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Can you explain ‘Civil Services Activism’ in India with examples?

Civil services’ activism includes all or any of those proactive steps which are taken by civil servants to make the system/administration more people centric, transparent, efficient and abiding by constitutional values.

It may include gamut of activities like civil servants holding regular public meetings, asking for people’s feedback, making people aware of their rights, ensuring quality of goods and services provided by government, vigilant working, taking a strict stand against actions or decisions of political bosses or colleagues/seniors which are against their constitutional duties and constitutional values (e.g. corruption) and thus bringing a major reform, overhauling in the office.

It not only improves administration but majorly it reinforces people’s faith in the system. For example —

T. N. Seshan (former Chief Election Commissioner) can be called as an activist civil servant. He fought a tough battle to bring down electoral malpractices and making Election Commission a powerful, efficient and transparent body. He gave us some cleanest ever elections by implementing MCC (Model Code of Conduct) strictly.

D. K. Ravi – recently lost his life, allegedly due to his stiff resistance to politician-mafia nexus which he uncovered and acted against.

Kiran Bedi – actively brought reforms in jails through various innovative methods like vocational courses in prison, yoga, meditation etc. when she was I.G. (Prison).

Vinod Rai (former CAG) – bluntly commented on irresponsible manner of coal block allocations.

Ashok KhemkaSanjiv Chaturvedi and many more….

Many a times, civil servant activists take a step which is in long term interest of democracy and rule of law but it may go against the conduct rules e.g. going to press directly as whistleblower. So the activist civil servants are alleged to be doing the right things in a wrong way because of by being part of the system, they are not expected to go against the well set rules, even if their end intentions are to bring overall good to system.

However, many say that one cannot be a ‘deadwood’ civil servant i.e. just be a mute spectator of corruption, irregularities and inaction. In fact, civil servant activists are better than the people who do all the wrong things in a right way. Thus, civil servants’ activism is a ray of hope and now since the value system of administration is changing, civil servants’ activism may be given acceptance also.

In fact, it saves a civil servant from being indifferent in the name of civil servant neutrality because many a times civil servant activism is seen as an action aimed against a particular political party/ideology.

Abhas Chatterjee (Bihar Cadre IAS) — called upon a press conference to expose corruption in administration and then resigned.

Conclusion — Civil services’ activism has no single meaning or context. Any proactive step of a civil servant aimed at increasing the integrity and efficiency and the utility of the system/administration can be termed as an act of civil services’ activism.

Public Administration by G.Rajput

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