Date: June 30, 2018
After the highly successful first Citizens’ Conclave organised by India Inclusive, a second conclave was organised on the 30th of June 2018. The Conclave, titled “Safeguarding the Constitution: Ensuring the Independence and Integrity of the Civil Services and Defence Forces”.
The first session of the day was chaired by Admiral Laxminarayan Ramdas and the speakers were, Air Marshal Vir Narain. Dr. Atul Bhardwaj (Economic Political Weekly, Former Naval Officer), NC Saxena (Former Secy, Planning Commission), Dr. Tuk Tuk Ghosh (Former Secy, Planning Commission), and Wajahat Habibullah (First Chief Information Commissioner of India).
Over 200 people attended the Conclave over the entire day and the sessions touched upon various themes that were related to the Constitution, those in the system, the system itself and the impending consequences of it all.
The session opened with Mr Vir Narayan discussing the ways in which the Constitution could be safeguarded. He said, “The danger is from within the system, the armed forces and the civil servants are pandering to those in power.” Dr. Atul Bhardwaj added to this by talking about the slowly crumbling structure of the defence forces. “The armed forces by nature are supposed to not side with any particular ideology, but today they are openly flouting those principles, it is a shame to see the structure of the forces being demolished from within.” Furthermore, while talking about the threats to the system and the people, Dr. Atul Bhardwaj also spoke about the idea of nationalism that the current government is peddling. “All this talk of nationalism is to hoodwink the citizens of this country. It acts as a smokescreen behind which the government continues to threaten the very systems that help the people to survive and empower themselves. They don’t want to protect the country or the people or Hinduism. They are protecting their class behind these illusions.”
Dr. NC Saxena spoke at length about the Civil Services and how the system has now succumbed to the political rulers of the country. “Ultimately, if our political system itself flawed, we cannot assume the civil services will continue being fair and transparent.” Wajahat Habibullah added to this by talking at length about how the civil services have now become prey to casteist and bigoted practices. “A great level of professionalism has to be brought back to the Services. The civil servants have to move away from the practice of maintaining their status quo and rather start acting efficiently and not be responsible for the precariousness of India’s democracy.” He further added that the challenge that the country faces now is to preserve the structures of democracy that have been put in place. The judiciary, the civil services and the defence forces have to be kept independent of the political ideologies in power.
Dr. Tuk Tuk Ghosh argued that, “The civil servants are responsible for carrying out the work of those in power, they do it without any sense of accountability, they are only concerned with their own upward mobility. When you point a finger at your politicians, remember the civil services who have emboldened them.” While talking about the lateral entry system, she said, “The lack of professionalism amongst by the civil servants have led to the questioning of their ethics and work. This will be used and is already being used as an excuse to privatise the services itself. The civil services will be wiped out of the country and it will be very easy to dismantle the governance that our constitution has guaranteed to us.”
While concluding the session, Admiral Laxminarayan Ramdas spoke about the crippling effect that the want of wealth has on the civil services. While talking about the elite position that civil servants hold, he said “The constitution of India is the holiest book of this country, it should be treated as such and especially by civil servants who take their oath on it.”
A round of questions followed the session from the audience; the panellists reiterated the need to safeguard the structures that are responsible for ensuring the democracy of the nation. The fact that the actual assessment and critique of the State lies in the hand of the public was also repeated several times to embolden the public to take charge of those who work for them.
The second session of the day was chaired by Mr. Ashok Vajpeyi (Former Cultural Secy) while the speakers in attendance were Air Marshal Kapil Kak, Aruna Roy (Former IAS), Ashok Kumar Sharma (Former IFS). Commodore Lokesh K Batra (Retd.), Niranjan Pant (Former Deputy CAG) and K. S. Subarmaniam (Former Officer, IPS).
Air Marshall Kapil Kak opened the session, he stressed on the need to safeguard the organic link between the systems of civil services and defence services with that of the Constitution. The other organic link he spoke about was that between the armed forces and the general public at large. Mr. Niranjan Pant spoke about the indiscipline that has plagued the Indian Civil Services in the last few decades. “People in the Services are concerned with rankings, wealth and promotions. Their attitude towards work is conditional and they are now in debt to political leaders. We need to reform the system which will take time but without a reform we are headed to a complete breakdown of the country.”
Aruna Roy added to the point of demanding accountability of government officers and civil servants by urging the public to take up that role. “The need of the hour is for all of us, every citizen to understand the constitution, enforce it themselves and disallow anyone to threaten it.” She also reiterated Dr. Tuk Tuk Ghosh’s point on the role of civil servants in letting politicians run amok. “Behind a single politician there are dozens of civil servants who have put their ideologies into actual administrative actions” she said. K. S Subarmaniam talked about the lack of systemic aids that are available to the minority communities to acquire justice. “There is a total collapse of justice when it comes to minority groups. The IPC severely lacks the idea of accountability of the system in terms of case handling and prosecution, majority of it is about securing the state. If we want to safeguard minorities we need to work extensively on the Constitution. Which means the constitution has to be open to amendments in today’s day and age.” He said.
Commodore Lokesh and Dr. Ashok Kumar Sharma both spoke about safeguarding the services and that the public needs to wake up and take up the role of being the watchdogs of those in power. Commodore Lokesh criticised the lies that are being peddled as facts by the current government, while addressing the younger audience he urged that the public needs to verify the news it receives, especially via social media. Dr. Ashok Kumar Sharma spoke extensively about the civil services system and the methodical breaking down of it, “When we talk of the Civil Services, the problems are multiple. The selections are biased, the interviews themselves are a gateway to nepotistic biases. Furthermore, a certain type of ideology, which is right wing and destructive, is being fed into them and that reflects in their work later on.”
The Chair, Mr. Ashok Vajpeyi, concluded the session. “The politicians in power have worked consistently to endanger the country and the constitution for personal gain. The Civil servants are not far behind in that either”, he said. While talking about the efficiency of the system, he said, “The government has excelled in placing inexperienced and uneducated individuals in positions of power. Lies and collective amnesia is being encouraged by key political leaders who cannot be questioned due to the fear of retaliation.” He urged the public to realise that the power lies in their hands, “We all are responsible for electing this government into power, and we have to take the responsibility to safeguard the democratic nature of our country. And we should oppose any and everyone who tries to discredit the freedom that is provided to us by the Constitution”.
Anajli Hedge, core group of India Inclusive, concluded the Conclave with the vote of Thanks. She thanked the speakers and the participants and said that our efforts were to create space for discussing issues, which are concerned to us. She also asked everyone to help us in identifying the issues for the next conclave.