New Delhi: A group of 78 former civil servants, who have served at the Centre and in different states, have issued a statement criticising the Centre’s “violation of constitutional provisions” while pushing through the three contentious new farm laws.
Farmers have been camping at Delhi borders for two weeks now, and have repeatedly told the government that they will accept nothing short of a complete repeal of the laws.
The former civil servants have asked why the Narendra Modi government has brought about sweeping changes to farm laws when ‘agriculture’ is, in fact, on the state list. The laws, the open letter says, “represent an assault upon the federal character of the Constitution”.
In addition, the letter says, there was no consultation with farmers, even though they are the directly affected party. Even within parliament, objections to the laws were not heard: “Time was not given to debate the Bills and they were railroaded through Parliament; the demand for a division in the Rajya Sabha was not accepted and a voice vote was held amid tumult and confusion, leading to suspicions about the procedure employed.”
The timing too can be questioned, they argue, as the Centre may have thought people would not come out to protest during the pandemic.
Read the full text of the open letter below.
We are a group of former civil servants belonging to the All India and Central Services who have worked with the Central government as well as different state governments of India. As a group, we have no affiliation with any political party but believe in being neutral, impartial and committed to the Constitution of India.
A huge farmers’ agitation – primarily in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan – to repeal three new laws has been under way for many months and has been supported by many other sectors like trade unions, student organisations, university teachers’ associations, a range of political parties and others. A Bharat Bandh was called for December 8 after several rounds of talks between farmers’ unions and the Government of India failed to yield results. We do not wish to discuss here the merits and demerits of these laws but focus on the violation of constitutional provisions and the breakdown of democratic processes in this saga.
In keeping with the federal structure of the Constitution and the range and diversity of state-specific needs, “agriculture” is at Entry 14 in List-II in the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution. The subjects in this List are within the exclusive legislative jurisdiction of the States and it has been argued convincingly that the laws passed are, therefore, unconstitutional. Unconstitutionality apart, they represent an assault upon the federal character of the Constitution: some legal experts have argued that they violate “the basic structure of the Constitution.” The passing of these laws appears to be a case of legislative legerdemain and they have been challenged in court.
There were no consultations with farmers’ representatives before the legal process. To start with, ordinances were issued during a colossal pandemic which deserved undiluted attention. When the Bills were introduced in Parliament in September, 2020, the demand to send them to Parliamentary Committees was denied. It is pertinent to point out that according to a newspaper report of September 2020, in recent times, the percentage of Bills scrutinized by Parliamentary Select Committees rose from 60% during UPA I (14th Lok Sabha) to a high of 71% during UPA II (15th Lok Sabha) but fell to 25% in NDA I (16th Lok Sabha). In the current Lok Sabha, very few Bills have been sent to Parliamentary Committees.
Time was not given to debate the Bills and they were railroaded through Parliament; the demand for a division in the Rajya Sabha was not accepted and a voice vote was held amid tumult and confusion, leading to suspicions about the procedure employed. At the same time, some labour laws were passed during a walk-out by the Opposition. The question has been raised pointedly: was this done in the belief that during a pandemic and the restrictions on public gatherings, organised protest would not be possible?
The undermining of democratic processes and the total disregard for public consultation and convenience has been evident in the ways in which Article 370 was repealed, demonetisation was implemented without warning or preparation, the Citizenship Amendment Act was brought in and a lockdown ordered with hardly any notice, resulting in untold suffering for millions of migrant workers. What is noteworthy and common to all these actions was a refusal to consult the people affected beforehand and a determination to not hold a dialogue afterwards. The facile option of labelling all those who disagree with one or other of the actions of the government as “anti-national”, “pro-Pakistani,“ “award-vapasi gang”, “urban Naxals” and “Khan Market gang” is chosen to avoid substantive discussion and debate, the very heart of the democratic process, and to vilify and criminalise dissent.
It is a measure of their discontent that farmers in lakhs are braving the winter cold as also the risks of COVID-19. The farmers’ agitation has been peaceful and in exercise of their Constitutional and democratic right to protest. Yet, they were greeted by teargas and water cannons as they tried to reach Delhi and highways in Haryana were dug up to impede their onward march. It is difficult to label these protests as instigated by political parties or Khalistanis when the farmers explicitly keep political parties at bay and a senior SAD leader, once a part of the ruling alliance of NDA, returns his Padma Vibhushan award.
The protests have spread across many states and are being supported by several other groups even though a largely complicit media refuses to report their true magnitude and reach. In our capacity as former civil servants who stand up for constitutional freedoms, we would like to emphasise our support for the democratic and Constitutional right of peaceful protest being exercised by farmers and others. It is time that the ruling dispensation listens carefully to the demands being made and demonstrates its respect for democratic traditions, procedures and practices by engaging in dialogue inside and outside parliament.
(78 signatories, as below)
|1.||S.R. Adige||IAS (Retd.)||Former Vice Chairman, Central Administrative Tribunal|
|2.||Salahuddin Ahmad||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan|
|3.||Shafi Alam||IPS (Retd.)||Former Director General, National Crime Records Bureau, GoI|
|4.||K. Saleem Ali||IPS (Retd.)||Former Special Director, CBI, GoI|
|5.||S.P. Ambrose||IAS (Retd.)||Former Additional Secretary, Ministry of Shipping & Transport, GoI|
|6.||G. Balachandhran||IAS (Retd.)||Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal|
|7.||Vappala Balachandran||IPS (Retd.)||Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI|
|8.||Gopalan Balagopal||IAS (Retd.)||Former Special Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal|
|9.||Chandrashekhar Balakrishnan||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Coal, GoI|
|10.||T.K. Banerji||IAS (Retd.)||Former Member, Union Public Service Commission|
|11.||Sharad Behar||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh|
|12.||Aurobindo Behera||IAS (Retd.)||Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Odisha|
|13.||Madhu Bhaduri||IFS (Retd.)||Former Ambassador to Portugal|
|14.||Ravi Budhiraja||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chairman, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, GoI|
|15.||Sundar Burra||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra|
|16.||Rachel Chatterjee||IAS (Retd.)||Former Special Chief Secretary, Agriculture, Govt. of Andhra Pradesh|
|17.||Kalyani Chaudhuri||IAS (Retd.)||Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal|
|18.||Vibha Puri Das||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, GoI|
|19.||P.R. Dasgupta||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chairman, Food Corporation of India, GoI|
|20.||Pradeep K. Deb||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Deptt. Of Sports, GoI|
|21.||Nitin Desai||IES (Retd.)||Former Secretary and Chief Economic Adviser, Ministry of Finance, GoI|
|22.||Keshav Desiraju||IAS (Retd.)||Former Health Secretary, GoI|
|23.||M.G. Devasahayam||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Govt. of Haryana|
|24.||Arif Ghauri||IRS (Retd.)||Former Governance Adviser, DFID, Govt. of the United Kingdom (on deputation)|
|25.||Suresh K. Goel||IFS (Retd.)||Former Director General, Indian Council of Cultural Relations, GoI|
|26.||S.K. Guha||IAS (Retd.)||Former Joint Secretary, Department of Women & Child Development, GoI|
|27.||H.S. Gujral||IFoS (Retd.)||Former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Govt. of Punjab|
|28.||Meena Gupta||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, GoI|
|29.||Wajahat Habibullah||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, GoI and Chief Information Commissioner|
|30.||Rahul Khullar||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chairman, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India|
|31.||Brijesh Kumar||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Department of Information Technology, GoI|
|32.||Sudhir Kumar||IAS (Retd.)||Former Member, Central Administrative Tribunal|
|33.||P.K. Lahiri||IAS (Retd.)||Former ED, Asian Development Bank & Former Revenue Secretary, GoI|
|34.||Subodh Lal||IPoS (Resigned)||Former Deputy Director General, Ministry of Communications, GoI|
|35.||P.M.S. Malik||IFS (Retd.)||Former Ambassador to Myanmar & Special Secretary, MEA, GoI|
|36.||Harsh Mander||IAS (Retd.)||Govt. of Madhya Pradesh|
|37.||Amitabh Mathur||IPS (Retd.)||Former Director, Aviation Research Centre and Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI|
|38.||Lalit Mathur||IAS (Retd.)||Former Director General, National Institute of Rural Development, GoI|
|39.||Aditi Mehta||IAS (Retd.)||Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan|
|40.||Sonalini Mirchandani||IFS (Resigned)||GoI|
|41.||Sunil Mitra||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Ministry of Finance, GoI|
|42.||Avinash Mohananey||IPS (Retd.)||Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Sikkim|
|43.||Deb Mukharji||IFS (Retd.)||Former High Commissioner to Bangladesh and former Ambassador to Nepal|
|44.||Nagalsamy||IA&AS (Retd.)||Former Principal Accountant General, Tamil Nadu & Kerala|
|45.||P.G.J. Nampoothiri||IPS (Retd.)||Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Gujarat|
|46.||Surendra Nath||IAS (Retd.)||Former Member, Finance Commission, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh|
|47.||P. Joy Oommen||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Chhattisgarh|
|48.||Amitabha Pande||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Inter-State Council, GoI|
|49.||Mira Pande||IAS (Retd.)||Former State Election Commissioner, West Bengal|
|50.||R. Poornalingam||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Ministry of Textiles, GoI|
|51.||R.M. Premkumar||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra|
|52.||T.R. Raghunandan||IAS (Retd.)||Former Joint Secretary, Ministry of Panchayati Raj, GoI|
|53.||V.P. Raja||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chairman, Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission|
|54.||K. Sujatha Rao||IAS (Retd.)||Former Health Secretary, GoI|
|55.||Satwant Reddy||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Chemicals and Petrochemicals, GoI|
|56.||Vijaya Latha Reddy||IFS (Retd.)||Former Deputy National Security Adviser, GoI|
|57.||Julio Ribeiro||IPS (Retd.)||Former Adviser to Governor of Punjab & former Ambassador to Romania|
|58.||Aruna Roy||IAS (Resigned)|
|59.||Manabendra N. Roy||IAS (Retd.)||Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal|
|60.||A.K. Samanta||IPS (Retd.)||Former Director General of Police (Intelligence), Govt. of West Bengal|
|61.||Deepak Sanan||IAS (Retd.)||Former Principal Adviser (AR) to Chief Minister, Govt. of Himachal Pradesh|
|62.||G. Sankaran||IC&CES (Retd.)||Former President, Customs, Excise and Gold (Control) Appellate Tribunal|
|63.||N.C. Saxena||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Planning Commission, GoI|
|64.||A. Selvaraj||IRS (Retd.)||Former Chief Commissioner, Income Tax, Chennai, GoI|
|65.||Abhijit Sengupta||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GoI|
|66.||Ashok Kumar Sharma||IFoS (Retd.)||Former MD, State Forest Development Corporation, Govt. of Gujarat|
|67.||Ashok Kumar Sharma||IFS (Retd.)||Former Ambassador to Finland and Estonia|
|68.||Navrekha Sharma||IFS (Retd.)||Former Ambassador to Indonesia|
|69.||Raju Sharma||IAS (Retd.)||Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh|
|70.||Sujatha Singh||IFS (Retd.)||Former Foreign Secretary, GoI|
|71.||Tirlochan Singh||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary, National Commission for Minorities, GoI|
|Former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GoI, & former CEO, Prasar Bharati|
|73.||Thanksy Thekkekera||IAS (Retd.)||Former Additional Chief Secretary, Minorities Development, Govt. of Maharashtra|
|74.||P.S.S. Thomas||IAS (Retd.)||Former Secretary General, National Human Rights Commission|
|75.||Hindal Tyabji||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chief Secretary rank, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir|
|76.||Jawed Usmani||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh & Former Chief Information Commissioner, Uttar Pradesh|
|77.||Ashok Vajpeyi||IAS (Retd.)||Former Chairman, Lalit Kala Akademi|
|78.||Ramani Venkatesan||IAS (Retd.)||Former Director General, YASHADA, Govt. of Maharashtra|