The Modi sarkar is not amused. The highly publicised resignations by three IAS officers, all within a month, have created well hidden consternation within government circles. Kannan Gopinathan, an AGMUT cadre officer, and Sasikanth Senthil, a Karnataka cadre officer, resigned from service alleging the shrinking space for dissent in the country.
In both instances, the officers’ decision has come under attack.
Mr Gopinathan, who cited the clampdown in Kashmir as the reason for his decision to quit the civil service, has been served with a show cause notice for his alleged administrative lapses and told to rejoin duty. He has termed the charges as “frivolous” and claims that old issues are being raked up to create a “counter narrative”.
A third officer, Kashish Mittal, also an AGMUT cadre officer posted in the Niti Aayog, has put in his papers after he was transferred to Arunachal Pradesh.
Not surprisingly, given the charged political atmosphere, the resignations have set off a political controversy.
The episode of babu-turned-politician Shah Faesal is still recent after all. Mr Faesal, who had resigned from the IAS in January this year, was extremely critical of the Centre on its Kashmir policy. He was prevented from leaving India and detained by the authorities.
The Opposition parties have accused the government of “pressurising government servants”, which the Centre has stoutly denied.
Yet, despite outward equanimity, that the Modi sarkar has taken the resignations seriously may be inferred from reports that the government is now looking at revising the conditions for quitting the civil services. Sources say that the department of personnel and training (DoPT) is planning to discuss the recent resignations and propose a plan to address the problem.
It is believed that the government wants to make it harder for civil servants to quit.
At the time of writing, the government had not accepted the resignations of these officers yet.
Also, the government is aware of the massive vacancies in the all India services such as the IAS, the IPS and the IFoS, which are already straining the steel frame, and is therefore keen to consider adding more conditions to deal with resignations by disenchanted officers in the future.
Those in government who favour stricter terms of engagement with bureaucrats say that since the government spends an enormous amount of money on the training of officers, it is a serious loss when they decide to leave for whatever reason.
Therefore, making refunding of the training amount mandatory for a few years into service and not just after probation would be justified.
According to current rules, an officer who resigns from the service is bound to pay pending dues or refund the amount spent by the government on foreign training of the officer concerned.
Those who quit during the probation period itself have to refund the training amount to the government.
But many observers say that stopping the resignations of unwilling officials may not be a good strategy for the government in the long term. It could even run into legal challenges. This school of thinking believes that forcefully retaining an unwilling officer would not be in the government’s interests. It remains to be seen what course the Modi sarkar decides to adopt....