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CCG Open Letter regarding the farmers’ agitation

CCG Open Letter regarding the farmers’ agitation
11 December 2020

We are a group of former civil servants belonging to the All India and Central Services who have worked with the Central Government as well as different State Governments of India.

As a group, we have no affiliation with any political party but believe in being neutral, impartial and committed to the Constitution of India. A huge farmers’ agitation – primarily in Punjab, Haryana, U.P. and Rajasthan – to repeal three new laws has been under way for many months and has been supported by many other sectors like trade unions, student organizations, university teachers’ associations, a range of political parties and others.

A Bharat Bandh was called for December 8 after several rounds of talks between farmers’ unions and the Government of India failed to yield results.

We do not wish to discuss here the merits and demerits of these laws but focus on the violation of Constitutional provisions and the breakdown of democratic processes in this saga.

In keeping with the federal structure of the Constitution and the range and diversity of State-specific needs, “agriculture” is at Entry 14 in List-II in the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution.

The subjects in this List are within the exclusive legislative jurisdiction of the States and it has been argued convincingly that the laws passed are, therefore, unconstitutional. Unconstitutionality apart, they represent an assault upon the federal character of the Constitution: some legal experts have argued that they violate “the basic structure of the Constitution.

” The passing of these laws appears to be a case of legislative legerdemain and they have been challenged in court.

There were no consultations with farmers’ representatives before the legal process. To start with, ordinances were issued during a colossal pandemic which deserved undiluted attention.

When the Bills were introduced in Parliament in September, 2020, the demand to send them to Parliamentary Committees was denied. It is pertinent to point out that according to a newspaper report of September 2020, in recent times, the percentage of Bills scrutinized by Parliamentary Select Committees rose from 60% during UPA I (14th Lok Sabha) to a high of 71% during UPA II (15th Lok Sabha) but fell to 25% in NDA I (16th Lok Sabha).

In thecurrent Lok Sabha, very few Bills have been sent to Parliamentary Committees. Time was not given to debate the Bills and they were railroaded through Parliament; the demand for a division in the Rajya Sabha was not accepted and a voice vote was held amid tumult and confusion, leading to suspicions about the procedure employed.

At the same time, some labour laws were passed during a walk-out by the Opposition. The question has been raised pointedly:

was this done in the belief that during a pandemic and the restrictions on public gatherings, organized protest would not be possible?

The undermining of democratic processes and the total disregard for public consultation and convenience has been evident in the ways in which Article 370 was repealed, demonetization was implemented without warning or preparation, the Citizenship Amendment Act was brought in and a lockdown ordered with hardly any notice, resulting in untold suffering for millions of migrant workers.

What is noteworthy and common to all these actions was a refusal to consult the people affected beforehand and a determination to not hold a dialogue afterwards.

The facile option of labelling all those who disagree with one or other of the actions of the government as “anti-national”, “pro-Pakistani,“ “award-vapasi gang”, “urban Naxals” and “Khan Market gang” is chosen to avoid substantive discussion and debate, the very heart of the democratic process, and to vilify and criminalize dissent.

It is a measure of their discontent that farmers in lakhs are braving the winter cold as also the risks of Covid-19.

The farmers’ agitation has been peaceful and in exercise of their Constitutional and democratic right to protest. Yet, they were greeted by teargas and water cannons as they tried to reach Delhi and highways in Haryana were dug up to impede their onward march.

It is difficult to label these protests as instigated by political parties or Khalistanis when the farmers explicitly keep political parties at bay and a senior SAD leader, once a part of the ruling alliance of NDA, returns his Padma Vibhushan award.

The protests have spread across many States and are being supported by several other groups even though a largely complicit media refuses to report their true magnitude and reach.

In our capacity as former civil servants who stand up for Constitutional freedoms, we would like to emphasize our support for the democratic and Constitutional right of peaceful protest being exercised by farmers and others. It is time that the ruling dispensation listens carefully to the demands being made and demonstrates its respect for democratic traditions, procedures and practices by engaging in dialogue inside and outside Parliament.

(78 signatories, as below)

1.  S.R. Adige IAS (Retd.) Former Vice Chairman, Central Administrative Tribunal

2.  Salahuddin Ahmad IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan

3.  Shafi Alam IPS (Retd.) Former Director General, National Crime Records Bureau,GoI

4.  K. Saleem Ali IPS (Retd.) Former Special Director, CBI, GoI

5.  S.P. Ambrose IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Secretary, Ministry of Shipping &Transport, GoI

6.  G. Balachandhran IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal

7.  Vappala Balachandran IPS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI

8.  Gopalan Balagopal IAS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal

9. Chandra shekhar Balakrishnan IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Coal, GoI

10. T.K. Banerji IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Union Public Service Commission

11. Sharad Behar IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh

12.  Aurobindo Behera IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Odisha

13.  Madhu Bhaduri IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Portugal

14.  Ravi Budhiraja IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, GoI

15.  Sundar Burra IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra

16. Rachel Chatterjee IAS (Retd.) Former Special Chief Secretary, Agriculture, Govt. of Andhra Pradesh

17.  Kalyani Chaudhuri IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal

18.  Vibha Puri Das IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, GoI

19.  P.R. Dasgupta IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Food Corporation of India, GoI

20.  Pradeep K. Deb IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Deptt. Of Sports, GoI

21.  Nitin Desai IES (Retd.) Former Secretary and Chief Economic Adviser, Ministry of Finance, GoI

22.  Keshav Desiraju IAS (Retd.) Former Health Secretary, GoI

23.  M.G. Devasahayam IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Govt. of Haryana

24.  Arif Ghauri IRS (Retd.) Former Governance Adviser, DFID, Govt. of the United Kingdom (on deputation)

25.  Suresh K. Goel IFS (Retd.) Former Director General, Indian Council of Cultural Relations, GoI

26.  S.K. Guha IAS (Retd.) Former Joint Secretary, Department of Women & Child Development, GoI

27.  H.S. Gujral IFoS (Retd.) Former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Govt. of Punjab

28.  Meena Gupta IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, GoI

29.  Wajahat Habibullah IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, GoI and Chief Information Commissioner

30.   Rahul Khullar IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India

31. Brijesh Kumar IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Department of Information Technology, GoI

32.  Sudhir Kumar IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Central Administrative Tribunal

33.  P.K. Lahiri IAS (Retd.) Former ED, Asian Development Bank & Former Revenue Secretary, GoI

34.  Subodh Lal IPoS (Resigned) Former Deputy Director General, Ministry ofCommunications, GoI

35.  P.M.S. Malik IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Myanmar & Special Secretary, MEA, GoI

36. Harsh Mander IAS (Retd.) Govt. of Madhya Pradesh

37.  Amitabh Mathur IPS (Retd.) Former Director, Aviation Research Centre and Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI

38.  Lalit Mathur IAS (Retd.) Former Director General, National Institute of Rural Development, GoI

39.   Aditi Mehta IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan

40.  Sonalini Mirchandani IFS (Resigned) GoI

41.  Sunil Mitra IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Finance, GoI

42.  Avinash Mohananey IPS (Retd.) Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Sikkim

43.  Deb Mukharji IFS (Retd.) Former High Commissioner to Bangladesh and former Ambassador to Nepal

44.  Nagalsamy  IA&AS (Retd.) Former Principal Accountant General, Tamil Nadu & Kerala

45.  P.G.J. Nampoothiri IPS (Retd.) Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Gujarat

46. Surendra Nath IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Finance Commission, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh

47. P. Joy Oommen IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Chhattisgarh48. Amitabha

48.  Amitabha Pande IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Inter-State Council, GoI

49.  Mira Pande IAS (Retd.) Former State Election Commissioner, West Bengal

50.  R. Poornalingam IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Textiles, GoI

51.  R.M.Premkumar IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra

52. T.R. Raghunandan IAS (Retd.) Former Joint Secretary, Ministry of Panchayati Raj, GoI

53. V.P. Raja IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission

54. K. Sujatha Rao IAS (Retd.) Former Health Secretary, GoI

55. Satwant Reddy IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Chemicals and Petrochemicals, GoI

56. Vijaya Latha Reddy IFS (Retd.) Former Deputy National Security Adviser, GoI

57. Julio Ribeiro IPS (Retd.) Former Adviser to Governor of Punjab & former Ambassador to Romania

58. Aruna Roy IAS (Resigned)

59. Manabendra N.Roy IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal

60. A.K. Samanta IPS (Retd.) Former Director General of Police (Intelligence), Govt. of West Bengal

61. Deepak Sanan IAS (Retd.) Former Principal Adviser (AR) to Chief Minister, Govt. of Himachal Pradesh

62. N.C. Saxena IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Planning Commission, GoI

63. A. Selvaraj IRS (Retd.) Former Chief Commissioner, Income Tax, Chennai, GoI

64. Abhijit Sengupta IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GoI

65. Ashok Kumar Sharma IFoS (Retd.) Former MD, State Forest Development Corporation, Govt. of Gujarat

66. Ashok Kumar Sharma IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Finland and Estonia

67. Navrekha Sharma IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Indonesia

68. Raju Sharma IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh

69. Sujatha Singh IFS (Retd.) Former Foreign Secretary, GoI

70. Tirlochan Singh IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, National Commission for Minorities, GoI

71. Jawhar Sircar IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GoI, & former CEO, Prasar Bharati

72. Thanksy Thekkekera IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Minorities Development, Govt. of Maharashtra

73. P.S.S. Thomas IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary General, National Human Rights Commission

74. Hindal Tyabji IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary rank, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir

75. Jawed Usmani IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh & Former Chief Information Commissioner, Uttar Pradesh

76. G. Sankaran IC&CES (Retd.) Former President, Customs, Excise and Gold (Control) Appellate Tribunal

77.  Ashok Vajpeyi IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Lalit Kala Akademi

78. Ramani Venkatesan IAS (Retd.) Former Director General, YASHADA, Govt. ofMaharashtra

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