By Mohammad Ashraf
There was a time when the Indian Administrative Service in Kashmir was considered to be the ‘East India Company’! Except for some brief periods during the rule of Sheikh Abdullah, most of the important administrative positions in the state have been held by the Central Services Officers who were mostly from outside the state. These Officers were considered colonial officers and they were resented by the local officers, who in some cases were more competent than the outsiders. The members of the Central Services played the same role as they used to play during the British rule in India when the service was called the Indian Civil Service. The British had created the service to control a vast country like India. The British inducted people from the elite class into the Civil Service to ensure the writ of the Crown ran throughout the length and breadth of the country. They created an edifice with its centre at Delhi to keep the colony as part of the empire. The Governor General administered the country through these Central Services.
After Independence, the Government of free India also depended upon the same colonial edifice to run the country. Only the name of the Service was changed to Indian Administrative Service. Delhi continued to be the seat of absolute power and the system of governance remained virtually unchanged. Earlier the British Aristocracy was running India through the Indian Civil Service and after Independence the Indian elite ran the country through Indian Administrative Service. For quite some time the Service was the most sought after and the competition to get into the service was the toughest. The brightest and the most competent opted for induction into its ranks. The prestige of the service started getting diluted after the reservation quota and the globalisation phenomenon. With the opening up of the economy and the entry of multi-national corporations, the most sought after area of employment for the brightest and the competent from the elite became the corporate sector. This somehow lessened the glamour of the Central Services. Government Service cannot compete with the private sector, with regards to perks and compensation. The only attraction of the Central Services especially the Administrative one is the taste of power it gives to the individual officers over the destiny of their fellow citizens. There has been politicization of these services in recent times and the politicians have been patronising specific officers of their own choice. Frequent transfers based on political considerations have made it an annoying service in some states. Moreover, a number of retired bureaucrats have been joining different political parties which have also given a political tinge to the service.
The recent topping of the IAS selection list by Shah Faesal from Kupwara is no mean achievement. In a country of 1.2 billion people if a young man tops the selection list of the toughest competition, it is a commendable feat. He truly deserves the kudos he is getting. In the present choked atmosphere of siege in Kashmir, any achievement by a Kashmiri any where in the world makes generates a sense of pride. Over the years an impression has been created by a section of the media that Kashmiri youth are only capable of creating disruption by stone pelting. In reality, outside India, Kashmiris have excelled in many fields. They have risen to appreciable positions in various multinational organisations. Kashmiri Muslims have been shying away from the Indian Central Services for two reasons. First, they have considered everything Indian as alien. This alienation has been created by the attitude of the Kashmiri leaders especially the ones advocating ‘Azadi’ who have kept a distance from everything Indian. For them everything short of ‘Azadi’ is taboo. The other factor has been the attitude of Delhi. It has always distrusted the Kashmiri Muslims. The alienation would have been less had there been sizeable representation of Kashmiri Muslims in the Central Services. On the contrary, Kashmiri Hindus got a disproportionate share in all these Central Services including the ones connected with the National Security.
Shah Faesal’s feat is food for thought for everyone. The leaders of the ‘Azadi’ have to think about it. Their goal is not going to be diminished or diluted if they attend to all other pressing issues being faced by the common people. The induction of the elite into the Central Services during the British rule did not in any way affect the Indian Freedom Movement. In fact, some members of these services may have been instrumental in furthering the cause of freedom. If the alienation of the youth is to end, Kashmiris have to be fully trusted. They have to be encouraged and provided facilities for competing in all Central Services including those connected with National Security. Shah Faesal through the IAS selection may have shown the way and it is for others to follow it, to demonstrate that the Kashmiris are no less talented than any one else. Given the trust and the opportunity, they have the capability to rise to the top in every sphere of activity.
Mohammad Ashraf is Former Director General, Department of Tourism, J&K and may be reached at [email protected]. This article was published by IPCS.