(Any opinions expressed here are not of Thomson Reuters)
How does a civil servant survive India’s labyrinthine government bureaucracies? The question has come up again after the government of Uttar Pradesh suspended an employee and charged her with illegally allowing the demolition of a wall that was going to form part of a mosque.
The case of Durga Shakti Nagpal, 28, boils down to whether she was inciting religious disharmony through her order, or whether she was getting her comeuppance for trying to stop a sand mining racket in India’s most populous state. Her suspension also has highlighted the difficulties that bureaucrats face every day.
We asked current and former bureaucrats: how do young officers deal with hostile politicians and superiors? Does the IAS need changes to how it operates to make it easier for civil servants to do their jobs honestly? Should the judiciary control the IAS, not the legislature?
JM Lyngdoh (former chief election commissioner of India): In the beginning [politicians] didn’t like rules and regulations to be put up to them. Gradually, things became worse, and eventually they had nothing but contempt for rules and regulations. Officers become stenographers and nothing better than that.
Basically, if you are entering service today, you ought to enter with your eyes open. It is a very tough world, and you have to be tough to survive without being dishonest to yourself. In my time, you would at the most be sidelined for getting in their way. Today’s politicians can even get you killed if necessary. If you don’t have it in you, then you shouldn’t be here.