
It may be noted here that under the prevailing system, a greater weightage is given to subjective factors than objective in an officer’s performance appraisal, from which promotions and postings flow. The system assigns 60% weightage to personal attributes and functional competency (a subjective assessment by the seniors and political boss) and just 40% to work output (an objective assessment). This has created a situation where 90% of bureaucrats are rated ‘outstanding’ (scoring 9 on 10) without even having a face-to-face meeting with the appraiser. That this system needs a change was emphasisied by none other than the last cabinet secretary (head of the civil service) Ajit Seth. In fact, under him, the Cabinet Secretariat had drafted an alternate appraisal process. Drawn up after examining similar systems in Australia, Malta, New Zealand, and Singapore, it mirrored the norm in the corporate sector and gives greater importance to results and performance: 80% weightage to results, 20% to personal qualities and functional skills. This suggestion, it is believed, is under the consideration of the central
AKHILESH GOING THE MAYAWATI WAY
Durga Shakti Nagpal, the 2010 batch IAS officer who was posted as the SDM Gautambudhnagar, was given a suspension order at 1.27 am on Sunday 28th July, just 41 minutes after a SP leader lodged a complaint against her. These were allegedly verbal orders, issued by a senior officer of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav’s Secretariat, which were executed without any chargesheet. The SDM was not given an opportunity to show cause. As a fall out of this episode, the whole country is up in arms against this decision, which is being viewed as a punishment for Durga who displayed a lot of zeal in tackling the sand mafia of the area. The entire operation smacks of political shenanigans and seems unethical and done out of sheer malice and without an iota of consideration for Central service rules which govern IAS officers. The moot question is why were all these consideration were by passed by the senior officer who ordered the suspension.?
After the issue has drawn flak from all over, the government is now offering different explanations for the suspension. It insists that Durga has been punished for her inept and insensitive handling of a situation in Kadalpur village in Noida, where she ordered the demolition of a newly constructed boundary wall of a mosque. The state government, in a chargesheet issued on 5th August, a week after the incident, insist that the officer’s action could have triggered off communal tension in the village comprising of 5000 odd residents, 80 per cent of whom are Muslims. The fact that Durga did this in the holy month of Raman, which could have unleashed communal frenzy was taken very seriously. The government communiqué insists that Durga’s actions were bound to disturb the peace and vitiate the atmosphere. By suspending her, not only did the government pre-empt any tension, but also sent a clear message that officer’s cannot act in an arbitrary manner and meddle with the sentiments of the minorities.
Experts insist that the situation could have been handled better had the chief minister’s advisers shown restraint and advised the chief minister more wisely, maybe to either transfer her or frame a chargesheet against her. It is being alleged that the real culprit who lead to this situation are the officers who are advising the CM and that they must be punished.
Addressing media persons, PWD minister Shivpal Yadav had said that Durga’s conduct was highly objectionable and that it could have stirred communal tension in the area. He denied that Durga’s suspension was done on the pressure from the sand mafia and insisted that it was undertaken to send a message to the officers that anyone trying to instigate communal tension will be dealt with an iron hand. Media queries about the DM’s report have revealed that there were no apprehensions of any outbreak of communal tension or riots, and that villagers of Kadalpur had voluntarily pulled down the newly constructed boundary wall were brushed off as “not true.”
Another case of the callousness of officers came to light almost simultaneously in Jamau village of Pratapgarh district when the DM made mockery of the chief minister’s order and allotted disputed land to orphans. The five ostracized children had made a makeshift tent near the grave of their dead parents in the graveyard. Taking cognizance of media reports, the Chief Minister gave Rs 5 lakhs to the children had ordered a plot of land to be given to them. The DM complied with the orders, only with callousness, giving disputed land to the orphans for which an FIR was later lodged. This has caused great damage to the image of the CM. The CM’s good intentions of giving shelter to the children were marred, instead of getting accolades, the Akhilesh government got brick-bats in the bargain, all because an officer did not perform his duty well.
These are just two examples of government–administration gap. Some officers in the CM secretariat appear to be hell bent on causing embarrassment to the government. They have brought all round negative publicity. It is a clear case of ‘good intentions, bad advisors.” It seems that Akhilesh’s government is very much like that of his predecessor Mayawati, and he too is fast becoming a victim of bad advisors, especially from among those who are paid for this job- the bureaucrats. Akhilesh is following their advice blindly, neither weighing the consequences, nor doubting the hidden intention of those advising.
It is no hidden fact that the Samajwadi Party government enjoys the confidence of Muslims more than the BSP or the Congress. The suspension had evoked instant and sharp reactions from the IAS association. The entire thing was projected as vote bank politics and a move to get unflinching support of the minority. The opposition insists that this is a punishment for an honest officer who had opened up a brave front against the sand mafia of the region and hence she was taught a lesson. Seems the bullet misfired. Will the officer or officers who advised the chief minister on this course of action stand up and take the blame?
Is history repeating itself? Is the Akhilesh government going the Mayawati way? Will like her coterie of advisors helped escalate her downfall will the Akhilesh government go the same way. Should not the chief minister weigh the repercussions of his actions? He will have to sieve through the advice doled out to him and like they say be able to smartly separate grain from the chaff. Impulsive implementation of advice from officers who do not even bother to check the ground reality first will have to be checked. Can Akhilesh afford this? It is time he sharpens his knife on the officer\officers who have made his government a subject of so much ridicule.
Kulsum Mustafa from Lucknow
A former DOPT secretary PK Mishra has advocated for a radical system that ensures lower compensation to incompetent bureaucrats. “In Brazil, 60% of a government servant’s pay depends on competency and only 40% is fixed. The concept is that if you do not measure up to a performance standard, you are paid less. Unless we accept these modern concepts wholeheartedly, the image of Indian civil services is unlikely to improve,” according to him. But the question is: who will evaluate the competence? Unless there is a set of objective criteria, the evaluation will be ultimately made by the political masters (ministers), and subjective elements will remain always.
It is true that the image of Indian civil servants is poor internationally. Last year, a Hong Kong –based consulting firm ranked the Indian bureaucracy as the worst in Asia, with a 9.21 rating out of 10. India fared worse than Vietnam (rated at 8.54), Indonesia (8.37), the Philippines (7.57) and China (7.11). On the other hand, Singapore remained the best with a rating of 2.25, followed by Hong Kong (3.53), Thailand (5.25) Taiwan (5.57), Japan (5.77), South Korea (5.87) and Malaysia (5.89).
Coming back to the politician-bureaucrat nexus, it is a fact that bureaucrats themselves are responsible for their exploitation, if a serving Secretary to the Government of India is to be believed. And that is because, for every officer who refuses to sign a file due to political pressure, there are 10 others willing to do that job, according to him. And this is particularly so in states, where one comes across the concept of a “committed bureaucracy.”
Of course, the concept of “committed Bureaucracy” can be traced back to the days of late Indira Gandhi, who thought that the bureaucrats were often stumbling blocks on her road of economic management and growth. In an interview, she had expressed dissatisfaction with the performance of bureaucracy. She, in fact, expressed doubts “about the relevance of the basic assumptions underlying the Indian bureaucracy—like that of political neutrality, anonymity, impartiality etc.” She even alleged that “the bureaucrats lacked in commitment”.
COMPLAINT TO NWC FOR IMPROPER COMMENTS ON DURGA
RTI activist Dr Nutan Thakur has lodged a complaint with the National Commission for Women as regards the improper language used by Narendra Bhati, (minister rank ), Chairman of UP Agro in UP for Durga.
“I have raised my objection particularly as regards the words “is—aurat ne itni behudgi yahaan ki us dande ko chaalees minute nahi jhel paayi” (this—woman who dis so much absurdity could not sustain the wrath for 40 minutes),” Dr Thakur told Uday India.
Calling it “abjectly improper” she has hence prayed to Mamata Sharma, Chairman of the Commission to take cognizance of this serious issue and to initiate all legal proceedings as per the enquiry report.
Obviously, some bureaucrats during “the Emergency days” became very close to her. When she lost the polls in 1977, the new Janata government did not tackle the problem. Instead, it promoted its own set of bureaucrats and punished those who were close to Indira Gandhi. On her return to power in 1980, Indira Gandhi retaliated and harassed the bureaucrats close to the Janata regime. In a way, this game has been going on since then – bureaucrats supposedly close to one regime being harassed by the other. And this is a phenomenon that is seen both at the Centre and in States. The two Yadavas (Lalu and Mulayam) of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, Mayawati, and Jaya Lalitha in Tamil Nadu as chief ministers in recent years; and the likes of Pratap Singh Kairon in Punjab, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad in Jammu and Kashmir and Bansi Lal in Haryana in the past have been notorious for wrecking the careers of many honest civil servants. As Professor C P Bhambhri argues rightly, “politicians in India are not wedded to norms of legality, sanctity of procedures and rules” and “administration has been pressurized to comply with the demands of the politicians by bending the rules and flouting procedures”.
WHY DURGA SHAKTI SUFFERS!
Possibly rising young political hope and UP Chief Minister (CM) Mr. Akhilesh Yadav has permanently damaged his future prospects by his brazen response to the controversy generated by the suspension of young IAS officer Ms Durga Shakti Nagpal. The facts of the case are clear enough. These were widely disseminated by the media and aroused nationwide outrage. Ms Nagpal as a conscientious young Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) posted in Noida became a thorn in the flesh of the illegal sand mining mafia raking in huge profits. Her role hurt a section of the ruling politicians. Therefore the UP government suspended the young officer. It justified its action by the allegation proved false that she was endangering communal harmony by forcibly demolishing the wall of a village mosque about to be constructed.
In fact Ms Nagpal advised the villagers to seek the magistrate’s permission before proceeding with the construction of the mosque which otherwise could be deemed illegal. Unless official permission was granted they were advised to suspend construction. The villagers heeded her advice and decided to abandon the project. They demolished the wall. Subsequently villagers informed media that Ms Nagpal had always been helpful to them and they had demolished the wall of their own volition. Seizing this incident the UP government manufactured its spurious allegation to swiftly suspend the officer. One MLA boasted on camera that he had persuaded the government to order her suspension within 40 minutes at midnight.
The procedure required for the government to order suspension was completely ignored. The suspension was ordered under instructions of the CM”s Principal Secretary who a few years earlier had been imprisoned for involvement in a scam and is currently on bail pending appeal in the Supreme Court, but thanks to the UP government occupies his key post. He said: “Ms Nagpal’s reinstatement is in the hands of the state government… it is the state government’s decision.” The District Magistrate of the area had submitted his findings in a report completely exonerating Ms Nagpal. Not only has the UP government ignored that report but its leaders are threatening to suspend the District Magistrate too. Influential Muslim organizations of the state have echoed the villagers by condemning the suspension and supporting Ms Nagpal. But a handful of influential ruling MLAs for electoral considerations and for protecting vested interests profiting from corruption prevailed over the CM. Mr. Akhilesh Yadav brazenly justified his action over TV channels. He possibly considers Muslim voters to be as stupid as some of his political colleagues who advise him. It will not surprise if this incident apart from fatally damaging the young Chief Minister’s reputation will also cost his party Muslim votes in the next poll.
The central government is helpless unless the Chief Secretary of the state sends a report on the suspension, or if the suspended officer files a written appeal to the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT). The young officer has not yet filed an appeal. After the central government sought a report from the UP government the latter post haste filed a charge sheet against Ms Nagpal. The officer has been given 15 days to file her reply. Unless the central government or the state government revokes the suspension the only recourse for Ms Nagpal would be to approach the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) for redress. That would involve a long process. The UP government sent a copy of the suspension order and the charge sheet to the central government late last Sunday night. The UPA government is dependent on the state’s ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) for support in Parliament to push through the crucial Food Security Bill which is the Congress party’s showpiece for the 2014 poll. The central government therefore is moving forward reluctantly under public pressure. To assuage public outrage Mrs. Sonia Gandhi had written a well publicized letter to the Prime Minister seeking protection of the young officer. The letter was a meaningless and empty gesture.
Knowing the central government’s helplessness and the Congress party’s dependence on the SP in parliament Mrs. Gandhi wrote: “This particular incident has highlighted the need to assess whether there are adequate safeguards in place to protect executive functionaries working beyond the average call of duty to uphold the rule of law… without fear of favour.” Unintended, the letter provoked the SP government. SP leaders taunted Mrs. Gandhi by reminding her of her silence over suspensions of IAS officers in Haryana and Rajasthan similarly targeted for exposing the excesses of her son-in-law Mr. Robert Vadra. Further the SP announced that it would oppose the Food Security Bill in parliament. This was the classic Indian political response. The Congress was wrong therefore the SP is justified to be wrong. Two wrongs make a right. The suggestion in Mrs. Gandhi’s letter that there is a lacuna in the system to deal with such situations was lapped up by the opposition and media. This observation of course was utter nonsense. There is no lacuna in the system. There is huge amnesia among politicians. If the system is not worked, the system will not deliver.
If the system were to work as laid down in the Constitution this is what could have been done. The President under solemn oath to preserve and protect the Constitution and all laws could not be ignorant about the UP government’s suspected falsehoods to justify its action. The President could have directed the Governor to immediately send him a report on the situation. The Governor similar to the President is under oath to preserve and protect the Constitution and all laws at the state level. The Governor is not accountable to the Union Cabinet but to the President of India according to a judgment of the Supreme Court. The Governor could have demanded an immediate report from the Chief Minister. The District Magistrate’s exoneration of Ms Nagpal and the government’s violation of due procedure to suspend the officer provided sufficient evidence of the government’s culpability. Article 160 of the Constitution states: “The President may make provision as he thinks fit for the discharge of the functions of the Governor of a State in any contingency.” The President is empowered to dismiss a State government and impose Governor’s rule in the State. The UP government could have been issued an ultimatum by the Governor under the President’s direction to immediately reinstate the officer or face dismissal. This entire exercise could have been completed within a week. Ms Durga Shakti Nagpal’s ordeal would have expeditiously ended.
However this would have been possible only if the President of India was as dedicated to the call of duty as the young suspended IAS officer. Such a response can only come from a President genuinely committed to his solemn oath of office and having the guts to take decisive action. Does not the President have the responsibility to protect the rights of all officials appointed by him? The President’s inaction is as damaging as perverse action. Inexorably it is eroding the rule of law which provides the foundation for democracy.
By Rajinder Puri
As pointed out already, bureaucrats are also responsible for this state of affairs. Indian bureaucracy lacks internal cohesion. There are many who will go any extent of appeasing the political masters of the day for their present and future selfish considerations. They are never neutral. They are obsessed with reemployment after retirement and various other lucrative assignments such as governors and ambassadors. In fact, many of them have joined political parties and contested elections. Importantly, many a time one has even witnessed wives and close relatives of serving officials contesting elections. Can such officers be expected to be honest and neutral?
This unfortunate phenomenon has become all the more noteworthy in this age of coalition politics. Because, no political party now is immune to this disease of bureaucrats coming under political pressure and harassment. If there is one Nagpal in Uttar Pradesh, there is one Ashok Khemka in Haryana, who is suffering because he dared to expose the misdeeds of one Robert Vadra, who happens to be son-in-law of Sonia Gandhi. Then there are officers in Gujarat who allege of victimization under Narendra Modi. Besides, if the present minority Congress-led government at the Centre cannot come to the rescue of Nagpal as it is dependent on Mulayam Singh Yadav’s support in parliament, the BJP also cannot say anything if any civil servant is being victimized in a state under the rule of its ally or a potential ally. In other words, Durga Nagpals of the world would continue to be pawns in bigger political games, to be badgered and bullied. And that is sad, indeed.
By Prakash Nanda
THE HUBRIS OF POWER
While there is no doubt that the suspension of Ms Durga Shakti nagpal was an act of brazen arrogance, what is worse is the defence of the action by a section of the political leadership, and the attempt to give a communal twist to the incident. It is clear that the transfer took place on chain of phone calls from the an ex-MLA, red- beacon holder and the local sand mafia don to the Chief Minister of UP and his father resulted in the one line suspension order of Durga Shakti Nagpal, the young SDM of Gautum Budh Nagar violating all procedural, legal and ethical norms. With regards to transaction costs, nothing can be said as it is in the domain of the ‘absolutely opaque’. However, it is obvious that much more was at stake than the alleged demolition of the boundary wall of a religious structure on public land. What was at stake was the ‘audacity of the young officer to implement the law of the land’. To do something she was recruited for, through one of the most rigorous selection procedures, and trained at LBSNAA to believe in Sardar Patel’s clear and clarion call to the first batch of IAS officers; “And you will not have a united India, if you do not have a Civil Service which has the confidence to speak its mind without fear, or favour”.
One can, in hindsight say that this was inevitable. When officers take on lobbies as powerful as the sand, or mining, or timber mafia, extreme reactions can be expected. A few months ago, a young IPS officer posted in Morena, MP, Shri Narendra Kumar Singh lost his life in similar circumstances. Should one, therefore, cynically say that Durga was lucky enough that she did not have to pay for her life like Satyendra Dubey of Bihar? Many of us who have put in decades in Service would recall several examples of confrontation with the political executive; ‘transfer’ and ‘compulsory waiting’ had willy-nilly been accepted as the price of speaking out one’s mind, and more importantly, putting one’s thoughts into action. Over the years, this was ‘accepted’ as the price one paid for taking a ‘position’—but certain ground rules were not breached; young officers were let off with a stern warning or counseling from the Divisional Commissioner or the DM, the political executive underplayed the event and the Information Department called it a ‘routine administrative affair’.
This time, the plot has changed. Not only is the ‘State’s ruling (political) party’ gloating over its success, its ministers and minions are literally ‘baying for blood’. When the DM gave a factual report that the SDM was not on the site when the ‘demolition’ took place, he was also threatened with suspension. When the DoPT Minister of State, Shri V. Narayanasamy said that the Government of India had sought a report, the State Government retorted by saying that they could take her back. As if cadre allocation and central deputation a transaction in the fish market. Another minister said that IAS officers had been trained at LBSNAA to enter into confrontation with the politicians. The hubris was obvious – even if the order was wrong and unjustified, cancelling it would mean yielding to pressure—and this cannot happen. A ‘lesson’ has to be taught to the errant ‘errand boys and girls’. The Information Department of the State government went into an overdrive saying that the UPIAS Association was not joining the Central IC&AS association in its meeting with the Union Minister for Personnel, and that many officers had taken a contrarian view (both of which are factually incorrect). In any case the Information Department of UP has no business issuing statements about either the State or the Central Association.
Ethical issues apart, let us look at legal and procedural issues. If, as the government says, Durga was suspended for the demolition, the orders of the Supreme Court are abundantly clear in Special Leave to Appeal (Civil) No.8519/2006, “As an interim measure, we direct that henceforth no unauthorized construction shall be carried out or permitted in the name of Temple, Church, Mosque or Gurudwara etc. on public streets, public parks or other public places etc. In respect of the unauthorized construction of religious nature which has already taken place, the State Governments and the Union Territories shall review the same on case to case basis and take appropriate steps as expeditiously as possible. In order to ensure compliance of our directions, we direct all the District Collectors and Magistrates / Deputy Commissioners in charge of the Districts to ensure that there is total compliance of the order passed by us. They are directed to submit a report within four weeks to the concerned Chief Secretaries or the Administrators of the Union Territories who in turn will send a report to this Court within eight weeks from today”. In fact, not doing so would have been very serious contempt of the Supreme Court. The UP Government has also reiterated this position in its communication to its officers. As to whether an action may lead to a law and order issue, including communal tension, the Criminal Procedure Court is clear that the decision lies with the Executive magistrate, and not the political executive.
With regard to procedure, it is clear that the file for Durga’s suspension was not based on the recommendation of the DM or Divisional Commissioner, and was not shown to the Chief Secretary or Chief Minister. On this ground also, the suspension is a flagrant violation of procedure and norms.
But even the darkest clouds have a silver lining. The High Court has taken cognizance, and asked the Government of UP to explain the circumstances under which the suspension took place by the 19th. Likewise the DoPT has sought a report. The response of officers across cadres and batches included those who have superannuated, not just from the IAS, but other All India and Central Services has been overwhelmingly in favour of Durga and the stand taken by the Central IAS Association in this regard. Both the print and electronic media has been magnanimous with their effective support to the right cause, and one hopes that this will continue. The Union Minster of State for Personnel went out of his way to assure officers who called on him that both he and the Prime Minster, Dr. Manmohan Singh will stand by what they said on the Civil Services Day on April 21 at Vigyan Bhawan that the government will extend its fullest support to officers if they face challenges in their call of duty. One hopes that these are not empty words because it will become very difficult for those of us who have put in nearly three decades in the Service of the State to convince our younger colleagues to have “faith and pride in the Constitution and implement the Rule of Law, without fear or favour”. And if that happens, the India of Nehru, Patel and Ambedkar would give way to pygmies whose names do not merit an acknowledgment on these pages.
By Sanjeev Chopra
(A Joint Secretary to the central govt., the author is a member of the Executive Committee of the Central IAS Association)
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PROCEDURE SHOULD BE FOLLOWED BEFORE SUSPENDING OFFICERS
— Sanjay Bhoosreddy
Secretary, IAS Officers Association of India
What do you think of the Durga Nagpal’s case?
What we want is system reform and institutional safeguards. We want that rules should be made effective, just and equitable, so that officers have enough space at work without fear or favour because ultimately they have to work for the public interest, implement programmes. For this, public rules should be amended adequately and should be brought to present requirements.
How are you going to protect her?
We have already given our representation on August 1 to the Minister of State of DOPT V.NarayanSwamy and provided him with all the facts regarding the case. All we want to say is that proper procedure should be followed before suspending an officer. Under section-2 of All India Service (Discipline and Appeal) Rules 1969, dealing with the suspension of officers says that government has the right to suspend an officer, only after following due procedure.
Do you think IAS officers are increasingly becoming political victims?
Yes, records prove that. In past 20 years, as many as 104 officers have been suspended in the state, which means that 25 per cent of the cadre strength has been suspended. We have raised Nagpal’s issue and the trend of such arbitrary transfers because such incidents set wrong examples for other states to follow.
What are the ways out of this situation?
Now the matter is with competent authority. I am told that matter has also reached to the High court and Supreme Court; so the matter is with competent authority. As per the law, the central government can intervene in the matter on the basis of new facts being brought to the government, or if revision is filed by the officer concerned. In that case, the decision of the centre will be final. We are just waiting for the decision to come. As the government
system will take some time, we are waiting.
(As told to Nilabh Krishna and Sanjay Kumar)
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Durga Nagpal was born on June 25 1985 in Agra. Her father is retired Indian Defence Estates Services Officer, who hailed from Chhatisgarh. He was awarded the President’s Medal for distinguished service at the Delhi Cantonment Board as a Cantt. Executive Officer.
Durga did her her B.Tech in Computer Science from Indira Gandhi Delhi Technological university for Women. In 2009, she cracked the IAS exams, ranking 20 among all IAS candidates.
Her husband Abhishek Singh is a also an IAS officer and posted in Noida as a BDO.
Durga was originally allotted the Punjab Cadre and was posted at Mohali. In August 2012, she was transferred to UP, as the Sub Divisional Magistrate Sadar at Noida, on grounds of her marriage to Abhishek who was a 2011 batch IAS. Abhishek also hails from Chhattisgarh. After her cadre changed, Durga was posted in Ghaziabad as an SDM in September 2012, and then posted as SDM (Sadar) in Greater Noida in Gautam Budh Nagar district. Her husband is currently executive officer in the Dadri Municipal Council. The couple stay in a group housing society in Greater Noida.
Durga’s grandfather was a police officer, who was murdered in 1954, while performing his duty in Sadar Bazaar, Delhi.
Nagpal’s father-in-law, Kripa Shanker Singh, is a retired Uttar Pradesh cadre Indian Police Service officer.
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CIVIL SERVANTS’ POSTINGS AND TRANSFERS: TENURE POLICY
For officers within the Civil Services, transfers, promotions and postings are the major sources of mobility and career advancement. However, these very factors could become a major source of dissatisfaction if not handled in a fair and transparent manner. Use of transfers and postings as a means of coercion and harassment of honest officers is a well-known phenomenon. A need for minimum assured tenures for key administrative positions has been advocated for a long time in India by various committees.
Recommendations on Posting and Transfers by Hota Committee Report, 2004
The Committee proposed a comprehensive law on the Civil Service, which shall incorporate, inter alia, a statutory minimum tenure in a post to an officer. Under the proposed law, if an officer is sought to be transferred before his tenure, there would be an expeditious administrative inquiry by a designated senior officer.
Political executive shall have the final authority to transfer an officer at any stage in the public interest. However, he will be expected to give due consideration to Report of the Administrative Inquiry/views of the Civil Service Board/Establishment Board and record reasons on the need for premature transfer of an officer. An officer aggrieved by order of premature transfer can agitate the matter before a three-Member Ombudsman, who may, where suitable, award monetary compensation to the aggrieved officer.
Recommendations by Second Administrative Reforms Commission
- Placement at middle management level
- In posting officers in Government of India, the primary consideration should be to select the most suitable person for the post that is on offer.
- Domains should be assigned by the Central Civil Services Authority (the Commission has recommended the constitution of such an Authority) to all officers of the All India Services and the Central Civil Services on completion of 13 years of service.
- The Central Civil Services Authority should invite applications from all officers who have completed the minimum qualifying years of service, for assignment of domains. A consultative process should be put in place where the officers should be interviewed and their claims to specific domains evaluated.
- The Central Civil Services Authority should be responsible for fixing the tenure for all posts and the decision of the Authority should be binding on Government.
- Officers from the organized services should not be given ‘non-field’ assignments in the first 8-10 years of their career. State Governments should take steps to constitute State Civil Services Authorities on the lines of the Central Civil Services Authority.
- Placement at Top Management Level
- The present empanelment system for short-listing officers for posting at the SAG level and above should be replaced by a more transparent and objective placement procedure.
- At higher levels in government, it is necessary to ensure that the tasks assigned to a public servant match his/her domain competence as well as aptitude and potential.
- Ministries should classify all of their Senior Administrative Grade(SAG) level posts according to their relevant functional domains.
- There is need to introduce competition for senior positions in government (SAG and above) by opening these positions in Government to all Services. This principle would apply to all posts including those that are presently encadred with the organised Group ‘A’ Services. In order to operationalize this, government should make the continued participation of any of the organised civil services in the Central Staffing Scheme, contingent upon the implementation of this principle in those Departments/ Cadres.
■ For the positions at JS/SAG level and above, the Central Civil Services Authority would invite applications from all the eligible officers from the IAS and Group ‘A’ Central Services participating in the scheme.
■ For positions at the HAG level and above, the Central Public Service Authority would, in consultation with Government, earmark positions for which outside talent would be desirable. Applications to fill up these posts would be invited from interested and eligible persons from the open market and from serving eligible officers
■ While carrying out this exercise, the Central Civil Services Authority would stipulate the eligibility criteria, the required domain expertise as well as the requirements of qualifications, seniority and work experience. The Authority would conduct interviews to short-list suitable officers for these posts. Government would make the final selection based on this shortlist.
- A similar procedure should be adopted for filling up vacancies at SAG level and higher in the central police agencies.
- Deputation of Civil Servants to Organizations outside Government
In drawing up the list of external organizations to which government servants can be permitted to go ondeputation, the primary consideration should be the objectives and activities of such organizations and not merely its organizational structure. For the present Government should permit deputation of civil servants only to such organizations that are engaged in non-profit making activities. This policy may be reviewed after three years.
(Source—DOPT survey Report)
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