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Why administer India from New Delhi?

Why administer India from New Delhi?
In the much-touted age of co-operative federalism, the Union government is centralising at break-neck speed. In a huge change to how Indian Administrative Services (IAS) officers are posted, the Union government at New Delhi has decided to make the already subservient IAS officers even more subservient to the Union government. Something very important was reported in this very paper on June 16, 2016. It was decided last month that 178 newly minted IAS officers who have been assigned different state cadres will be posted in Union government Ministries for a period before they would be deputed to their respective states of service. They would begin their career from Delhi and after being posted to important position in states which had nothing to do with their recruitment would then aspire to come back to Delhi to reap benefits based on how they served the party in power in Union government by their behaviour in the states. 

In an already broken system, where officials are imposed on states by Delhi with the states having no say in the matter, the IAS system is about to be made even more centralised. For an officer cadre which was originally raised by the British to keep interests of London at the forefront - that basically meant looting the British South Asian provinces and carrying out the wishes of London, this is not entirely surprising. Can state governments trust the Indian Union entering a phase where Delhi is hell-bent to completely destroy state rights?

In fact, this tactic of Delhi of “catching them young” started from last year when 158 freshly trained IAS officers were posted to different Union government Ministries even before they were sent out to their respective cadres. As regards to the recent decision of formalising this tactic and making it routine, a senior official of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) officially said, “This decision will give an opportunity to Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers to be groomed at the Centre before they move over to their respective states of posting”. At a time when the Union government is talking about “small government”, it has “earmarked” 200 Section Officer grade posts for this purpose and has decided to call them “Assistant Secretaries”. It is relevant to mention that DoPT functions directly under the Prime Minister and not some other Cabinet Minister. Thus, it can be safely assumed that the control of IAS officers and how they are “groomed” is something that the Union Government at New Delhi wants to control from the very top. This has been true for previous regimes also.

One might ask, what does such grooming mean and why is that needed? To understand that, it is 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. Anybody who has been tortured by the Police in the Indian Union may do well to remember that its institutional father is the Imperial Police, a force designed to terrorise the population when they dissent and to protect legal and illegal rights of the powerful. The Indian Administrative Service’s father was called the Imperial Civil Service. When a few thousand college graduates with top-ratings in the dowry bazaar “administer” a billion plus people, with most of their sons and daughters ending up in the Delhi-Mumbai-New York-London power circuit – spanning pimping, business, politics, arts, and ethnic marts, the “I” in the Imperial shows alive and kicking in these “I”= “Indian” times. No wonder, the IAS in these nominally post-imperial times, represent one of the few ways by which a few of the riff-raff can aspire to be courtiers. The rest of the seats belong to the anointed at birth, as it has always been.

It is in light of this understanding that it becomes clear that the basic DNA of the IAS still lies in its origin – the ICS created by the British with their generalists to dominate and make sure that real aspirations of the natives don't happen, that the natives never take their own matter in their own hands. In the post-Partition scenario, this translates into the ridiculous situation 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. The recent order of initial Delhi posting makes it clearer to the budding officers and also to the rest of us, who they are, what are they here for, and who do they serve. 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's power rather than with the people. That to me looks no different from the original objectives of the ICS – a chosen nomenclature, brainwashed by ideology and lured by “career prospects” and “respectability”, preferably with no organic connection to the people he serves. It is not an accident that they live in the same luxury mansions that the British built for the ICS, mansions build out of the blood and sweat of brown people.

It is time to ask, why people of the states - states with dignity and ability, need Delhi deputed generalists to administer affairs on their behalf even for issues that is completely our business and not New Delhi's. The Indian Union is a federal union. In a true 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. The administrative set-up in the Indian Union needs urgent reform upholding the principles of democratic federalism. Administrators speaking Hindi, Marathi, Bangla, Tamil, Kannada can manage their affairs in their respective regions as they have done for centuries before the Union was commissioned by the Constituent Assembly apparently for public service. This diverse public needs public institutions and public servants who represent this diversity by being socio-culturally rooted in the regions they serve. The Delhi-centric rootless class cannot have a self-serving veto. Colonisation is a process, not an event. So is decolonisation. All government structures that uphold a colonial intent are criminal structures. And they are abhorrent to anyone born free. Taming and governing natives by sending in socio-cultural outsiders, be it soldiers or administrators, was a criminal project back then and is mala fide even now.

(The views expressed are strictly personal.)

Garga Chatterjee

Garga Chatterjee

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