As gag orders go, this one is blatant. The Centre’s new pension rules bar officers who retire from intelligence and safety organisations from writing/publishing something associated to their work or profession — even an oped on a matter of public significance, not to mention a e-book — with no clearance from the present head of the organisation. The failure to take action would possibly put their pension advantages in danger — a harsh menace to dangle over a citizen for the train of her freedom of expression and speech. The regulation will apply to officers who retire from the Intelligence Bureau, R&AW, CBI, ED, Narcotics Management Bureau, DRDO and all central armed police forces such because the CRPF and BSF, amongst others. Worse, this bar will apply in perpetuity. The federal government might properly have, however selected to not, set a cooling-off interval from the date of an officer’s retirement — whether or not two or 5 years — during which she could be forbidden from writing about her work expertise. Whereas it’s comprehensible for the state to have issues about issues of nationwide safety, that is too blanket and vaguely worded a restriction. As a former R&AW chief informed this newspaper, “The best way the rule has been worded, even when I’ve to say that first R&AW chief RN Kao was an excellent man, I should take permission from the present R&AW chief.”
The Centre’s transfer reeks of an all-too-familiar want to regulate and micro-manage concepts, info and narratives — within the identify of nationwide curiosity — in ways in which solely find yourself making it look insecure. The identical distrust of concepts was evident in orders such because the one which sought to bar digital “worldwide conferences and seminars” on issues of India’s safety, the Northeastern states and Jammu and Kashmir in universities — a round so undemocratic in its spirit that it needed to be withdrawn after an outcry. The present gag order, in impact, forces officers who’ve spent a long time within the trenches of officialdom, shaping and figuring out nationwide coverage at essential moments of Indian historical past, outdoors the pale of public discourse. Their expertise and information don’t must be barb-wired by oaths of secrecy, however have to be judiciously introduced into the general public realm — to counterpoint historical past writing, institutional reminiscence, and academia. Furthermore, does this ban additionally apply to retired officers becoming a member of think-tanks and talking at seminars? How a lot management is sufficient management?
For a information society, discussions and deliberations are key to shifting ahead. The Centre’s transfer is another instance of the way it could also be getting these fundamentals mistaken. It should withdraw this order.