Estd. 2006
Servants, not saviour of the people follow constitution

Ningning Newmai

Civil service is described as the body of government officials who are recruited in civil administration that are neither political nor judicial. There are 23 different Civil Services, the most popular services are Indian Administrative Services (IAS), Indian Police Services (IPS), Indian Revenue Services (IRS) and Indian Foreign Services (IFS). It is the legacy of the British Government brought into existence during their rule, to promote their interest. 

Post independence, when the Government attained the role of Welfare State, civil services had an imperative role in implementing national and state policies of welfare and planned development. After the coming into force of the Constitution of independent India, the civil services have undergone considerable sea changes. For years, civil services have been among the most coveted jobs in India.  Secured after cracking the toughest exams, the social status of a civil servant in India is considered to be highly reputable and sought after. While just like any other job a civil servant is paid, along with salary, he/she also enjoys various perks and privileges- such as stay, travel, security, exposure to multiple angles of life at the highest level etc. At the same they are also faced with lots of challenges, social and political pressures and responsibilities, etc.

However, the Public focus is only on perks, powers and privileges, lifestyle and VIP treatment and hyped image of civil servants.  Thus, after clearing the UPSC or PSC exams and on being appointed to the post, one witnesses change in behavior and attitude of people all around him. People begin to pay respect to him, some out of admiration, and many due to fear while others in hopes for favors.

With so much attention and hype from the people, ‘some’ civil servants become arrogant and begin to see themselves as God-like figures among the helpless public. This air of arrogance, coupled with lack of awareness of rights on the public's part is enough for ‘some’ to feel a sense of entitlement while dealing with the people, keeping their duties in the backseat. The so called Aura of being a part of elite ‘SERVICE’ and the sense of being in ‘POWER’ is often being seen to have been carried forward with career progression of Officers. 

Previously, a big part of the VIP culture was the Red Beacon or lal batti which had huge psychological impact on masses. In 2017 this practice was banned under the ruling government on the grounds that such practice symbolized power and a stark differentiation between those who are allowed to use it and those who are not. While this may have symbolically ended the VIP culture, however, there are still many ways through which few arrogant officers like to display their position and power. Even though the Lal Batti has gone, the aura of fear and status still exist. In most advance European countries, where Civil Service exists simply in a dormant ‘facilitation’ mode of operation, people over there never encounter such incidents of psychological manifestation of power which ‘We The People of India’ still get to witness in different forms in every corner of the country.

There are also many loopholes in the system the advantages of which are taken by corrupt / unprofessional officers. Little things like traffic diversions, roadblocks when these officers pass, use of sirens, etc very much contribute to the VIP culture and exhibition of clout of power in the society. Recently, instances have come to light in the media where some officers were seen showing inappropriate and rather aggressive behavior in their dealings with the public. In one such instance, a Haryana Sub- Divisional magistrate was captured in a video instructing the police to lathi-charge protesting farmers and to leave anyone crossing the barricades with broken heads. Similarly an SDM in Rajasthan who was accompanied by several police officers, amid confrontation whilst on duty, has been seen kicking a farmer.  

Even during the trying times of covid it has been witnessed that some government servants along with powerful politicians used their position to demand priority and quick treatment from hospitals burdening the health system. In another case, during lockdown a DC was seen slapping a person and slamming his phone on the ground on account of violating covid-lockdown guidelines.

A recent case within Nagaland would be an assault of a Jawan by an SP following an accidental damage of a wall at the SP's residence. The SP reportedly slapped the Jawan several times and repeatedly kicked him in his stomach. Further the latter was also repeatedly asked for his tribal identity and made to repair the damages.

Also, how can we forget the latest molestation case wherein an FIR has been filed against the DC of Noklak Reny Wilfred. We are waiting for the official Government stand and investigation update on the matter. Everyone is Equal before the eyes of Law.

While previously, there was secrecy surrounding these excesses done by the officers.  In recent times, thanks to social media and smart phones, many such incidents have come to light with proper evidence. Further, what makes the system dreadful is the   lack of accountability. As such, even in case of blatant misdemeanors, it has been found that some officers are “suspended” only to be revoked once the wrong has faded from public memory.

At the same time, the incentive systems that do not appreciate upright and outstanding civil servants instead reward the corrupt and the incompetent. Thus, often civil officers end up working in the directions of self-serving politicians.

While the government is said to be working to bring needed reforms in the civil services, some being rather controversial, in the meantime civil servants also need to remind themselves that they are to assist the people and not to ride over them. Being at the apex of jobs, it is inevitable for civil servants to shun the attention of people .

It is also true that civil services demand vigorous work on the part of the officers. However, in the process they should not give-in to the temptations of greed, ego, anger and frustration losing sight of their greater purpose. They are responsible for providing "continuity and change" to the administration and governance. Thus, need to prepare themselves to tackle new challenges.

Civil Servants ought to deal with the public and/or their subordinates in an ethical manner as per the mandate of the law of the land with sensitivity to their rights and aspirations. And in doing so to remain grounded and maintain self control. They are to provide their services effectively, impartially, courteously and professionally. It has also been observed that often, in case of failures or shortcomings, civil servants are labeled as burdensome, corrupt or low level performers by the public. On the public's part, they should avoid generalization of officers.  There are many officers who have and continue to uphold the spirit of civil service.

 As a democratic country, the final power here confers with the people which is exercised through designated political representatives and through Judiciary. Civil services are considered as the backbone of the ‘Governance of the Nation’. The civil servants by quality of its knowledge, experience and understanding of public affairs support the chosen representatives to devise effective policy and have great responsibility to turn these policies into realities for the welfare of society and enhancement of the nation.

There is a need for change in the attitude of society too; people need to look beyond the glamour and privileges that comes with Indian civil services. The public should remain informed of their rights and duties, which can happen only when there is literacy and awareness of their rights. Representatives of the Civil Service of India are the servants of the people of the nation. It is ‘WE THE PEOPLE OF INDIA’ are supreme- this is the Constitutional mandate.

Therefore, I request all my brothers and sisters to not to fear Government Servants but support them in performing their legal and constitutional PUBLIC duties and functions. If you think that they are failing in their PUBLIC duties, you can always invoke your Constitutional Rights under Article 226 and Article 32, and also the rights under Right To Information Act 2005 etc; to make them accountable.

Let us know that the Indian Nation is not just protected by its soldiers, but also by the strong Constitution which has well articulated, defended and protected the ‘SUPREMACY’ of a common man in the Democracy and Governance of the country.

(Ningning Newmai is a 3rd Semester [MA - Political Science] student of Tetso College, Dimapur.)

September 12 2021