On National Integration and the Civil Services

On National Integration and the Civil Services
On National Integration and the Civil Services

When the All India Services were constituted/restructured to suit the Nation’s needs following independence (they had been known as the Indian Civil Service earlier) one of the many provisions introduced was to send an officer hailing from one part of the country, say Rajasthan, to another, say Kerala. It was hoped that such a move would promote national integration over the years. It is time to review the manner in which this administrative measure has achieved the purpose.

Anyway, I must mention at this point some of the biases and aberra­tions that have already been present in our national psyche.

Firstly, to some people belonging to the northern part of the country any one hailing from any one of the four southern states was a ‘Madrasi’ whether he came from Tamil Nadu or Karnataka! There was a total inability to distinguish between the four major languages, notwith­standing the fact that even in the days of the Raj people from the south had been making a genuine attempt to learn Hindi or Bengali, as the case may be, thanks to the relatively greater mobility of people from the south to the north to take up jobs and a desire to see Hindi movies, which even college students in the south considered ‘fashionable’.

However, I have yet to see even till today a conscious attempt on the part of a person from Bhopal wanting to see a Telugu or Tamil movie. While on the subject of movies I cannot resist pointing out the rather obnoxious habit of a popular Hindi comedian, whose own sense of humour is rather low, meriting perhaps a two or three on a scale of one to ten of saying ‘Ayyo ’ every five minutes supposedly referring to the south Indian manner of speaking. Incidentally “ayyo” has been recognised as a word in English dictionaries. ( “aiyo” is an exclamatory term used in spoken Tamil quite frequently. It is used when something terrible happens to someone; it is also used when someone feels sorry for something happened; it is also uttered when someone witnesses something frightening. Aiyo, when uttered twice in quick succession (aiyaiyo), indicates the seriousness of an event that results in a great loss to someone. Apart from all these situations, it is also being used casually in normal circumstances. It has to be admitted that it is a very useful term for expressing various ideas. This term, I feel, is the shortened version of the old literary Tamil term, “aiyago”, that was used when someone seriously regrets their folly. This again makes me recollect a certain incident at a party I had attended abroad at which a certain Punjabi gentleman asked the Tamilian sitting next to him, as to why when asked to spell ‘moon’, Tamilians say ‘M-yo-yo-n’ to which the Tamilian retorted by stating that it was precisely because Punjabis ask Tamilians why they were wrongly saying ‘satation’ instead of ‘istation’ and ‘sachool’ instead of ‘ischool’! I don’t remember whether it was the same Punjabi who asked why Tamilians were fond of lapping up ‘rasam’ from the elbow as it flows from the fingers downwards to which the same Tamilian replied that he also could not understand why Punjabs tear their nan or roti by holding it firmly between their knees. There is also the complexion syndrome according to which south Indians are supposed to be dark whereas north Indians are fair. This conveniently ignores the fact that Vyjayantimala, Padmini, Waheeda Rehman, Hema Malini, Rekha and Sridevi dominated the Hindi screen for five decades sending the head of every north Indian male spinning, like a gyroscope. Every Carnatic musician can render songs in Hindustani ragas with infinite ease. The Meera bhajans of M.S. Subbalakshmi and the great meditative openings of Semmangudi or the birkhas of GNB are too well known to be mentioned. On the other hand no, Hindustani classical musician can render a kriti (song) in Carnatic music particularly heavy Ragas like Sankarabharanam, Kalyani, and Reethigowla (there may be a few exceptions)

In fact, most north Indians express a view that Carnatic music is too ‘technical’ and cannot be learnt—a load of crap disaproved by men like Higgins, the Connecticut Yankee who could sing Siva Siva Yana Rada in the Raga Pantuvarali, or Endaro Mahanubhavulu in the Raga Shree like a seasoned Carnatic musician at the Madras Music Academy! Another singer Chong Chiu Sen is a Malaysian Chinese.

Getting back to the All India Services, the officers do have to pass a preliminary examination at the beginning of their career. In as much as the Review Board has a few members whose knowledge of the local language is not their ‘strong point’ the candidate can always scrape through. There is no review at any other stage to assess the knowledge of Telugu or Tamil except the mandatory requirement of passing. a test or issuing circulars in the local language. English always comes to the rescue in day-to-day conversations and the officer can ‘muddle through’. But as long as a north Indian officer posted to Andhra Pradesh keeps saying ‘idilo’ for ‘deenilo’, and ‘adilo’ for ‘danilo’ no progress can be deemed to have been made. No complainant or petitioner will have the full satisfaction of having his complaint understood. Hence what is required is not the formality of passing an exam or implementing a circular, but a certain willingness to overcome mental blocks and cultivating a genuine desire to learn the language of the place to where one is posted so that true integration with the people there is possible to understand their prob­lems. We expect only rudimentary knowledge of Telugu, not a great insight into Potana or Srinatha.


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