Civil servants have power to bring change on the ground: Fmr Union Secretary

Former Union bureaucrat Anil Swarup on Thursday said a civil servant has the power to bring change on the ground for betterment of people.

“People have apprehensions that all troubles in the country are due to bureaucrats. But bottom line is that if a civil servant wishes he can deliver a lot on the ground. They can bring changes themselves,” Swarup said. He was speaking at a function here in Kashmir University.

Known for his administrative skills and counted as one of the finest policy makers, Swarup said as then Secretary in Union Ministry of Coal he pointed out “miscalculations in assumptions” made by then Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Vinod Rai, in its coal block allocation report.

They (the findings) have not been challenged by anybody until now,” he asserted.

Having served on various key positions during his three-decade career Sawrup said while in service he took cajoles with ministers only to get policies implemented on ground.

“We used system based on technology while a minister in UPA government was sitting on a file of Rs 5,300 crore,” he said.

Saying former bureaucrat Shah Faisal’s shift from bureaucracy to politics gave him a feeling that people could also be served outside the ambit of bureaucracy.

“You can still do a lot of work. What excites me is that here is an officer like Faesal who gives you a feeling that you can also serve people outside civil services,” he said.

He said democracy allows space for political differences which can be argued over rather than having a fight.

“I can have political difference and it’s the beauty of democracy. Why should we fight? We should rather argue?” said Swarup.

He said he had a great time working in Kashmir when he was secretary, Department of School Education and Literacy, Government of India.

Swarup said his idea to pen down a book “Not Just a Civil Servant” was to appreciate the ground reality.  

“First, we have to accept that a problem exists. Mein ye jan buj ke Srinagar mein keh raha hoon (I am deliberately saying this in Srinagar),” said Swarup, without explaining.

He said he was able to clear misconceptions regarding J&K to a large extent through student exchange programs conducted during his tenure in the union education ministry.

“I had great time working in Kashmir. I have been close to Omar Abdullah. I also worked with Mehbooba Ji and told her once what needs to be set right in state’s education department so that aspirants are able to qualify competitive examinations like NEET,” he said.

“I have also worked with Altaf Bukhari (former education minister). Very proactive minister…there may be political differences, but that doesn’t mean we would not meet…,” said Swarup. 

Speaking on the occasion, National Conference member and former Secretary Education Farooq Ahamd Shah appreciated Swarup’s contribution to Kashmir education sector terming him as a “great inspiration”.

Shah said when he took over as Secretary J&K Education the students were on roads resulting in a chaos all over. “More worrying thing for me and the administration was the strike of SSA teachers who had been without salaries for months together,” said Shah.

According to him it was Swarup who bailed out the state administration by releasing funds for salary of the SSA teachers easing up pressure on the administration.

Shah said it was during the Swarup’s tenure as Union Secretary for School Education that Kashmir Schools were equipped with computer labs and other facilities.