New Delhi, April 20: Union home minister Rajnath Singh today asked bureaucrats to ignore illegal orders of the "political executive", saying officials need to shed the tag of being the "yes-men" of politicians.
The minister lashed out at bureaucrats for delaying the inaugural session of the Civil Services Day today by nearly "12 minutes" and asked them to "introspect". He was livid after noticing that many officials kept entering the venue at Vigyan Bhavan even after the programme had formally begun.
As the minister vented his anger, some bureaucrats appeared nervous while others seemed sheepish. Rajnath invoked the country's first home minister, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, and his description of the civil services as the "Steel Frame" of India. "Has the steel frame of civil services become weak?" he asked.
"If a political executive gives wrong orders, do not be scared to show them rules. Tell the political executive that you are legally wrong. Do not sign the file. You should not betray your conscience. Haan mein haan naa milaiye (You should not become a yes-man)," Rajnath said, stressing that civil servants should be impartial and never hesitate in taking decisions.
The event was attended by officers of the IAS and other all-India services. Taking a dig at officers who tarried, Rajnath said such an attitude might harm the country's interests.
"If it is necessary, then discuss and deliberate with your seniors but there should be no hesitation in taking decisions," Rajnath said.
"Civil services have power but with power comes big responsibility and accountability. Along with the responsibility and accountability, impartiality is the third most important aspect of our civil servants. Lack of impartiality may affect your decision-making capabilities," the home minister added.
Rajnath said the Indian polity had never faced a vacuum and witnessed continuity, and civil servants had contributed largely to it. "This administrative continuity in India has been one of the important reasons for the success of Indian democracy."
Rajnath, however, took to task bureaucrats and officials of several ministries for turning up late at the programme, after having himself arrived five minutes in advance. "The programme was supposed to start at 9.45am and we reached five minutes before the scheduled time. But it started at 9.57am," the minister said in his inaugural speech. "I am saying this as I think we all should need to do serious introspection. I am raising this issue, which some of you might find weird, but it is appropriate to raise it before you," he added.
Rajnath was the chief guest at the event. Among those present on the dais were minister of state for personnel Jitendra Singh, cabinet secretary P.K. Sinha and P.K. Mishra, additional principal secretary to the Prime Minister.
The minister recalled his own "punctuality" as a chief minister once and minister several times. "When I was invited to a function while I was chief minister (of Uttar Pradesh), it was quite natural that I would reach the venue 10 minutes before the scheduled time. But as a minister also, I have seen that whenever I have to go to a function, people reach the venue a few minutes before the scheduled time. But for the first time I have seen people reaching late."
Civil Services Day, Rajnath stressed, is also an occasion where "we introspect and plan the future journey".