It is said, better late than never. At a time when three wings of armed forces, couple of Central paramilitary forces and police were observing their “days”, followed by “nights”, the top most civil services were bereft of having such an opportunity to mingle if not to show off. As late as April, 2006 it was decided to observe a Civil Services Day by way of a conglomeration of all the civil services, including All India Services.
Though, it appears to have become a regular feature with the Prime Minister as the centre piece or the focal point, it also goes without saying that it is by and large, a low key affair. Some of the civil servants posted in country’s capital or in far flung areas still are not aware of it. A few tend to skip it as well.
Since the show has begun, it must go on, presumably, with additions, alterations and improvements. One of the cardinal features is the award to deserving officers, other being display of books by the writer minded officers (in this age of net, least number can be expected to pen down their thoughts & experiences), apart from the usual ritual of going down the memory lane or surmising for future. After all, the three All India Services, supposedly have the onerous task of integrating the fast “differing” country in the age of successful coalitions, even when we take pride in unity in diversity.
Recently(21st April), I had the privilege to attend it for the second time after a lapse of four years. On the last occasion, not only one received an advance intimation but one was also in a position to display one of my books (a coffee table book). On the contrary, for the last edition, one had to “manage” an invite from the typical secretariat-minded officials.
Politicians who speak on such occasions, are not expected to speak out their heart about the intricacies of the so called steel frame, yet most of them are tolerable. The serving and the retired brethren, on the contrary, expect you to follow something or give some prescriptions which they may not have followed themselves in their “illustrious” days. Most of such panelists are opportunists and in their hey days, despite displaying their vocal, writing and patience skills, they knew which side of the slice to butter.
The same people speak of crisis of confidence, officers becoming prisoners of their own rules, need for hard thinking in addition to hard work, prevalence of mis-trust and credibility on the one hand and mis-trust and suspicion on the other, being fair and independent in taking decisions, accountability for performance, need for re-orienting oneself and what not. It was interesting to know that in the changed system of ACR, 90% are rated as outstanding, thus defeating the very purpose, apart from posing fresh problems for the authorities. It was also gratifying to hear some comments on the unfair system of empanelment and giving less than expected attention to going through one’s service records seriously.
Officers of sufficient seniority in the audience (many were deprived of seats 15 minutes ahead of start) could understand if not comprehend fully but gulping down such thoughts and sermons on the part of hundred odd probationers of different civil services would be, perhaps, a hard proposition.
Hardly anybody threw light on rapid or unabated rise in corruption, need to control population or the justification to post senior officers in non-viable and newly carved out small states or for that matter, in remote and non-descript locations of bigger entities of a federation or the nation in making that
is. Also, why a large number of us flock together to the national capital, did not invite anybody’s scant attention. India
One of the impressive speakers from the other side of the spectrum wants us to keep our dreams alive in view of our capabilities. A counter question, based on present dismal if not pessimistic scenario could be-only salary and hardly any perks will not make a difference. There has to be a proper and congenial atmosphere, where sincerity, honesty and hard work is respected if not always taken note of and the corrupt, inefficient and yes men are clearly identified, if not punished always.
There is a plethora of intelligent and capable officers, men of calibre, vision, knowledge and character but they are unable to make a dent more on account of lack of support from the colleagues rather than the political masters. It leads to gloom and despair if not complete pessimism. Inner strength and capacity for patient endurance of a few under the circumstances is commendable. They carry on with the management of men, material and money.
The saga that emanated from the ICS days more than a century ago- slow movement of files and minutes, goes on perpetually from one officer to another, department to department and from ministry to ministry. After all, civil service was one of the invaluable gifts of the British rule according to Sri N.A. Palkhivala, the legal luminary. Others were unity and integrity of nation, English language, civil & criminal laws, administrative structure and apolitical armed forces. How long one has to remember it or refer to it?
It is high time, we got rid of our whims and fancies and begin arresting the process of degeneration of character and conscience OR shall we continue compromising with the dictum ‘show me the person, I will show you the rule’ ?