Has the I.A.S. lived up to the expectations with which it was instituted 70 years back? By Jitendra Kumar Sharma
The Indian Administrative Service, popularly known by its abbreviated sobriquet, IAS, has completed its 70 years of existence in 2018. It is a successor to the so-called Iron-clad, Heaven-born Indian Civil Service of the British colonial era. The IAS was very differently conceived than the ICS and was expected to perform an altogether different role than the ICS. It was said about the ICS that there was neither Indian, nor civil nor an iota of service about it. The IAS was supposed to have everything Indian and was devised to be the Servant of the Indian People.
The IAS was to be imbued with the idea and culture of India. Today, it is an elite class, zealously guarding its patchy mould of its British predecessor and worn-out mask of the colonial ICS. It is the most privileged, self-perpetuating class or clan of self-serving, power-grabbing in-grown ruling group that dominates all other branches of government. It dominates the politicians and the people alike.
The I.A.S. was to be the instrument of governance that would assist the political executive to create, build and develop Indian democracy as a peoples’ republic‘. The IAS was expected to help build and strengthen democratic institution such as gram sabhas, panchayats, zila parishads that serve as the base for Vidhan Sabhas and the Lok Sabha. All these political institutions were to democratize administration, development process, and governance of India as a country and finally, from these foundations, was to emerge a vibrant, participatory democracy eventually to mature into a peoples’ republic. The IAS conceived as a permanent system of people’s servants that would lend unity and continuity to democratic India’s Administration and Development and serve the nation with a sense of Indian-ness in their style of functioning. The forefathers of the Indian constitution had high expectations from the IAS and wanted it to play a leading role in building India as a republic of self-governing, self-sufficient, agro-industrial, urbo-rural local communities, politico-economic institutions that would control and regulate the deployment of natural resources for the Indian nation for Indian people’s welfare and betterment.
India, because of its culture and diversity, is very different from most countries of the world. The IAS, contrary to nation’s expectations has taken an altogether divergent course. As a permanent and continuous instrument of government it has, instead of discovering and rediscovering its culture and diversity, set up a superficial and fake model of western imitation for the succeeding generations of Independent India. The aura of IAS dominates the educated people of India and for the rural masses,it has become a callous officialdom which is perpetuating inefficiency and corruption. India was not imagined by freedom fighters and leaders as a jungle of concrete urbanization. India was to be agro-based economy motivated not by individual, self-oriented westernized society but a comity of communities rooted and rising from its village culture of bhaichara or fraternity and its other timeless verities. Pattern of its economic growth too was foreseen as need-based, environment friendly, nature- conserving and providing livelihood to its poor people on a priority basis rather than a statistics-driven inflationary economy creating an inequitable consumer society serving the greed of industrialists, traders and hoarders as is the case today. India’s development in our forefathers’ scheme had to be democratic and decentralized focused on the constant and continuous amelioration of the poorest of the poor of our society.
The IAS too was launched to realize the ‘Idea of India’, a governance framework that will act as a bulwark against any encroachments on the ‘Idea of India’. These conditions and protocol for the IAS were clearly laid out in the Constitution of India. The IAS was, therefore, granted constitutional protections, which is not the case in other democratic countries. The prestige and protection of the IAS was certainly not meant to create a special, privileged, class who would develop nexus with Big Business and Politicians to fleece the nation and its people of their basic rights as a ruthless ruling elite. The guarantees that the Indian constitution provided to the IAS were meant to create a cadre of public servants who would ensure fair, fearless, just administration for managing the country’s affairs efficiently and devotedly.
The IAS as a class,in cohorts with the subsequent political masters, abandoned the ‘Idea of India’, and forgot the purpose for which the IAS was created. The Constitution provided all the protection and privilege to the IAS but failed to give the same power and protection to the panchayat raj institutions that was to be the foundation of Indian Democracy. Instead, there emerged a disorderly and disarrayed pattern of ‘mixed-economy’ run by a command-and-control system.
As a result, India’s Administration remains stubbornly entrenched in the same colonial-hierarchical framework. Democratic-participatory process is obstructed rather than being promoted by the IAS. Consequently, misshapen urban-rural monstrous cities,villages and towns have appeared that are at the mercy of lawless lumpen hoards, hoodlums, criminals and looters. Politically, economically and administratively India is a scary place to live for a law-abiding citizen.
The past President KR Narayanan, himself a member of the SC and also a privileged member of the IAS/IFS as late as 2005 said: “Decades into the free life of our nation, we find that justice — social, economic and political — remains an unrealized dream for millions of our fellow citizens. The benefits of our economic growth are yet to reach them. Tragically, the growth in our economy has not been uniform. Many a social upheaval can be traced to the neglect of the lowest of society, whose discontent moves towards the path of violence”.
The IAS, according to the The Constituent Assembly of India, had to be “the best material available in the country transgressing political boundaries.” Today, the common perception, according to a 2010 survey, is the IAS is an outfit that is an administrative wreck “sub-serving lowest political interests” and outrageously drenched in corruption.
The IAS almost totally destroyed itself during the Emergency 1975-77.Instead of protecting the constitution and rising up against a lawless regime, the IAS prostrated itself before it and defiled the Constitution; it assaulted and raped the Indian democracy. It drafted and implemented draconian rules and ordinances and enjoyed the benefits of autocracy and extra-constitutionalism instead of rescuing Indian democracy and defending the rights of its people. When shall the country recover from the cowardice IAS injected in the body-politic of India is a question that starkly stares in the face of India’s dilapidated democratic institutions.
Liberalization, globalization and privatization have further widened the scope for the predatory bureaucratic-capitalist-politician nexus to sharpen and satiate its instincts for land-grabbing, money-guzzling , environment – plundering in the name of ‘development’. Basic duties of maintaining harmony, law and order; delivering timely justice; efficient and corruption-free services; protecting environment and natural resources, leading the way to decentralization of the development process for equitable and inclusive distribution of wealth of the nation nowhere figure in the self-serving pursuits of power and privilege of the IAS. Far from fulfilling mandate of the Constitution, the IAS as a service has failed the nation and people of India.