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IAS Babu: Why is PM Modi angry?

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The question that was put to me was simple: “Did you feel insulted by Prime Minister Modi’s comment recently made in Parliament about the IAS agents who he said held all the top positions?” “

Prime Minister Modi, speaking in Parliament, made the following remark: “Sab kuch babu hi karenege. IAS banned gaye matlab woh fertilizer ka kaarkhana bhi chalayega. Yeh kaun si badi takat bana kar rakh di humne? Babuon ke haath mein desh de karke hum kya karne waale hain?

My answer was simple: “I didn’t feel insulted at all”. However, as a former IAS officer, having interacted with PM Modi on several occasions, I said I was surprised at his comment. My response was actually articulated in a number of tweets that followed.

“If the Prime Minister uses his words for the IAS in Parliament, the IAS agents who had worked near him must seriously introspect because they have created a deplorable impression of the IAS.” I added in the following tweet: “He has the right to have an opinion. This is a commentary on the IAS officers who come in contact with him and those in PMO positions. They must introspect and correct this impression by their conduct and otherwise ”.

I go on to explain why I say this further in my next tweet: “In my interactions with Narendra Modi, he came out as a person who respected public service. I think he still has a lot of respect for the IAS. The PMO has a number of IAS officers. Therefore, his explosion in Parliament using derogatory terms like “babu” is startling. “

Although technically there is a Cabinet appointments committee that takes the final appeals to all the senior levels of appointments, we all know that this call is taken primarily by the Prime Minister himself on the advice of officers in the Prime Minister’s Office. minister. The Prime Minister’s statement was therefore surprising in many ways.

The pejorative word used by the Prime Minister to designate IAS agents was in a particular context. He wanted to highlight the contribution of “creators of wealth” in society and give them the recognition they deserve. It was in order. But why did the Prime Minister have to denigrate the IAS to encourage the creators of wealth? I also tweeted on this aspect, “You don’t have to call someone bad to prove someone else is good. The comparisons are odious ”. Modi is otherwise very balanced in his effusions, even when he is angry.

As Prime Minister, he continues to be assisted by an army of officials from the Prime Minister’s Office. A number of these officers are serving or retired IAS officers. In my capacity as Secretary of the Indian Government (for four years from 2014 to 2018), I had the opportunity to interact with him on a number of issues. He was always very courteous and respectful, welcomed and even encouraged differences of opinion. He trusted the IAS and appreciated the good work that was being done. In the case of coal, he publicly acknowledged the role I had played in the successful conduct of the coal block auctions. He also liked many other IAS agents. So what’s wrong after 2018? If I heard him correctly, he even appreciated the role played by the official in the difficult times of COVID.

If he really felt that the “babuon ke haath mein desh de karke hum kya karne wale hain?“So who prevents him from taking the country far from the” babus “who would have taken the country in their hands. In a series of tweets, I agree with him. I said: “Strongly agree with Narendra Modi when he questions the ‘occupation’ of all key positions by IAS ‘Babu'”, but I asked myself “why an expert of international credibility and across the Atlantic was replaced by an IAS Babu as governor of the RBI? “. I keep asking further in the next tweet, “Which IAS Babu advised him to replace an expert, experienced in the insurance industry with an IAS Babu as chairman, Insurance Regulatory Development Authority (IRDA)?”

Just days before the declaration to Parliament, the Prime Minister had chosen a very competent IAS Babu, replacing an “expert” (who had been specifically drafted to lead the flagship program, Ayushman Bharat and had been there for three years) when the work could have been entrusted to another more “competent” non-babu. Likewise, another Babu IAS who had enormous experience in the electricity sector was granted an extension as chairman of the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) when a non-Babu expert could have have to replace it. There are many other competent and less competent IAS Babus who occupy sensitive and less sensitive positions before and after their retirement. In one particular case, PM Modi had the law changed to see Babu occupy a critical position in his office.

So what went wrong that led to this public outburst? (Part of the blast was factually incorrect as most PCUS are not led by IAS Babus). The Babus around him will certainly have to introspect. The prime minister, as a staunch supporter of Sardar Vallabhai Patel, had great confidence in the public service. In my personal experience, he has always been measured in his comments. Was this explosion just to boost the morale of the “creators of wealth”? Does he sincerely believe that “the land has been handed over to Babus”?

The Indian Administrative Service needs an overhaul. What we have today are brilliant individuals, some of whom accidentally evolve as leaders. As I mention in my book, “Ethical Dilemmas of a Civil Servant,” there is a need to “look at how recruitment takes place, on-the-job training, transfers, agent evaluation, incentives and disincentives by means of selections for critical positions ”.

Until that happens, the PM will have to be content with what is available. There are available officials with different combinations of attributes: competent, incompetent, efficient, ineffective, honest, dishonest, efficient, ineffective, flexible, malleable, obsequious, direct, frank, servile, with and without a backbone, visible, invisible, daring, pusillanimous, vocal, indifferent, positive and negative. The choice is that of the PM. Public ridicule, if ever there was one, may not help. The answer may also lie in another question through the tweet: “Why not create a truly independent institution to select ‘experts’ for positions currently occupied mainly by IAS Babus retirees. It will also avoid scrambling for such assignments by those who are expected to retire soon ”.

Anil Swarup is a former secretary of the Indian government and author of the book “Not Just A Civil Servant”. Opinions expressed are personal

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