India’s civil servants are at war and the battle -- being fought in full public glare – is getting bitter and uglier by the hour, rather by every tweet.
The first shots were fired by officers fighting to retain the supremacy of the much-envied Indian Administrative Service. Aligned against them are men and women from other services, seeking an end to the IAS monopoly of top government positions.
Hard-hitting social media posts to representations to the government, civil servants are resorting to all possible tactics to run down competing services.
And, the IAS seems to be the favourite punching bag.
The hash tag #IASNoUsainBolt was trending for the better part of Sunday. “Poor Usain Bolt competes at every event. Doesn’t demand gold in every event just because he won the Olympic Gold once,” a revenue service officer Satya Prasanth P tweeted.
There was more. “Most of the law and order problems due to malfunctioning of land administration, but they want an edge,” said another tweet.
Rumours in the power corridors that the seventh pay commission could end their near-monopoly of top ranks triggered the public campaign.
Not just meritocracy, years of hardwork in rural districts in our prime youth also nullified by mid career parity. https://t.co/2LHQxa2154— Kannan G, IAS (@naukarshah) November 1, 2015
Nearly 200 young IAS officers – serving in Arunachal Pradesh in the east to Gujarat in the west – have written to the government opposing the reported move to blunt the edge the 4,800-strong service has over others.
“I guess they were very unhappy and decided to vent their feelings,” said Sanjay Bhoosreddy, secretary of the central IAS association. “The resentment is very real,” he said, arguing the IAS should always have an edge over others.
He also argued that toppers of the civil service examination -- an annual test which is hugely popularly and fiercely competitive – typically opt for the IAS, the only service offering a 360 degree perspective by virtue of its exposure.
But not everyone is convinced.
Deepak Ratan, an Uttar Pradesh-cadre Indian Police Service officer, uploaded a video on Twitter of an athlete shooting his competitors to win the race. The caption read: “The race for empanelment, the IAS way,” a reference to an oft-repeated charge of the IAS not allowing other services a fair short at senior positions.
Retired IPS officer Prakash Singh asked the pay commission to be fair. “Should not show any casteist bias in favo(u)r of the Brahmanical service,” he tweeted.
7th Pay Commission should be objective and fair. Should not show any casteist bias in favor of the Brahmanical service.— Prakash Singh (@singh_prakash) October 31, 2015
IAS officers, in turn, wondered how their IPS or revenue service counterparts could consider themselves equipped to deal with the tricky policy issues with their uni-directional experience.
PV Sastry, secretary of the central IPS association, called the campaign by the IAS officers that triggered the public spat between civil servants, “pre-emptive and improper” when the pay commission was yet to finalise its report.
“We trust that the IAS association shows maturity in responding to the situation,” he said. Bhoosreddy’s arguments to establish the IAS’ supremacy were a repeat of the first pay commission’s arguments, Sastry said. “These are not in harmony with the 21st governance realities and administrative practices of developed countries,” he said.
Clearly, a long battle lies ahead.