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Critics slate India's businessmen in government plan

Recruiting top civil servants from corporate world will likely be bad news for the poor, they say

Critics slate India's businessmen in government plan

A statue of Indian independence icon Mahatma Gandhi is pictured outside parliament in New Delhi on March 20. (Photo by Prakash Singh/AFP)

Saji Thomas, Bhopal
India

June 13, 2018

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The Indian government has made the unprecedented move of recruiting professionals from private firms to be top civil servants, but critics that include senior church members call it dangerous, saying they are more likely to serve corporate interests than the nation's poor.

The federal government led by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said the initiative aims to bring "fresh ideas and new approaches" to governance.

Up to 10 new recruits are to be appointed as "joint secretaries", media reports said June 11 quoting an official government notification. The new recruits will make policy decisions and implement welfare schemes, it said.

The move aims "to sabotage an efficiently-run system," said opposition Congress Party spokesperson P. L. Punia.

He told media that the move could include people from hard-line Hindu groups and some select industrial groups "so that they can directly influence government decision-making."

Other critics of the move include Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, secretary-general of the Indian bishops' conference, who called it "a dangerous move."

It is part of an "ongoing trend of big corporations taking over everything in this country," he said.

He also said it undermines India's multi-level stringent examinations and interviews to select top bureaucrats.

Civil servants are inducted into service after a rigorous 15-month training course, and eventually promoted to "joint secretary" according to merit.

"Corporate culture is taking hold of every aspect of our society and is not an encouraging development in a country where people die of hunger and lack basic amenities for survival," Bishop Mascarenhas told ucanews.com.

The government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is already facing criticism for introducing policies that favor industrialists and big business. The government is also accused of tacitly supporting Hindu groups pushing to make India a Hindu-only nation.

Hiring businessmen "is likely to demoralize deserving and committed bureaucrats" Bishop Mascarenhas said. Further, it will also overlook the quota for these jobs allotted for socially poor Dalits and indigenous people, he said.

Govind Yadav, a political activist and lawyer, said the new method of recruitment "will have far reaching consequences for the future of the nation" as it "amounts to the privatization of the federal government" and bypassing constitutional practices.

Opposition parties, including the communists, have condemned it.

Balakrishnan, a Communist Party secretary in southern Tamil Nadu state, said it was clear that the federal government wants to appoint supporters of hard-line Hindu doctrine to key posts.

"These efforts would destroy government departments and we strongly condemn the move." he said.

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