On Monday, July 12, a Twitter user Shishira Rudrappa who was on the route from Bengaluru to the city airport, tweeted a picture of an advertisement for the Uttar Pradesh government Karnataka. The hoarding had a photo of Uttar Pradesh Prime Minister Yogi Adityanath, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and it portrayed how Uttar Pradesh is number one in the country. In another tweet, he shared pictures of the same hoarding, but this time the hoarding was put up outside Delhi airport. It was an innocent post that meant no harm, mockery or spreading fake news until Shishir Singh IAS, Director Information and Public Relations in the government of Uttar Pradesh, deemed it as fake news.
Responding to his tweet, Shishir Singh warned the lawyer not to spread the fake word and tagged DGP of Uttar Pradesh and cyber police in Uttar Pradesh. Shishir Singh outrightly denied any such posters being put in Karnataka. Responding to IAS Shishir Singh‘s tweet Uttar Pradesh police wrote that appropriate legal action would be taken against the lawyer. The official handle of fact-checking of the Uttar Pradesh government also tweeted and deemed Shishira Rudrappa’s tweet fake n threatened legal action. Later on, Shishira Rudrappa countered the IAS officer’s claim saying that everyone can see it.
After a short while, Shishira shared a video of the exact spot where the hoarding was put up with few proofs like JCDecaux, the official hoarding partner of Bangalore airport and truck of Bangalore airport. On Tuesday, Shishira tweeted a video of the same hoarding being discreetly pulled down, captured by his staff. In a phone call with the IAS officer, he was questioned about the incident, and his response was astonishing. The IAS officer said that he has no information of any such hoardings being put up in Karnataka. The man who is responsible for Public Relations and Information cannot walk away with such a statement.
These statements portray blunders, poor value and irresponsibility towards the job. After this, a war of words started on Twitter where the BJP government and Uttar Pradesh State government was ridiculed, and citizens questioned their motives. A common man speaking plain truth was threatened with legal action; his claims were deemed fake when they were true. What’s more, the entire machinery of the state government, right from state fact-checker, IAS officers, cyber police, state police, participated against the truth, which is shocking and disappointing.
People continue with their ordinary lives, giving the slightest attention to casualties and extraordinary circumstances, knowing that the state and the judiciary will protect them if any such events were to come. But events like these raise suspicion, fear and panic within people because they are helpless as they cannot trust the state for their well-being. If people are unhappy with political representatives and their policies, people can oust them by not voting for them in the next elections. But if commoners are harassed and threatened by bureaucrats, they are helpless because-
People don’t choose bureaucrats; the Centre or state government appoints them. These bureaucrats cannot be ousted unless the government terminates their services. It is seen at times that suspended bureaucrats are quietly reappointed.
This event raises a lot of questions which we will dwell upon as we proceed-
If the government put up a hoarding celebrating the Uttar Pradesh government, why was it taken down after the Twitter war?
It is not a crime if a hoarding or a billboard is put up across the country if it fulfils specific terms and conditions, namely security, national integrity, hurting sentiments of people, inciting violence, et cetera. If the Uttar Pradesh government put up hoardings across the country celebrating the Uttar Pradesh government’s work, it is not a crime. The fact that it was taken out after the Twitter war raises suspicions.
Is extensive campaign for election purposes miss use of public funds?
Hoardings appreciating the Uttar Pradesh government are put up across India. It is standard procedure to enjoy a worthy task done by an individual or group of individuals but only to a certain extent. Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh are due after eight months, and the campaign is natural, but why funds are used to campaign all over India? It is only the people of Uttar Pradesh who will vote in the assembly elections.
The countrywide campaign is a blatant misuse of public funds and taxpayers’ hard-earned money. The 2014 general elections were India’s second most expensive elections. The BJP in all spent ₹714.28 crores in election campaigns, according to the contribution report filed with the Election Commission of India ECI on January 12, 2015. In the 2019 general elections, the BJP spent around ₹27,000 crores, according to a report by the Centre for Media Studies. The 2019 general election was the most expensive ever, anywhere.
Do false statements from IAS, state police, bureaucrats, and politicians reduce public trust in the state?
As a matter of fact, it does. There are several examples when IAS officers who were booked for misconduct and later suspended were quietly reinstated. Few examples are Anupam Mishra, IAS officer of Kerala cadre, IAS officer Rajiv Ranjan for illegal arms license and distribution, IAS Sreeram Venkitraman for hurting a journalist while drunk driving, IAS Babu Lal Agrawal for corruption, IAS officer Pradeep Shukla for bribery etc. Rules are made to reduce indiscipline, but their use is highly selective and arbitrary.
All bureaucrats, politicians and other government officers have strong political connections and backing from their respective lobbies, which makes their proper conviction an impossible job. One can only hope for fast and fair conclusions from departmental and court cases. Innocent officers should not be harassed, and guilty officers should not be protected. Talking about this particular incident, the IAS officer Shishir Singh outrightly denied information of hoardings in Bangalore.
This is a misuse of public funds, abuse of authority, misuse of power because he threatened the lawyer with legal action. He even wasted time on UP police and cyber cell to cover up his mistake. These examples are only from the IAS lobby, and the article would run into pages altogether if corruption, scam and misconduct of politicians, judiciary and other government officers are cited. The trust is not waning; the confidence has vanished.
Does India have a weak constitution that is bent according to the whims and wishes of the people in power?
The Indian Constitution is one of the most detailed and diverse Constitution of the world governing such a diverse population. Constitution believes that an accused is innocent until proven guilty, which is misused by people for their benefit. The Justice delivery system needs an update like the android system. The judiciary needs to ensure speedy delivery of justice, be it a heinous crime or a petty theft. Once the court gives its verdict, the bureaucracy and the government should not meddle in the judiciary’s business because it is against the federal structure of the Constitution. Suspended officers booked for severe charges should not be reappointed.
What will happen to Shishir Singh and others who are booked for crimes? Will the government and the Council which appoints them to take action against them?
Decisive action against these bureaucrats is the need of the hour because no one, not even the prime minister of India, is above the law. When bureaucrats who are booked for crimes walk free, they not only mock the law of the land but they also encourage other people to commit crimes and get away with it using political influence. The bureaucrats need to work for the Constitution and its people, not the ruling party members. Even if the officers work fearlessly, not caring about the ruling party, their careers are harmed.
Ashok Khemka, is IAS officer from the 1991 batch, was transferred 53 times in 28 years by the state government after exposing the corruption of Bhupinder Hooda, Robert Vadra, Sonepat Kharkhoda, Grahi Sampla Udhar Gagan etc. Pradeep Kasni was transferred 71 times in 35 years. The state machinery needs to look into the transfers and working of bureaucrats to ensure that honest and hard-working bureaucrats are not harassed.