Monday, May 30, 2016

Rasheed Kidwai - Nehru praise unlocks IAS rights debate

NB: The 'Sangh Parivar' insists that the RSS is not political and should be allowed to recruit members in the bureaucracy. Now it is hounding an IAS officer for praising Nehru! Read more about the The Non-politics of the RSS In the year 2000 the Gujarat government of Keshubhai Patel, with the support of the Vajpayee government, lifted the ban on RSS recruitment among civil servants. In the ensuing controversy Keshubhai said the RSS was not political (the usual story). This was stoutly resisted and the BJP was forced to withdraw.

Bhopal, May 29: The transfer of a collector who had praised Jawaharlal Nehru in a Facebook post has set off a debate in the Madhya Pradesh bureaucracy whether civil servants have the right to express political views in public. Some officials appear willing to support Ajay Gangwar, who has been removed as Badwani collector and posted as deputy secretary at the state secretariat here.

"Very few dare to stand with truth and rationale to safeguard the basic values of democracy and humanity. I salute you, my friend," a Facebook post by Rajesh Bahuguna, additional commissioner with the commercial tax department, said without naming Gangwar. 

Bahuguna hasn't contradicted commenters interpreting the post as praise of Gangwar.
The 500,000-member state government employees' union has, in a statement addressed to chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, threatened a "strike" if freedom of expression is curbed. But the state chapter of the Indian Administrative Service Association isn't ready to take the matter up unless Gangwar lodges a formal complaint, media reports have said.
Gangwar has deleted his Facebook account and has been quoted in newspapers as saying he would be forced to quit government service if harassed.

Gangwar had appeared to take a jibe at the BJP while saluting Nehru. "Is it his mistake that he prevented all of us from becoming Hindu Talibani Rashtra in 1947?" his post said in Hindi last week. "Is it his mistake that he honoured Sarabhai, Homi Jehangir in place of intellectuals like Asaram and Ramdev... and set up universities instead of gau shalas and temples?"

Chief secretary Antony D'Sa declined comment but sources close to him accused Gangwar of violating service conduct rules. They said Gangwar's reference to "Hindu Talibani" amounted to spreading hatred among communities and his reference to gau shalas mocked the Chouhan government's Nandishala Yojana, aimed at spreading the cowshed network.
Rule 7 in the handbook of the All India Service Conduct Rules (1964) forbids civil servants from making "any public utterance... which has the effect of an adverse criticism of any current or recent policy or action of the central government or a state government", among other things.

Although Gangwar's transfer order does not mention any violation of service rules, the state's ruling BJP is openly saying he has been punished for expressing political opinions.
"He has violated the code of conduct. If we insult the system in the name of freedom of speech, that is wrong," Vishwas Sarang, an MLA from Bhopal considered close to Chouhan, said. State culture secretary Manoj Srivastava, a senior IAS officer and regular Facebook contributor, said he didn't think that Gangwar had been punished for praising Nehru.
"But criticising the government of the day amounts to crossing the Lakshman rekha," he said. However, Srivastava, author of several books on culture and religion, has expressed political opinions too: by criticising Kanhaiya Kumar and his fellow JNU students who are facing sedition charges. "We cannot tolerate anybody raising anti-India slogans," Srivastava said.

Former Uttar Pradesh police chief Vikram Singh has been quoted as telling the news agency ANI in Lucknow that the Chouhan government should clarify why it had transferred Gangwar. "If it's just because of him praising India's first and longest-serving Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, then it is just a petty issue. His transfer, solely based on what he has said about Nehruji, is not at all justified," he was quoted saying.

The Congress has accused the BJP of "intolerance". A serving IAS officer who didn't wish to be quoted said: "It's funny and sad that the government, which wants us to use social media, is curbing freedom of expression so blatantly that the officer was forced to delete his FB post." He criticised the IAS Association's silence. Some serving and former IAS officers said it was time the Centre formulated a clear social media policy for bureaucrats. Srivastava, though, said Gangwar should have chosen to express his opinions in more subtle and ambiguous language.

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