B.G. Deshmukh, former Union Cabinet Secretary, has appositely observed: ?Transfers of bureaucrats have a crucial impact on two sectors?law and order and security and the delivery systems in the country. On both these counts we have reached a critical stage and we will be in deep trouble very soon if we do not control/tackle this now.?
People who are worried about good governance in India are quite shocked by the recent news item that the present Union Information and Broadcasting Secretary, Navin Chawla is being tipped for the post of Union Home Secretary which is now being held by Dhirendar Singh, who is retiring on 31st March, 2005. Navin Chawla is due for retirement on 31st July, 2005.
The most spectacularly classical element in Indian bureaucracy is that whilst all bureaucrats of similar seniority are equal on paper, yet a chosen few are more equal than others. Navin Chawla belongs to the latter category with tremendous clout in the UPA government, thanks to his unbroken record of loyalty and ?service? to the Nehru family. He was very close to Sanjay Gandhi and wielded unprecedented power in his official capacity as Secretary to the Lt. Governor of the Union Territory of Delhi, Kishan Chand, during Emergency in 1975-77. He functioned as the de-facto Governor of Delhi and several bureaucrats who happened to interact with him during this period have confirmed the fact that he was known for his unabashed authoritarianism. His controversial role as Secretary to the Lt. Governor of Delhi was noted by the Shah Commission which went into Emergency excesses. Navin Chawla did not cover himself with glory when the Constitution of India was subverted with impunity during Emergency. As one who occupied a vantage position during that period, he was charged with arbitrary exercise of authority. Any other officer with this kind of background would have been sidelined under the clich?-ridden ?law will take its own course? umbrella. But there are spectacular exceptions to this general rule in our decadent and perverted democracy.
It is here that I have to say with sadness that the politicisation of the bureaucracy in India has been carried to absurd lengths and heights. Under the existing rules, the Union Cabinet Secretary can go on up to 62 years, unlike the other Union Secretaries who retire at 60 years. I understand that a proposal is being put up before the Union Cabinet for raising the age of retirement of Union Home Secretary and Union Defence Secretary to 62 years on par with Union Cabinet Secretary. The politicisation of this loaded proposal is being cleverly and surreptitiously sneaked into the framework of rules by the UPA government proposition that the benefit of this upward revision will not be available to the existing incumbent in the post of Union Home Secretary who is retiring on 31st March, 2005.
It is understood that Navin Chawla will replace Dhirendar Singh as Union Home Secretary on 1st April, 2005. He is likely to be the first beneficiary of the new rule raising the age of retirement of Union Home Secretary from 60 to 62 years. Thus the UPA government is endeavouring to stealthily operate under the umbrella of the so-called rule of law by bringing in an amendment to existing rules and regulations in order to provide a special advantage exclusively to one individual, to the particular exclusion of not only the existing incumbent in the post of Union Home Secretary but general exclusion of several others who are equally qualified, if not more for that post. There are several officers belonging to the 1968 batch and 1969 batch very much senior to Navin Chawla with a track record of outstanding and unblemished service and who would get sidelined in their last years of service for want of political clout or for want of political patronage.
The concern for upholding the cause of so-called public interest cannot be so easily invoked in the case of Navin Chawla because if that is the objective basis for raising the age limit of retirement for Union Home Secretary from 60 years to 62 years, then Dhirendra Singh, the present Home Secretary, would be the first to qualify for the benefit of the revised rule. No responsible government committed to the enforcement of the rule of law under the Constitution can afford to have a shifting and personalised approach to the enforcement of common rules. It cannot be argued that the factor of upholding the cause of public interest under the new rule can take effect only from 1st April, 2005. We can not have arbitrarily chosen cut-off-dates in the matter of primacy of public interest. Justice is truth in action and not blatant untruth in snappy action. The UPA government should not forget that there is a justice, but we do not always see it. Discreet smiling, it is there, at one side, a little behind injustice, which makes a big noise. Aeschylus in his The Eumenides (458 b.c) observed for all time: ?Nobody has a more sacred obligation to obey the law than those who make the law. Wrong must not win by technicalities.?
The only consolation we have today is that such decisions do not ?bureaucratically? emanate from the ivory towers of the Prime Minister'soffice but ?democratically? arise from a private residence on a road dedicated to the common people appropriately called JANPATH?the path of the people.
The morale of the bureaucracy in New Delhi has been shattered by the UPA government'sapproach to postings and transfers.