Sardar and Article 311

The philosophy, ideas and ideals of Sardar Patel are worth emulating by civil servants. The foremost lesson to be learnt from his life is firm and quick decision-making and placing the interests of the nation as the topmost priority.

The Academy is bringing out a special issue of The Administrator on Sardar Patel and the Civil Services to mark the one week special program curated by LBSNAA in association with World Bank, Singularity University and the Institute of the Future for officers of the 94th Foundation Course at the Statue of Unity, Kevadia in the Narmada district of Gujarat.

This issue begins with a message from the Prime Minister ‘The philosophy, ideas and ideals of Sardar Patel are worth emulating by civil servants. The foremost lesson to be learnt from his life is firm and quick decision-making and placing the interests of the nation as the topmost priority.’ It has seminal articles by Rajmohan Gandhi, Hindol Sengupta, Ratika Gaur, Shakti Sinha, Dr Ravindra Kumar, Sanjay Joshi, RNP Singh, Rajnikant Puranik, Shirin Mehta, Sanjeev Chopra, K Srinivas and Bindu Katikithala, who is also the guest editor for this special issue, which also features a special message from the Prime Minister. And they bring out different facets of his life, personality and contribution to the integration of princely states into the mainstream. Of particular interest to your columnist was his stout defence of the Constitutional guarantees given to the civil services in the form of Articles 311 and 314 – both of which strengthened and empowered the civil servant to act without fear or favour. How difficult it must have been can be seen from the opposition to these Articles even by his own party colleagues.

Thus, Ananthasayanam Ayyangar, a future Speaker of the Lok Sabha, said of Article 314: ‘This is an extraordinary guarantee… This guarantee asks us to forget that those persons who are still in the service — 400 of them — committed excesses.’ He went to say that while ordinary masses had not been guaranteed food and clothing, an extraordinary guarantee was being given to persons who (had) committed excesses on their own countrymen, and got salaries out of proportion to the national income. Professor Shibban Lal Saxena expressed his opinion that the Article should not bind future Parliaments from determining the conditions of service of its servants. Another member, Babu Ram Narayan Singh opined with regret that no reciprocal assurances were forthcoming from those were assured of a safeguarded future.

H V Kamath and Nasiruddin Ahmed also did not agree with the language of the proposal. Mahavir Tyagi, a bureaucrat turned freedom fighter opposed the proposal of special protection to civil servants saying that it would be a perpetual liability to future parliaments. He was also against the fast track promotion to the Secretaries and Joint Secretaries. Rohini Kumar Chaudhary, while supporting the Article appealed to the members of the civil services to return the Constituent Assembly’s gesture by renouncing a part of the guaranteed remuneration in the country’s interest. Dr S Deshmukh said that the service was really a reminder of the days of India’s slavery, and provisions relating to their recruitment and service conditions should not be incorporated in the Constitution.

The Sardar took the bull by the horns. In his address to the Constituent Assembly, he said: ‘There was plenty of scope at that time for them to come out (of Government Service) and get better terms from outside agencies. Even now, if you are not willing to keep them, find out your substitute and many of them will go; the best of them will go. I will like to assure you that I have worked with them during this difficult period I am speaking with a sense of heavy responsibility, and I must confess that in point of patriotism, in point of loyalty, in point of sincerity and in point of ability, you cannot have a substitute. They are as good as ourselves, and to speak of them in disparaging terms in this House, in public, and to criticise them in this manner, is doing disservice to yourselves and to the country. This is my considered opinion.’

He went on to express his strong opposition to the growing tendency in several provinces where the Congress workers had started interfering with the working of the administration. He said: ‘I see a tendency today that in several provinces the services are set upon and told, ‘You are servicemen; you must carry out our orders.’ The Union will go, you will not have a united India, if you have not a good all-India service which has the independence to speak out its mind, which has a sense of security that you will stand by your word and, that after all there is [a Constitution] of which we can be proud, where their rights and privileges are secure. This Constitution is meant to be worked by a ring of Service which will keep the country intact. We have in our collective wisdom come to a decision that we shall have this model wherein the ring of Service will be such that will keep the country under control…’

And finally, he invoked Gandhi – whose 150th birth anniversary we are celebrating this year: What did Gandhi teach us? You are talking of Gandhi an ideology and Gandhi and philosophy and Gandhi and way of administration. Very good. But you come out of the jail and then say, ‘These men put me in jail. Let me take revenge.’ That is not the Gandhian way…

Therefore, for God’s sake, let us understand where we are… If you want to take anything from the Service, you [should] touch their heart… Don’t take a lathi and say, ‘We are a Supreme Parliament.’

You have supremacy for this kind of thing? To go back on your word?

All opposition collapsed after this intervention but his quotes above show that the his defence of the ICS, as well as his role in creating the IAS and the IPS, sprang from his grasp of the follies of revenge and of breaking one’s word, as well as his understanding that a great nation needs a strong civil service.

And therefore it is in the fitness of things that the youngest members of the ‘steel frame’ will engage in frank conversations about the modalities of making India a $ 5 trillion economy by its 75th year, and this column will deliberate on this aspect in the next editions of Dispatches From Charleville.

-Dr Sanjeev Chopra
The author is an IAS & Director, Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration Mussoorie and Honorary Curator, Valley of Words: Literature and Arts Festival, Dehradun