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Change in pension rules a bid to stifle critical voices

Change in pension rules a bid to stifle critical voices   Earlier this week, the government amended Rule 8 of the Central Civil Services (Pe...

Change in pension rules a bid to stifle critical voices

 Earlier this week, the government amended Rule 8 of the Central Civil

Services (Pension) Rules 1972. It aims to prevent retired officials from writ-

ing books or newspaper articles or give interviews without taking prior

approval from the current heads of those organisations. In practice, this is

likely to amount to a blanket ban unless, in a specific case, the government wants

to promote a viewpoint through a retired officer.

It is evident that changing the pension rules amounts to dangling the threat of

withholding or even withdrawing the pension earned through decades of dedicat-

ed service. This seems an intimidation tactic. In a recent interview, former Army

chief Gen. V.P. Malik (Retd) said the amendment “requires a review” and that it

was “overarching”. The military leader, who led the Army with distinction in the

Kargil war, chose to speak his mind although the military is not covered under the

change made. He rightly noted the Official Secrets Act was adequate deter those

who seek to compromise national security.

A retired chief of both the Intelligence Bureau and Research and Analysis Wing.

A.S. Dulat, who was an adviser in Atal Behari Vajpayee’s PMO, is an author of

many books and newspaper articles and is often interviewed in the media, has said

he wouldn’t be seeking permission. He also said the amendment “isn’t right”. He

wondered aloud in an interview if the changed rule would apply even if he chose

to write literature or poetry. And there is a reason for this.

The threatened backdoor ban would apply to writing that is related to the

“domain of the organisation, including references or information about any per-

sonnel and his/her designation, and expertise of knowledge gained by virtue of

working in that organisation”. If the government turned nasty, this could easily

apply to a short story, poem or novel where insights or experiences of a period are

referred to.

Why link pension, widely seen as an inalienable part of government service, to

drummed-up fears on national security? It is necessary to raise the question as it

is amply clear that through their writings and interviews, and through their con-

tribution to think tanks whose discussions are frequently reflected in public

forums, retired senior officials enrich the national conversation by raising the

level of debate and discussion. They help us better grasp matters relating to nation-

al security, on which millions of rupees from the exchequer are spent. The process

makes for an aware citizenry, an unquantifiable attribute that aids society and the

State by preparing people for times of crisis. The experience of retired senior offi-

cials, when made public, also enhances the scope of knowledge production.

There are 18 departments in the Second Schedule of the RTI Act that are covered

under the amended order covering pensions. These include the IB and RAW, the

paramilitary forces like BSF, CRPF, ITBP, CISF, Assam Rifles, SSB, SFF, the spe-

cial branch and CID in select locations like the Andaman and Nicobar Islands,

Dadra, Nagar Haveli and Lakshadweep. The Enforcement Directorate, Narcotics

Control Bureau and the Central Economic Intelligence Bureau, outfits which are

suspected to be used to harass political opponents, are also covered.

The list of departments suggests that the government is sensitive to any criticism

or implied criticism in the future to policies related to Kashmir and the Northeast

or distant maritime regions where the intelligence and security services are

salient, and is keen that suppressing dissidents and political opponents is cost-free.

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