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All India services are colonial relics

All India services are colonial relics
Judges and civil servants provide public service. Let us break down the phrase 'public service' to its essence. Public service is about serving the public. Public interest ought to be the one and only determinant of these services. Public service is not a mechanism to give varied types of work experience to civil servants or to foster unity in the Indian Union or any such other aim. When these and other extraneous factors become primary determinants in "public service", the whole idea of public service stands abused. It then becomes a mechanism to serve vested interests in the name of the public. The public ends up serving civil servants. Nowhere is this truer in the way the all-India services operate.

Recently, Union government floated the idea of an All India Judicial Service wherein judges would be recruited for courts all over the Indian Union much akin to the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) system. The aim here is to replace the specific existing practices that exist in the different states and high courts. This will be a huge mechanism of Delhi control over the judiciary and will affect their independence everywhere. Moreover, such a service completely negates the importance of specific local knowledge and understanding of conditions that is crucial to justice dispensation is any system. No wonder, bar associations and lawyer organisations all over the Indian Union have vehemently opposed this All India Judicial Service idea. Let me give you an example of why all this all-India business is incompatible with the diverse federation that is the Indian Union.

Recently, in a lower court in West Bengal, a judge from a Hindi-speaking state commented on the religion of a senior advocate on a case. The lawyers of all faiths protested this immediately. West Bengal frowns upon such a culture. The tradition of anti-communalism in the state is robust. However, it is well known that in many local courts of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, where communal polarisation has a strong social base, many Muslim advocates send out a Hindu advocate to physically appear in court so that the religion of the lawyer does not affect the outcome of the trial. Such a scenario is unthinkable in West Bengal.

Now if people with such prejudices are recruited from anywhere and everywhere, and they occupy administrative positions in states where communalism is frowned upon, this will vitiate the atmosphere. There is a need to preserve the good that exists in the system. Such all-India formulae of any kind bring in rank outsiders without basic cultural literacy of the area of their jurisdiction. It will even compound problems further as these people in most cases will not know the social realities of the state or the language. The High Courts of Madras and Calcutta do not allow Tamil or Bangla for court proceedings, but Allahabad High Court allows Hindi. This inequality exists. All-India services will undermine local language and customs even further and thus increase the gulf between the justice seeker and the process of justice.

These problems already exist in an appalling way when it comes to banking officers. The system recruits employees through an all-India system. Their proficiency in the language of a particular state does not determine their postings. Thus, we have many bank clerks, managers and officers who do not know the customer's language. What kind of public service is this? Is this not a violation of the right of a Tamil in Tamil Nadu to have all services in Tamil and be understood by the banking institutions when he/she interfaces with it? Again, the culprit is an all-India system of recruitment. A state-based system with pre-condition of knowing the primary language of a state will be much more people friendly.

The same goes for Border Security Force, Central Industrial Security Force, Central Reserve Police Force postings all over the Indian Union. These all-India services post security personnel in areas with people whose languages they don't speak, and they don't understand. When men with guns don't understand what you say, then the situation is as disastrous as any BSF patrolled area in Assam or West Bengal will attest. Locals dread the BSF. Cultural and linguistic aliens lord over the border regions, they bark and frisk people in airports in Hindi, and this creates tremendous alienation between these forces and the people. Is it too much to ask that at least those who know the language of a state and are natives of a state be posted in a state in non-war times? The Indian Union is not officially at war. Why this system then of posting Haryanvis in Kolkata's airport and Bhojpuri folk in West Bengal's border while the Bengalis are sent away in a scattered manner in other places.

What is wrong in creating state specific recruitment for military and para-military forces, where state domicile and competency in its primary language are pre-conditions? All this can be tied at the top under a Central command, but the service itself becomes decentralised, efficient, and people-friendly. Moreover, this will ensure that every state will get their share in the number of such service-related jobs allotted to every state. It will create harmony. When people speaking a particular language and originating from certain states are overrepresented in all states in professions such as these, it is a formula for discontent and disharmony. This is also a colonial policy where the military and paramilitary was an external occupation force. A close relationship with the people was not looked upon favourably. Thus, Gurkhas were posted in Nagaland, and Nagas were posted in Chhattisgarh and such. Why should a decolonised entity like the Indian Union follow such a colonial policy? Naga members of the Indian Army getting their postings in their home state should be the ideal. That is, if the people come first, not some other vested interest.

The biggest problem in this regard comes from the elite all-India services. What is the need of a cadre recruited on an all-India basis overseeing bureaucratic matters that are in the concurrent and state list? Can state governments trust such folks as the Indian Union is entering a phase where New Delhi is hell-bent on destroying state rights altogether? To understand that, it's important we look at the colonial origins of the IAS. We must remember that the institutional father of the Indian Army is the British Indian Army. Only then we can put into greater context what 'our' men do in Kashmir. The Indian Administrative Service's (IAS) father was called the Imperial Civil Service. A ridiculous situation exists where functions of the state and concurrent list that constitutionally belong to the state and not to the Centre are largely staffed by IAS officers deputed from Delhi. Every state is thus ruled, de facto, by these Delhi-deputed folks. While there is no dearth of accomplished people in every state civil services, it is by design that the primary administrators in all of the states are deputed from Delhi – some Bachelor-degree high-dowry guy who often doesn't know the people's language, culture, aspiration, and aligns with Delhi power rather than with the people. It is time to ask, why the people of the states, states with dignity, states with ability, need Delhi deputed generalists to administer affairs on our behalf even for issues that is entirely our business and not Delhi's.

A ridiculous situation exists where functions of the state and concurrent list that constitutionally belong to the state and not to the Centre are largely staffed by IAS officers deputed from Delhi. Every state is thus ruled, de facto, by these Delhi-deputed folks. While there is no dearth of accomplished people in every state civil services, it is by design that the primary administrators in all of the states are deputed from Delhi – some Bachelor-degree high-dowry guy who often doesn't know the people's language, culture, aspiration, and aligns with Delhi power rather than with the people. It is time to ask, why the people of the states, states with dignity, states with ability, need Delhi deputed generalists to administer affairs on our behalf even for issues that is entirely our business and not Delhi's.

The Indian Union is a federal union. In a real federal Union, states manage their affairs. There is no reason why there should be any IAS officer in any job that falls within the ambit of the state list or concurrent list, as described in the Indian Union. The administrative set-up in the Indian Union needs reform upholding the principles of democratic federalism. Administrators speaking Hindi, Marathi, Bangla, Tamil, Kannada can manage their affairs in their respective regions as they had done for centuries before the Union was commissioned by the Constituent Assembly apparently for public service. This diverse public needs public institutions and civil servants who represent this diversity by being socio-culturally rooted in the regions they serve.
(The views expressed
are strictly personal.)

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