Image courtesy: The Statesman

Seven decades ago, Dr B.R Ambedkar declared that India was entering the life of contradictions. Across political front, India had achieved equality i.e. one man, one vote, one value. However, India, then, had not achieved equality on social and economic fronts, the status quo, which continues till date.

But what probably could have baffled Dr. B.R.Ambedkar is not only the absence of that one man one value system or equality between historically disadvantageous classes and historically advantageous classes of the Hindu society but also caste-repression even within Indian public administration.

This is a paradox because the public administration, consisting of innumerable government departments and organizations across union, states, and local levels of Indian federation, was supposed to be the instruments of change ushering the social and economic equality as dreamt by Dr B.R Ambedkar.

Although reservations in government services were envisaged as a means of bringing social and economic equality, however the very same aren’t implemented in letter and spirit in every government department.

The statement made by Minister of Personal attributed to India Today1 in 2019 that a total of about 15,000 backlog reserved vacancies belonging to historically disadvantageous groups existed within the organizations of Government of India lends credence to the reluctance in implementation of the reservations in services. The scenario is no different or worse in state government organizations.

Part of the problem is due to the fact that top level posts within the hierarchy that controls every government organizations is largely dominated by historically advantageous castes and groups.

As evidence, in 2019, The Print2 reported that only 4 out of 82 secretaries in Government of India belonged to Schedule caste and Scheduled Tribes who are historically disadvantageous groups of Hindu society. The scenario is no different whether the organizations are controlled by Indian administrative services or central civil services or state civil services.

Scheduled caste and Scheduled tribes are largely confined to lower order posts of Indian public administration that reminds evil caste order but in the modern avatar. And these disadvantageous groups are simply helpless as they will be repressed through neo-terror tools of public administration such as transfers, destruction of their appraisal reports and conduct rules.

The erstwhile religious and social diktats that oppressed schedule caste and Scheduled Tribes are now replaced with draconian conduct rules and other neo-terror tools.

They are selectively used not only to undermine reservations but also brutalize them into submission and prevent them from reaching the higher order of the hierarchy within the organizations.

An assertive Schedule Caste or a Schedule Tribe, no matter what his contribution is, or how hard he works, will be crushed and prevented from rising across the hierarchical ladder. This is the horrific scenario found within various organizations of various governments of Indian federal polity.

Over 5000 complaints and petitions related to service matters pending as on 2015-16 in the National Commission of Scheduled Castes corroborate such caste-repression and inequality existing within the Indian public administration even in 21st century3. The number as on date could be even more.

Three major forms of neo-terror tools are widely deployed by historically dominant class employees in government departments and organizations to crush and quell innocuous Schedule Caste and Scheduled Tribe employees who assert the constitutionally guaranteed rights, privileges and equality that Dr B.R Ambedkar passionately fought throughout his life.

The three neo-terror tools are:

  1. Annual Rotation Transfer of employees
  2. Annual Performance Appraisal Review (APAR)
  3. Conduct Rules

 

  1. Annual Rotation Transfer of employees:

Transfers in Indian government organizations are never an egalitarian tool meant to improve public administration.

It is always a whip meant to terrorize helpless Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and those who assert their constitutionally granted rights and privileges, question casteist-biases and casteist-malevolent acts. (Evidence: S.R.Kamde vs. Central Water Commission, 2010)4. Such employees will be brutalized by transferring to places that hurts their livelihoods and families.

Unless they are sycophants of the highest order, it is a miracle to find these employees in favorable positions.  This is nothing but the re-enactment of erstwhile evil bonded labor.

 

  1. APAR:

APAR is the very important performance assessment tool in public administration meant for career progression of an employee.

Much against the tenets of equality, many times, the dominant class employees use APAR as tool of chicanery to destroy the careers of employees from weaker sections of the society whereas their brethren are allowed to occupy top and favorable posts.

No matter how hard an employee from disadvantageous group works, if that employee is not a sycophant to the megalomaniac dominant castes, then lies and biases are created, so that the performance is devalued purportedly to scuttle his probable rise across the hierarchical structure (Evidence: Shri Raja vs. Indian Audit and Accounts Department, Government of India)5.

  1. Conduct Rules:

 

The conduct rules is another neo-terror tool where freedom of speech and expression of upright employees from historically disadvantageous groups are crushed by threatening their job security.

The rules are imposed disproportionately against them vis-à-vis chauvinistic dominant class employees as an act of retribution.  Plenty of evidences are available with National Commission of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes where principles of natural justice are never followed and these employees are dismissed from service (Evidence: Shri Jasvir Singh vs. Noida Authority, Uttar Pradesh)6

Out of fear of losing jobs, this neo-terrorism of conduct rules against historically disadvantageous class employees within public administration is never disclosed to the public.

The failure of Indian judiciary in granting justice to oppressed employees has also exacerbated the crisis leading to the transformation of these organizations into human rights abusing organizations and havens of inequality much against the wishes of Dr B.R.Ambedkar.

So, the oppressed classes of the modern Indian public administration have little choice but display proclivity towards extreme form of sycophancy or surrender their constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech and expression or sell their self-respect as a quid pro quo. Thus, the convoluted caste conflict within India’s public administration continues unabated but clandestinely.

Conclusion

Seven decades ago, Dr B.R Ambedkar cautioned the then young nation that unless there is social and economic equality in the Indian society, the political democracy that was envisaged could be in peril.

However, it is a paradox that the inequality and the caste-repression that Dr B.R.Ambedkar strived to destroy during his life time have spread their tentacles right in the government organizations.

The widespread prevalence of two men two values within Indian public administration is the source of malaise that threatens every sphere of social and economic life in India. And that spells doom for the political democracy of India after seven decades of Constitution of India coming into force.

Therefore, unless, these contradictions of caste-inequality in public administration is rectified (which seems insurmountable now) and repressive regimes within public administration are proscribed, then, as rightly predicted by Dr B.R Ambedkar7, this logjam will present a grave threat to the foundations of the political democracy that India has built laboriously in the past seven decades.

References:

  1. https://www.indiatoday.in/education-today/news/story/representation-of-scs-sts-in-govt-jobs-above-prescribed-percentage-govt-1570524-2019-07-17
  2. https://theprint.in/india/governance/of-89-secretaries-in-modi-govt-there-are-just-3-sts-1-dalit-and-no-obcs/271543/
  3. Annual Report 2016-17. National Commission of Scheduled Castes (NCSC). Government of India. New Delhi. Retrieved at http://ncsc.nic.in/files/AR16_17.pdf
  4. File No.S-46/Water-1/08/SSW-I decision taken by NCSC on 04.09.2008.
  5. File No.5-22 / CAG-L/2018-SSW. I Minutes dated 27.08.2018.
  6. File No.J-3 I/UP -17/2018-SSW. ll Minutes of Hearing dated 07.09.2018.
  7. https://www.deccanherald.com/specials/insight/democracy-in-peril-763128.html

J Harsha is a post-graduate MS in Hydraulic Engineering & River Basin Development from UNESCO-IHE, The Netherlands. He did his graduation in University Visvesaraya College of Engineering in 1998. In 2001, he joined service in Government of India as Assistant Director after successfully clearing the UPSC Combined Engineering Service Exams. He is presently working in Central Water Commission, Ministry of Jal Shakti, Government of India as Director at Regional Office of Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India. 

(Views expressed are personal)


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