Mumbai: Scathing edit lands IAS officer in trouble with government

Jul 09, 2017, 12:30 IST | Dharmendra Jore

Rajagopal Devara's piece for a Marathi daily flouted rules that forbid officials from writing anything against current or recent govt policy or action

Rajagopal Devara
Rajagopal Devara

Senior IAS officer Rajagopal Devara, who wrote a newspaper article that severely criticised the BJP-led Maharashtra government over handling of the farmers' issue, has been asked to explain his 'act of violation of service rules'. Apparently, the bureaucrat did not seek mandatory permission from the chief secretary before writing a scathing piece for a Marathi daily, even as farmers protested on the streets after a loan waiver was announced late last month.

Analysing the farmers' protest, the officer wrote in his article published on June 25 that the unity of farmers and several other factors were responsible for the farmers' success - like irresponsible statements made by senior leaders against distressed farmers, and the RBI governor's remark about agricultural loan waiver write-offs potentially leading to fiscal slippages. Devara went on to accuse the state government of lethargy in handling the tur dal issue and trying to weaken the strike by dividing farmers.

Devara is principal secretary (protocol) in the General Administration Department (GAD). Previously, he has worked in departments associated with the farming community. The government confirmed that Devara has been asked to explain his stance, in reply to an RTI query by activist Anil Galgali.

Galgali asked the government if Devara was given permission. The GAD told him that he was granted permission on August 31, 2016, but not for authoring any article that would appear in 2017. Two other officials were granted similar permissions between July 2012 and June 2017.

According to officials in the know, all serving officers are required to take permission from the government to write for non-government publications. If they violate the rule, they are liable to face action under section 6 and 7 of the All India Services Rules (conduct)-1968.

One officer pointed out that although Devara has specifically mentioned that the views expressed in the article are his own (as per Section 6 which says an officer doesn't need prior sanction of the government), he has clearly flouted Section 7 (criticism of government) which, to summarise, states that no member of the service shall, in any document published in his own name or in the name of any other person, make any statement which has the effect of an adverse criticism of any current policy or action of the Central or a state government.

However, the officers could not specify what action their colleague would face, should the government reject his explanation. The RTI response did not mention the deadline given to Devara to file his reply. When called and texted on Saturday, Devara remained unavailable for comment.

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