Former civil servants ask Modi govt to listen farmers

Photo: Shaheen Abdulla/Maktoob

A group of former civil servants belonging to All India and Central Services, in an open letter, extended their support to the protests by the farmers and said the three farm sector laws “represent an assault upon the federal character of the Constitution.”

Signed by 78 former bureaucrats, including Chief Secretaries, Joint Secretaries and Director Generals of Police, the letter demanded 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.”

The signatories include former Chief Secretary, Rajasthan, Salahuddin Ahmad; Former Secretary, Coal, Chandrashekhar Balakrishnan and Former Director General, Indian Council of Cultural Relations, Suresh K. Goel.

Senior, retired officers also pointed out that there were no consultations with farmer leaders before the legal process of bringing the new laws.

The letter states: “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 scrutinised 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.”

The former civil servants said they “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,” they said.

According to them, “The passing of these laws appears to be a case of legislative legerdemain and they have been challenged in court.”

The letter sharply criticised Narendra Modi government and said that 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-wapsi 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 criminalize dissent.

“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, demonetization 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,” the letter reads.