Letters to the editor

Readers’ comments: If the civil services is India’s steel frame, it is rusted and needs reform

Responses to articles on Scroll.in.

Call for reform

With due respect, I want to draw the author’s attention to the weakening of this steel frame by its weak constituents – the officers who don’t deserve their posts (“PMO’s proposed changes in civil services allocation are an attempt to weaken India’s steel frame”). Many cases have come to light where IAS or IPS officers have struggled to pursue the path of justice and have come under the influence of political goons, thereby making a mockery of their posts. What I perceive is that Modi’s proposed reform will allow for analysing the character and suitability of the candidates. This will have some positive effects on the rusted steel frame. Change is necessary with time, for social consciousness and ultimately for progress. – Girish V

***

How has the author of this article jumped to the conclusion that the Modi regime has destroyed every notable institution in this country? This article is vague and biased, lacking any credible evidence. My advice to the author is that he stop Modi- bashing and instead furnish facts to make his claims admissible. This sort of biased approach does not befit an officer of his calibre. Whether the recommendations of the PMO will come into effect is subjected to debate. If it is found that the reforms go against the ideals of the so-called fathers of our hallowed country, I am sure they will not come into effect. – Bhaskar J Paul

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Though elaborate and detailed, this article doesn’t spell out how the changes are going to damage the system. In the past too, under the UPA, such a system was adopted at the foundational course level, though in a different form. – Girish Dave

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There is no need to fear that the institution will be damaged. All the central services are equally important. The Modi government has not proposed any changes to the selection process. The proposed reform only decides who will go to different central services. – NCS Reddy

***

All civil servants who did not take the foundation course seriously must be thinking differently now. This article does not make a convincing argument about how the IAS institution will be damaged if the marks of foundation course exam are considered during final allocation of departments. In my opinion, there should be no foundation course. Instead, the recruits should go to their respective departments for training. – Sanjay Shrivastava

***

The author seems to be resistant to change. The idea of a “committed bureaucracy” and the consequential controversial implementation of that was the beginning of the end of the upright bureaucracy that the author eulogises.

Civil servants failed to reign in the corruption in governance and are the perpetrators of a system that makes a mockery of the democratic process of government formation. Other than protecting their turfs, what have they achieved for the people? Do they even so much as respect the citizens charter that every public service mandates?

They are singularity responsible for the failure of the government system to deliver to the people the fruits of independence and development. They revel in their power and the ordinary people are pariahs who need to be kept away from the citadels of their power.

If India has to progress in the current millennium and catch up with the “developed world”, the bureaucracy needs to be overhauled and made accountable to the people, through methods such as the one the present government is proposing. Instead of objectively analysing the proposed reform, the author is doing his best to obfuscate the issue. – Mahadevan KV

***

The compassion shown in this essay is admirable but it lacks viable suggestions. People have many expectations from civil servants. They lead from the front and at the district level, people look to civil servants for everything. The civil services are the hidden strength of people of India when all other option becomes unviable. There is no match in the world to our public servants and the way they have served the country.

Our election commissioners conduct the world’s largest and most diverse elections with high degree of commitment to our democracy. Health initiatives that they have carried out, like polio eradication, are another example. Three months is too little time to gauge someone’s talents and commitment to particular field . They should be evaluated for at least five years. – Suresh Ray

***

I beg to differ with Harsh Mander on the subject. One can’t fear and oppose change. Why this apprehension that the changes will destroy the so-called steel frame of our country? What phenomenal achievement has this steel frame made this far? Isn’t the frame rusted?

Change is the only constant and in general, people are averse to it but that should not be the case. What is inevitable will happen and it always happens for the good. – Ranjan Mukherjee

***

Please give me one reason why the civil services or IAS should be continued. Which other country has such a service? The priorities are flawed. Officers are often incompetent and conceited, jacks of all trades but masters of none, and above all, corrupt to the bone. Other professions in this country, such as the corporate sector, are working far better. – Gautam Sen

***

I beg to differ from this opinion on the proposed reform in civil services. When the modalities of the reform haven’t been put forth, how can the author conclude that the changes have been made to serve the agenda of the RSS? Are the civil services to be considered sacrosanct? Can we not reform the civil servant leadership imposed by the British? – Arun Dutt

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The prime minister is guided by RSS and has given command of almost all autonomous institutions to the Sangh. The RSS feels that India is their property and only Hinduism has right to prevail here. The prime minister and his ministers are supposed to rule India on the basic principles of the Constitution. But they have not spared any opportunity to weaken this Constitution. The strong frame of the civil services has kept the spirit of integrity in the country intact so far. If this institution is also handed over to RSS, the warning that Ambedkar gave to this country, of it losing its independence once again, will become a reality. If patriots want to preserve the cherished fabric and independence of the country, they should oppose the proposed change tooth and nail. – Gaware Shrikant

***

The writer only seems to be busy showing his intellectual superiority and resistance to change. It will be really bold on part of Modi to completely abolish the civil services instead of making incremental changes. The writer may not understand or appreciate out-of-the-box ideas. It is high time there is a complete overhaul in the civil services. To start with, mistakes must be met with removals instead of suspensions or transfers. – Anup Dwivedy

***

This is exactly what powerful civil servants have been doing to all the departments they handle. They can therefore only be handled by even more powerful democrats. Everyone knows many heads of a department nurture favouritism since they themselves reach creamy positions in the same way. Had this most powerful tribe of public servants been fearlessly fair to their duties, they would have earned widespread public support for their voice against this repression. The selection process for engineers, medical aspirants and many other exams has also been changed many times in the name of reform, which has multiplied the agony of these poor students. These civil servants did not raise their voices against those reforms introduced by every HRD minister and changed according to their whims. They even contributed to that process. Why should they expect support from the society with which most of them have failed to connect?

As mentioned in this article, this steel frame is rusted and weakened. Even if some individual rods in the frame have remained strong (a few officers like the author perhaps), the structure is bound to fall if it continues to weaken. – Rajeev Sharma

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I am very impressed with this article. It is inspiring and depicts the true ideology of a civil servant. In today’s India, we need unity, integrity and fraternity among all religions and castes. We need People like this author to enlighten everyone. – Parvez Pathan

Shimla water crisis

The situation in Shima is a result of the shear callousness of technocrats, planners, bureaucrats and politicians (“Shimla water shortage: Water harvesting is the answer, not dependence on the state”). The water supply was probably designed by the British for a tiny population. The source of water should be augmented periodically as the town becomes increasingly urbanised.

The authorities concerned have also allowed untreated sewage water to be discharged in the open. For a full year, the government did not rectify the sewage treatment plant. This is a clear case of negligence and laxity. I don’t know if the scheme to supply additional water to Shimla from the Satluj River was implemented or is lying in the trash.

The Himachal Pradesh government should seek the help of central institutes to study the master plan of Shimla and prepare a a forecast of water demand for 50 years. They should then identify sources of supply along with plans for treatment and reuse of water, along with some measures for water harvesting and conservation. The agency responsible for the current blunder be made accountable, Forget the dream of smart cities. – Thakur NS

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A more insulting or moronic suggestion would be difficult to imagine. A resort owner with large land area can think of implementing rain water harvesting. Most people don’t have any catchment area and the remaining few don’t have enough. Also, for the vast majority, finances are an issue. This is a job for the state and it should be held accountable. – Anil Manchanda

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Shimla is one example of a gap in water availability versus the needs of people. There are many cities that are facing water stress to different degrees. It’s high time people wake up and become proactive in conservation and reuse of water. Bengaluru escaped water rationing by a whisker last summer. NGOS, administrators and people in general should gear up for the war on water shortages. A very effective outreach program is needed to wake people up from their slumber and the presumotion that water is an inexhaustible resource, or that it is the government’s responsibility to deliver this precious resource at their doorstep at nominal cost, come what may. – Shankar

Thoothukudi protests

I don’t know if shutting down the plant is the right decision (“Shutting Thoothukudi plant will hit India’s import bill, threaten 30,000 jobs, says Sterlite CEO”). Why can’t Sterlite comply with international standards on all rules and regulation? Such shortcut solution won’t work. The polluter must pay and this should be made applicable to every industry who is polluting Mother Earth. – George VJ

***

Every arm of the government is either blind, deaf, dumb, or all the three. It listens only when people like Kapil Sibal or Subramanian Swamy shout. It sees only when political parties speak. But ultimately it is the nation and the environment that are seriously degraded. The present generation should think of handing over a world that is at least as good as what they received from their forefathers, if not better. Not doing so will be unpardonable. But the arms of the government are not working in unison. Ultimately, the result is agitations like that in Thoothukudi.

Most protests are organised by selfish fringe political parties for their political survival and they indulge in pure vandalism and destruction. The result is the loss of human lives. In India, every group involved in protests invariably indulges in looting and destruction of public property. Under those circumstances, it is not fair to blame the administration for its action. When everyone and everything has gone beyond redeemable limits, why blame civil administration alone? – PD Amarnath

Citizenship Bill

For decades, the North East has been neglected by Delhi (“The Daily Fix: Assam protests should persuade Centre to reconsider the citizenship bill”). The Centre has not made sincere efforts over genuine demands from this region. Illegal immigration is one of the big problems in the area, which has threatened the identity of ethnic groups. In Assam, a mass movement led to the Assam Accord being signed for expulsion of illegal immigrants. But no concrete action has been taken. The BJP government at the Centre now is trying it’s best to invite foreign nationals to Assam for their vested interestes, by amending the Citizenship Bill, only to create a Hindu vote bank. We request the Centre to scrap this Bill in the interest of the North East region. – Chitra Kumar Hazarika

Reading room

The concept of an open garden library is novel and reader-friendly as it promises to bring reading back into the life of common people (“A new open garden library in Mumbai is attracting an array of eager readers”). Children will now have access to literature especially meant for them. Nowadays reading has taken a backseat and the television has turned the people, children in particular, into couch potatoes. Kudos to the people behind this initiative. – Samiul Hassan Quadri

War of words

Chandrabu Naidu should keep in mind Amit Shah’s stature as the president of the BJP, which leads the NDA government at the Centre, and a Rajya Sabha MP, before making such comments (“‘Who is Amit Shah to question state’s use of funds?’ Andhra Pradesh CM Naidu lashes out at BJP chief”). Has Naidu forgotten that till recently, he was an ally of the BJP? Speaking against the party now is akin to burning the boat that helped you cross the river. Naidu has been in politics for quite a long time. He should be mature enough to be courteous to others. Power seems to have gone to his head, and he doesn’t like criticism. – L Satyanarayana

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BJP will lose not only Andhra Pradesh but neighbouring states as well. Telugu people all over the country resent this attitude. – Muralikrishna Vasireddi

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Chandrababu Naidu met his match in Modi and Amit Shah, who were able to outsmart him at his own game, unlike Atal Bihari Vajpayee who fell for his tricks. TDP enjoyed five full years in the NDA before calling the BJP a communal party. This time too, Naidu is playing the same trick. The NDA has won round two hands down. – Sudhir Rai

Pulse of the nation

The government’s claims that they had to import dal due to WTO commitments are false (“In a first for India, dal millers will soon be able to import pulses”). The government had also similarly destroyed natural rubber farmers by allowing large-scale import of natural rubber from Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand despite a warning from the Rubber Board that domestic producers would lose out. About 98% of natural rubber is produced by Kerala, a state which has rejected the BJP. Let us wait and see what happens with pulses. If this continues, domestic producers will suffer, as will buyers. –Theyyottuchira Kammusoofi Jaram

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Sponsored Content BY 

Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

Play

This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.