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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 1, New Delhi, December 19, 2020

Text of Open Letter by 78 Former State Officials of India Regarding the Farmers’ Agitation | Dec 11, 2020

Saturday 19 December 2020

11 December 2020

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 hugefarmers’ agitation – primarily in Punjab, Haryana, U.P. and Rajasthan – to repeal three new laws has been underway for many months and has been supported by many other sectors like trade unions, student organizations, 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, organized 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, 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. 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 criminalize 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 emphasize 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.

SATYAMEVA JAYATE

(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

72.

Jawhar Sircar

IAS (Retd.)

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


The above document from Constitutional Conduct Group is reproduced here in public interest and is for educational and non-commercial use

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