The present dispensation is repeating the blunders of its predecessor, with its new vetting process for govt appointments.
The government’s seven-step process for vetting appointments at key government-run organisations and institutions may not strictly be illegal, but, it smacks of a perversion of democratic ideals. As per a report in The Economic Times, the scrutiny now involves sifting through a candidate’s social media comments and views on the ruling dispensation, government policies and even current issues. As per the report, not only will any “strong” criticism of the ruling dispensation or government policies mar chances of appointment, even comments by a candidate’s friends and associates will lead to elimination. The present government will also probe professional, personal and ideological associations with the previous government. To be sure, an employer, whether government or private, is well within its rights to check if a prospective employee can ably execute its vision. In fact, the All India Service (Conduct) Rules forbids members from criticising the Union/state government policy or action in an adverse manner, or in a manner that “embarrasses” the federal structure or the country’s international relations. It also forbids them from taking part in politics and makes them responsible for discouraging family members from any activity that is deemed subversive of the government by law.
That said, making candidature contingent upon criticism of the ruling dispensation—that too, not just by the candidate—is narrow, even divisive. Not only does it stifle liberal democracy that should let multiple voices be heard, but it also is dangerous for bridge-building and dialogue in times of increasing polarisation. In effect, it means that if one aspires to a government job, she should not befriend and interact with people who are ideologically opposed to the ruling dispensation. The ruling party must learn from the past, given how it continues to highlight “political untouchability” practised by previous dispensations. It should remember that when it stood with Ashok Khemka, an IAS officer in the Haryana government—who exposed gratuitous abuse of power by the Congress government in the state—it had acted in the interest of the common man. Also, keeping talent hostage to ideology will do untold damage. Keeping ace nuclear scientist Anil Kakodkar’s appointment as chairman, IIT Roorkee, hanging, even after this was cleared by the president, because he was an UPA appointee is corrosive.