THE CITIZEN BUREAU | 11 APRIL, 2019
Several Bureaucrats In PMO, Home, MEA Plan Exit If Modi Returns to Power: Reuters
No influence on policy, long hours, some of the reasons cited
NEW DELHI: Senior bureaucrats in government are looking at premature retirement or transfer out of Delhi to their home state cadres if Prime Minister Narendra Modi is re-elected to power. Reuters, the British news agency, has reported that at least eight senior bureaucrats in the Prime Ministers Office, and the Ministries of Home Affairs and External Affairs will be looking for an exit if the Lok Sabha polls bring the current dispensation back to power.
Reuters claims to have spoken to at least officials who are not willing to go on record. But that they admitted that more “officials in several ministries were trying to move” but did not have a number. The “three officials” according to the report said that the reasons for the bureaucrats wanting an early exit were the same, namely “their inability to influence government policy as it is largely controlled and set by the prime minister and a small group of ministers and advisers, and the demanding work schedule they face”.
“The sense of partnership is missing, Modi and his ministers do not have an organic relationship with the bureaucrats,” the report quoted a civil servant in the home ministry as saying.
Reuters said that “ Sanjay Mayukh, a spokesman for Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), declined to comment on the grounds that governance issues were managed directly by ministers.
A spokesman in the prime minister’s office did not return phone calls seeking comment”.
The news agency further stated, “Senior bureaucrats said Modi’s top-down approach, and his orders to work on public holidays, to demand they submit details of their assets, and to clean their own workplaces at the start of a five-year cleanliness campaign in 2014, has widened the gap between the civil servants and the nation’s leader.
Amit Shah, a close aide of Modi and the head of the BJP, in a closed door meeting attended by two ministers in February said bureaucrats continued to suffer from “communist romanticism”, a reference to the alleged influence of the left-leaning Congress opposition party on the bureaucrats. The ministers, who spoke to Reuters, declined to be identified”.
The report continued: In particular, there is deep resentment in the top echelons of the Indian civil service over the interference in government by the Rashtriya Swayemsevak Sangh (RSS), the Hindu right-wing umbrella group of which the BJP is a part, these officials said.
RSS functionaries have had a major role in successfully lobbying for big changes at the Reserve Bank of India, for example, leading to last December’s resignation of its governor and his replacement with an official who is considered more loyal to Modi, officials said.
RSS figures also criticise Modi for not having enough professionally trained experts in place to implement some of his more controversial policies.
“The country needs a professional administration for economic development and can’t depend on generalists,” said Ashwani Mahajan, co-convenor of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM), the economic wing of the RSS that has campaigned against some bureaucrats.
Last year, Modi proposed bringing in at least ten professionals from the private sector into the civil service at the joint secretary level, but the plan has still to be implemented, and is facing strong resistance from civil servants. Joint Secretaries are two rungs below full Secretaries, the top civil servant in a ministry.
A senior finance ministry official said major policy decisions including demonetisation, Modi’s decision to wipe out high-denomination bank notes without warning in 2016 and to hastily launch a goods and services tax that hit millions of small businesses and jobs, were examples of political decisions that didn’t get enough airing among officials before being implemented. Both are thought to have hurt jobs growth, economists say.
There is a wider concern in the civil service about India being ruled by a Hindu nationalist party that some see destroying the country’s previous tolerant and secular nature.
But the hours are as much of a concern to some.
“I am looking out for other opportunities and have even requested for a transfer because it is almost impossible to work for 12-13 hours every day, even during weekends,” said a senior official working with Modi since 2014.