New Delhi: A former head of the government’s intelligence agency, R&AW, and a former army chief, popularly known as the hero of Kargil, have spoken critically of the recent amendments to the Central Civil Service Pension rules.
The rules now require retired officers who worked in an intelligence or security-related organisation to seek prior government clearance before writing books, newspaper articles or giving interviews on subjects connected to the “domain of the organisation” or based upon “expertise or knowledge gained by virtue of working in that organisation”.
A.S. Dulat, a former head of R&AW and of the Intelligence Bureau who also worked in Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s PMO, said the amendment was “very sad” and agreed that “it’s not right”. General V.P. Malik, who was army chief during the Kargil War, said the amendment “requires a review” because it is “overarching”.
“I have spent 40 years in service and when the government decides it is right, so be it…it’s not easy to challenge the government…if the government says stop writing, so be it,” Dulat told The Wire, sounding resigned. However, he agreed that the amendment is “very sad” and also added at another point that “it’s not right”.
Dulat said that he won’t be seeking permission for his books, articles or interviews. “I won’t seek permission. It’s too late in life for that. I don’t need to.” Asked if this means he will continue to write and give interviews and defy the new rule, Dulat first said, “I need to think about this.” However, he later raised the question of what would happen if he chooses to write history, poetry or fiction. These, he pointed out, are grey areas in the amendment.
The former spymaster also said it has been 20 years since he left the agency and 17 years since he left Vajpayee’s PMO. In the years since, he has learnt a lot more about the issues he writes about, such as Kashmir and Pakistan, then he knew during his tenure. This is another grey area, he said.
Dulat said he believes the new rules will not be applied uniformly. He raised the example of former IB chief, former NSA and former Bengal governor M.K. Narayanan. Narayanan, Dulat said, is far too eminent to seek permission and he doesn’t believe he will. Dulat also said Narayanan is not going to stop his regular columns in The Hindu. Will the government take action against him? Dulat said he does not believe it will.
In a separate interview, General Malik said he looks at the new amendment from the point of view of a historian. He said when ITBP [or CRPF] officers write about Naxals or Naxalism, they provide insight and knowledge. This amendment will “inhibit” them and “frustrate” them, and as a result the people of the country will lose out.
The new amendments require “a review” because they are “overarching”, he continued. Although these rules do not apply to the armed forces as of now, General Malik hoped it would not be extended to apply to them.
The retired army chief said whilst the government is right to take action against people who breach the Official Secrets Act, he also believes official documents need to be declassified a lot sooner than they are so that full information is available to anyone interested in the subject.
On being asked, General Malik said the Official Secrets Act is sufficient to prevent wrongful disclosures and this amendment to the pension rules is not necessary.
He also agreed that trying to stop someone’s pension as punishment “is not the right thing”.