In the past couple of days, the Delhi Government has suspended two DANICS (Civil Service) Officers, on the ground that they refused to authenticate and release for implementation a couple of Orders of the State Government. The Civil Services Officers Association of the Delhi Government promptly met, expressed their indignation at the step taken (without legal jurisdiction according to the association), and went on ‘mass half-day leave’ (largely successful) for one day, the 31 December. An incensed Chief Minister of Delhi branded the Civil Servants as “full-fledged B-Team of BJP”, and issued a warning that the bureaucrats be replaced by ‘experts’; further fulminating that he will “not tolerate IAS goondaism”. It should be noted that these events took place immediately ahead of the major anti-pollution ‘odd-even vehicle entry’ drive which commenced in Delhi on 1 January 2016, on a 15-day experimental basis.
A senior Civil Servant strike is a very rare event; one does not recall IAS officers going on strike, en masse, in any state or in GoI, in the past 68 years. Clearly the senior Delhi Civil Servants have felt constricted and squeezed between the Kejriwal Government and the Centre, and their current action – token absence for one day – is a declaration of extreme distress. Promptly, the state political leadership blamed the officials for muddying the waters, and complicating life for the administration prior to a major event (odd-even vehicle-entry experiment) – it could equally be pointed out that it was highly insensitive of the Delhi Administration to suspend two officers at this juncture; and a demonstration of their naivety, inexperience and lack of governance acumen not to anticipate the reaction from the senior bureaucracy.
It is also necessary to go to the background to get the full picture. Delhi is a Union Territory (like 6 others – Chandigarh, Andaman, etc.), administered by the Centre directly, under constitutional provisions – the authority of the Centre being exercised by the Lt. Governor or the Administrator as the case may be. The DANICS cadre is shared between Delhi State and Andaman & Nicobar Islands – the Cadre is not exclusive to Delhi, the Cadre authority being the Home Ministry. The UT Cadre of the IAS is shared by all the Union Territories, as also by some full-fledged states like Goa, Arunachal. For the past many decades, no question has arisen disputing the fact that DANICS / UT Cadre IAS is totally controlled by the Home Ministry, with posting and transfer powers, as well as disciplinary Cadre Controlling authority; this is the factual position on the ground. If the new Delhi Government disputes this position, it is for them to sort it out with the Centre (Home Ministry), or go to the Supreme Court for a clarification.
A unilateral declaration by Kejriwal that he is the master of all that he surveys, and that he has unbounded power and authority to do ‘whatever is good for Delhi’, and ‘root out corruption’, may indicate a certain unacceptable level of self-aggrandisement , not borne out by the legal and constitutional position. In the face of repeated orders by the Home Ministry and the Delhi LG that the senior officers are under the ultimate administrative control of the Government of India in this Union Territory, it is extremely unfair to treat the civil service cadres as political football, and force them to choose between orders of the GoI or the State. Clearly the officers are caught in the cross-fire; Kejriwal cannot declare a neutral civil servant as ‘enemy’. For the failure of Kejriwal to obtain a clear ruling from the competent authority in India about his control over the DANICS / IAS Officers in Delhi, the latter should not be chastised.
By very nature, senior civil servants are not to be seen or heard, nor are they expected to be ‘political’. To categorize the entire group of civil servants as stooges of BJP is not only factually irresponsible, but also highly short-sighted; exhibits inability to keep the morale of Delhi officers high, demonstrating total lack of administrative vision. The officialdom is an instrument to be used for governance by the political leadership; calling them names, and alienating them with absurd, non-provable, baseless allegations will be highly counter-productive. This raises the suspicion whether the state government is seriously interested in governance, or is merely raising dust at every pretext – Don Quixote forever tilting at windmills!
One can think of no country in the world, of any governance description (monarchy, democracy, dictatorship, army rule etc.) which is being governed without ‘bureaucrats’. If an ‘expert’ continues in government service for any length of time, he will be termed a ‘bureaucrat’; the generalist – specialist argument is age-old. Surely Kejriwal does not have the experience, background, wisdom or the moral right to prescribe a national governance model; he has just moved from ‘rabble-rouser’ status to ‘non-governing’ Chief Minister position of a municipal area – surely he should wait a little bit to tell India how it is to be governed. Nobody argues with the need for major reform, but this should not be triggered or caused solely because one man is peeved.
In recent weeks, Kejriwal has furnished clear evidence why it was a mistake to allow an ‘elected’ Assembly in Delhi. The Union Government, Constitutional and statutory bodies, and the apex judiciary are located there; what happens in Delhi is important to every Indian – that is why it is a Union Territory and not a state. Given the way irresponsible State and Regional leaders often behave to further their own political interests, it will be extremely dangerous to think of handing over the police administration and ‘land’ matters to the Delhi State – this is the norm for a full-fledged state, and Delhi demands full-fledged Statehood. An immature politician can rapidly bring chaos to administration in Delhi, which will affect national stability. The current reality is that Delhi Government has even less powers than Brahan Mumbai Municipality or Puducherry (a Union Territory). At an early appropriate political juncture, national interest will demand the permanent termination of Delhi’s assembly, to treat it like other Union Territories, under the direct administration of the Government of India. The tail should not be allowed to wag the dog. Delhi belongs to India.