Letters to the editor

Readers’ comments: ‘The IAS, India’s steel frame, has crumbled under its own weight’

A selection of readers’ opinions.

Rusted frame

I have heard since childhood that the civil services need urgent reform (“Civil services need urgent reform, but the Modi government’s proposals will destroy the institution”). But nobody has explained in detail what these reforms should be and how they can be executed. In my 34 years as a gazetted officer in Maharashtra, I have seen many officers who are authoritarian and lack common sense. Most of them don’t know the laws based on which they are expected to give judgements. Illogical and irrational behaviour is rampant and non-corrupt officers are rare. I agree that Arvind Kejriwal was put in a very awkward position by the Modi government, but still believe the Delhi chief minister failed to some extent in finding a tactful solution. – Madhu Dongargaonkar


Harsh Mander asks in this article “whether the Indian Administrative Service has outlived its utility, or failed to live up to the onerous trust that the country placed on its shoulders for seven decades”.

The fact is that the IAS has done both. The overwhelming majority has emerged as promoting partners in corruption and loot. Modi is openly installing the American administrative principle of “the winner takes all”. There appears to be collective responsibility but single authority in the cabinet. It now seems as though he wants to implement the “hire and fire” system in the administration. The move to scrap the planning commission and directly appointing joint secretaries whose term will be determined by the party in power seem to suggest that. This will make these appointees as unaccountable as the outgoing government. This will also make the so called IAS secretaries decorative and toothless as the President of India. Modi has also indirectly allowed his governors to meddle in the state administration in places where opposing parties are in power. They have created sufficient confusion in these states without any accountability. The IAS once known as the steel pillar, has crumbled under its own weight. – Koteeswaran


The present system of recruitment is a faulty one. Also, we don’t need IAS officers but good managers who are specialists. Generalists like IAS have no role to play in building a nation. Third, all Secretary posts should be filled by the UPSC based on domain expertise and as lateral entry. Only district collectors should be generalists from the IAS who have no domain knowledge. – Arun Kumar Nayak


Harsh Mander appears to have made a very strong case for continuing with the status quo in the functioning of the bureaucracy while admitting the need for change in its working largely in the nature of an after-thought. He does not satisfactorily explain how introducing incremental changes over an undefined time-frame in the way the bureaucracy operates can score over methods of “creative disruption” in bringing about significant transformation in the delivery of citizen-centric governance. Surely, Mander has not lost sight of the fact that the Constitution of India is a living document whose provisions may always be amended to better serve the Indian people in whose interests it was written in the first place. If the changes now being proposed by the government merit a re-look at the role of the UPSC and consequent necessary amendments in the Constitution, the people of this country wouldn’t mind those even if some within the bureaucracy do.

For, as Lord Alfred Tennyson had said, the old order must change yielding place to new “lest one good custom should corrupt the world”. – Sumali Moitra

Wrong track

India needs a safe railway system as well as infrastructure improvement in many cities and villages and 100% electrification (“India needs a modern, safe railway system and not bullet trains, E Sreedharan tells Hindustan Times”). A bullet train can perhaps come after 10-15 years. Not every station has drinking water, toilets are dirty. trains run hours late. These are the problems that need to be fixed first. Regular maintenance is needed to prevent derailments and other accidents and save lives. A bullet train is only for the elite, no ordinary person will be able to afford it. – Himanshu Surya


I agree with E Shreedharan. The condition of India’s railway has dwindled. Come and see the passenger trains in Bihar. It is left to god to look after punctuality, cleanliness and safety. Even in express and mail trains, the third AC compartment is s not up to the mark. The slow pace of trains and extended halts add to the passengers’ woes. The berths are not comfortable. In such a scenario, a bullet train sounds nonsensical. – Avijeet Kumar


The interview of the Metro man of India reveals some bitter truths. He is indeed right that those facilities should be provided that can be used by the common man. Upliftment is needed, but not at the cost of basic requirements. I believe it is very important to for the Indian Railways to improve the basic system. Affordability doesn’t necessarily mean poor functionality. This has been proven by E Sreedharan. – Subrato Mukherjee


I travel a lot and the railway system is the worst its ever been. India is poor country, but the government wants to things more expensive – there’s tatkal, premium tatkal, superfast charge and dynamic fare. There is no water in AC coaches sometimes. The coaches themselves are old. – Rajagopal Thiyagarajan


Yes, there are many concerns in the Railways including delayed trains and safety issues, but if you keep counting them, you will never progress. One needs vision. Bullet trains are

By that logic, why is the Rajdhani Express required ? Why are there fully air-conditioned trains when most people can’t afford them? If you don’t have vision, you cannot progress ! Bullet trains are needed and those who can pay for it should at least have the facility, as India must keep abreast with new technology. I strongly believe that all the latest technology advancements should be introduced, not just in the Railways but in other sectors too. – Manish Joshi


Sreedharan is correct. Most of the Modi government’s decision have been flashy, like the big Indian wedding – demonetisation and GST, for instance. The government creates a hoopla over them, but the plans lack basis. – Sanjay


This is a huge financial burden to our nation. This money can be used for development of infrastructure, building additional railway tracks and connecting all Indian cities. Separate tracks can be built for cargo and goods, we could also bring in more super fast trains and a super fast train ambulance services. – Senthil Sivakumar


The government should reconsider its decision to go ahead with the ambitious bullet train project. Let us first get real about our archaic rail infrastructure, which is crying for immediate upgradation. Even our premier trains like Rajdhani, Shatabadi and Duronto are not world class. – SK Gupta


I agree with E Sreedharan. India is lagging behind Bangladesh on women’s literacy and universal health care, despite an economic growth on a par with developed nations. This indicates a widening gap between the poor and the rich. Additionally, more funds should be pumped in primary education and primary health care to accelerate the process of social development. Taxpayers’ money should not be wasted elsewhere. – RK Singh


During the BJP’s tenure at the Centre, the Indian Railways has steadily increased fares and introduced unwanted facilities that will not benefit the common man. Punctuality, cleanliness and food are big problem in trains and stations. But the Minister for Railways only finds time to boast about his achievements. Train derailments have become very common. In the past few years, train services have been unreliable. – MK Sasidharan


Yes, the bullet train is an absolute waste of public money and a burden on the exchequer as it requires a massive loan from a Japanese bank. What a waste of time and resources. I hope the government finds the wisdom to reconsider its decision. – Donald Rodrigues

Mental health awareness

This article and the response of the various psychiatrists who have been interviewed is as inadequate as the government’s poster (“Indian health ministry’s ill-informed advice on depression draws protests from doctors”). Psychiatry is only a small branch of medicine, and medicines are but one way to treat only certain imbalances. All depression has nothing to do with imbalances, as psychiatrists in their limited wisdom would suggest. There is by now over a hundred years of work done by pioneers such as Freud and many who followed him, who have taken up the issue of depression, among other issues with the human psyche, in great detail. To keep prescribing medicines for depression is harmful. – Pankaj Butalia


Most of the criticism by the professionals quoted in this article is not justified. There is sufficient evidence for most of the suggestions outlined as self care in the Ministry of Health’s poster. True, there is no evidence with regard to multi-vitamins and adivising travel is questionable. But all other inputs are backed by scientific evidence, especially for cases of mild to moderate depression. It is important to recognise that depression presents itself in varied forms and most of them do not need specialist care and medicines. – S Murthy

Historical debate

As a follower of Scroll.in, I have noticed consistent ideological inclinations through the publication of selective views (“Putting the horse before the cart: What the discovery of 4,000-year-old ‘chariot’ in UP signifies”). With all due respect to your work, this kind ideological hankering doesn’t behove an objective and unbiased media outlet. An ideological stamp to every issue alienates readers who seek objective analysis and an all-round understanding. So, in the article about the discovery of the Sanuali chariot, it is highly surprising that an unbiased institution like is being framed as biased just because it is not suiting your narrative! The official heading the excavation, SK Manjul, has already clarified he is not linking the discovery to any epic or mythological story. And moreover, the Aryan Invasion Theory has been rejected long back by almost all academic and reputed historians. It is surprising that some section of media still harp on out about it. Scroll.in should realise that this type of journalism will not take you anywhere and in fact does more harm. – Lalith Pamu

World Cup fever

True, Coutinho has given a standout performance so far, but without Neymar’s presence, he would not have been able to play so freely (“Neymar’s getting there but so far, Coutinho has been carrying Brazil and that’s the honest truth”). Neymar, despite being out of sorts because of fitness issues, is a constant threat in the minds of opponents. That’s why Serbia could not go all out despite being in a do-or-die situation and remained preoccupied with Neymar all through, barring the closing minutes of the game. That’s also why Brazil coach Tite withdrew Coutinho but with Neymar till the final whistle even though there were risks of a second yellow card, injury and the like. – Subir Das

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