Full text of the open letter from former civil servants to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on handling of the COVID-19 pandemic

“Right from the outset of the pandemic in March 2020, your government has never systematically assessed the funds that state governments would need to tackle the pandemic.”

Dear Prime Minister,

We, a group of former civil servants from the All India and Central Services, with a deep commitment to the Constitution of India and with no political affiliations, have written to you as well as other constitutional authorities on a number of occasions in the past, whenever we felt that executive actions violated the provisions of the Constitution. Today, in the midst of the Covid pandemic and the suffering that has engulfed the people of our country, we write to you in anguish as well as in anger. We are aware that this pandemic threatens the entire world and is not going to leave the citizens of India untouched. And yet, what numbs our senses daily is not just the cries of the citizenry for medical assistance and the death toll in its thousands but the manifestly casual attitude of your government to the magnitude of the crisis and its implications for the mental and physical health of the community of Indians.

The steady erosion of the Cabinet system of governance, the worsening of federal relationships with the states, especially those governed by parties opposed to the party ruling at the centre, the lack of informed consultation with experts and Parliamentary committees, the failure to take the timely advice of expert committees and the absence of effective coordination with state governments have had disastrous consequences for the poor and disadvantaged and now for the better off sections of society as well. Despite warnings from the international community and our own scientists, the breathing space between the first and the second waves was not used to augment critical resources such as medical staff, hospital beds, oxygen supplies, ventilators and drugs and other medical supplies. Even more inexcusably, no advance planning was done to secure adequate stocks of vaccines, despite India being one of the major vaccine suppliers to the world. The complacency displayed by you and your ministerial colleagues at various forums not only diverted attention from the looming threat but probably also contributed to both state governments and citizens letting down their guard at a crucial juncture. As a result, your Atmanirbhar Bharat is today compelled to seek the help of the outside world to lessen the agony inflicted on its own people by your government.

Right from the outset of the pandemic in March 2020, your government has never systematically assessed the funds that state governments would need to tackle the pandemic. The PM-CARES fund was set up when there was already a Prime Minister National Relief Fund in place. No disclosures have been made regarding the funds collected and the expenditures on various items. This fund attracted to itself moneys which would otherwise have gone from corporates and the public to the various CM Relief Funds and to NGOs. Your government has not been prompt in paying outstanding GST dues to the states, which could have helped them defray Covid care expenses. At the same time, your government has incurred unnecessary expenditure on the Central Vista redevelopment project; these funds could well have been more gainfully used to tackle the crisis. On top of this, the harsh restrictions imposed on NGOs, especially those obtaining foreign contributions, have hampered their efforts in providing relief during the pandemic.

While the holding of elections to the legislative assemblies of four states and one union territory may have been unavoidable, you, Mr. Prime Minister, and your party functionaries threw all caution to the winds by conducting huge public rallies in different states, when a restrained campaign by your party would have served as a salutary example to other political parties. The Kumbh Mela at Haridwar was conducted with scant regard for Covid safety regulations. With two such “super spreader” events taking place just when the second surge of the virus was becoming a major threat, we are now witnessing the horrifying spectacle of the rampant spread of the Covid virus across the rural hinterland of the country.

Your government seems to be more concerned with managing the narrative of “efficient” management of the Covid crisis rather than addressing the crucial issues at stake. Even authentic data on the testing carried out in different states, the number of positive cases, the number of persons hospitalised and mortality figures have not been publicly disseminated. This has had serious implications for the adequate provision of necessary medical facilities in different states as well as for devising appropriate measures in different states to control the spread of the pandemic.

We urge the Government of India to take the following actions immediately:

While the above constitute actions to be taken at the politico-administrative level, the most important action relates to building up the confidence and morale of a population hard hit by the loss of their near and dear ones. Compassion and caring have to be the cornerstones of government policy. History will judge our society, your government and, above all, you personally, on how effectively we handle this crisis.

SATYAMEVA JAYATE

Yours sincerely,

CONSTITUTIONAL CONDUCT GROUP

(116 signatories, as below)

 

Anita Agnihotri

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Department of Social Justice Empowerment, GoI

 

Salahuddin Ahmad

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan

 

S.P. Ambrose

IAS (Retd.)

Former Additional Secretary, Ministry of Shipping & Transport, GoI

 

Anand Arni

R&AW (Retd.)

Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI

 

G. Balachandhran

IAS (Retd.)

Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal

 

Vappala Balachandran

IPS (Retd.)

Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI

 

Gopalan Balagopal

IAS (Retd.)

Former Special Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal

 

Chandrashekhar Balakrishnan

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Coal, GoI

 

Rana Banerji

R&AW (Retd.)

Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat (R&AW), GoI

 

T.K. Banerji

IAS (Retd.)

Former Member, Union Public Service Commission

 

Sharad Behar

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh

 

Aurobindo Behera

IAS (Retd.)

Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Odisha

 

Madhu Bhaduri

IFS (Retd.)

Former Ambassador to Portugal

 

K.V. Bhagirath

IFS (Retd.)

Former Secretary General, Indian Ocean Rim Association, Mauritius

 

Meeran C Borwankar

IPS (Retd.)

Former DGP, Bureau of Police Research and Development, GoI

 

Ravi Budhiraja

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chairman, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, GoI

 

Sundar Burra

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra

 

Maneshwar Singh Chahal

IAS (Retd.)

Former Principal Secretary, Home, Govt. of Punjab

 

R. Chandramohan

IAS (Retd.)

Former Principal Secretary, Transport and Urban Development, Govt. of NCT of Delhi

 

K.M. Chandrasekhar

IAS (Retd.)

Former Cabinet Secretary, GoI

 

Rachel Chatterjee

IAS (Retd.)

Former Special Chief Secretary, Agriculture, Govt. of Andhra Pradesh

 

Kalyani Chaudhuri

IAS (Retd.)

Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal

 

Gurjit Singh Cheema

IAS (Retd.)

Former Financial Commissioner (Revenue), Govt. of Punjab

 

Anna Dani

IAS (Retd.)

Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra

 

Vibha Puri Das

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, GoI

 

P.R. Dasgupta

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chairman, Food Corporation of India, GoI

 

Nitin Desai

 

Former Chief Economic Adviser, Ministry of Finance, GoI

 

Keshav Desiraju

IAS (Retd.)

Former Health Secretary, GoI

 

M.G. Devasahayam

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Govt. of Haryana

 

Sushil Dubey

IFS (Retd.)

Former Ambassador to Sweden

 

A.S. Dulat

IPS (Retd.)

Former OSD on Kashmir, Prime Minister’s Office, GoI

 

K.P. Fabian

IFS (Retd.)

Former Ambassador to Italy

 

Prabhu Ghate

IAS (Retd.)

Former Addl. Director General, Department of Tourism, GoI

 

Arif Ghauri

IRS (Retd.)

Former Governance Adviser, DFID, Govt. of the United Kingdom (on deputation)

 

Gourisankar Ghosh

IAS (Retd.)

Former Mission Director, National Drinking Water Mission, GoI

 

Suresh K. Goel

IFS (Retd.)

Former Director General, Indian Council of Cultural Relations, GoI

 

S. Gopal

IPS (Retd.)

Former Special Secretary, GoI

 

H.S. Gujral

IFoS (Retd.)

Former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Govt. of Punjab

 

Meena Gupta

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, GoI

 

Ravi Vira Gupta

IAS (Retd.)

Former Deputy Governor, Reserve Bank of India

 

Wajahat Habibullah

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, GoI and former Chief Information Commissioner

 

Deepa Hari

IRS (Resigned)

 

 

Siraj Hussain

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Department of Agriculture, GoI

 

Kamal Jaswal

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Department of Information Technology, GoI

 

Najeeb Jung

IAS (Retd.)

Former Lieutenant Governor, Delhi

 

Vinod C. Khanna

IFS (Retd.)

Former Additional Secretary, MEA, GoI

 

Ajai Kumar

IFoS(Retd.)

Former Director, Ministry of Agriculture, GoI

 

Brijesh Kumar

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Department of Information Technology, GoI

 

Ish Kumar

IPS (Retd.)

Former DGP (Vigilance & Enforcement), Govt. of Telangana and former Special Rapporteur, National Human Rights Commission

 

Sudhir Kumar

IAS (Retd.)

Former Member, Central Administrative Tribunal

 

P.K. Lahiri

IAS (Retd.)

Former ED, Asian Development Bank & Former Revenue Secretary, GoI

 

Subodh Lal

IPoS (Resigned)

Former Deputy Director General, Ministry of Communications, GoI

 

S.K. Lambah

IFS (Retd.)

Former Special Envoy of the Prime Minister of India

 

B.B. Mahajan

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Deptt. of Food, GoI

 

Harsh Mander

IAS (Retd.)

Govt. of Madhya Pradesh

 

Amitabh Mathur

IPS (Retd.)

Former Director, Aviation Research Centre and Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI

 

Lalit Mathur

IAS (Retd.)

Former Director General, National Institute of Rural Development, GoI

 

Aditi Mehta

IAS (Retd.)

Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan

 

Shivshankar Menon

IFS (Retd.)

Former Foreign Secretary and Former National Security Adviser

 

Sonalini Mirchandani

IFS (Resigned)

GoI

 

Malay Mishra

IFS (Retd.)

Former Ambassador to Hungary

 

Sunil Mitra

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Ministry of Finance, GoI

 

Noor Mohammad

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, National Disaster Management Authority, Govt. of India

 

Avinash Mohananey

IPS (Retd.)

Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Sikkim

 

Deb Mukharji

IFS (Retd.)

Former High Commissioner to Bangladesh and former Ambassador to Nepal

 

Shiv Shankar Mukherjee

IFS (Retd.)

Former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom

 

Gautam Mukhopadhaya

IFS (Retd.)

Former Ambassador to Myanmar

 

Nagalsamy

IA&AS (Retd.)

Former Principal Accountant General, Tamil Nadu & Kerala

 

T.K.A. Nair

IAS (Retd.)

Former Adviser to Prime Minister of India

 

Surendra Nath

IAS (Retd.)

Former Member, Finance Commission, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh

 

P. Joy Oommen

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Chhattisgarh

 

Amitabha Pande

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Inter-State Council, GoI

 

Niranjan Pant

IA&AS (Retd.)

Former Deputy Comptroller and Auditor General, GoI

 

P. R. Parthasarathy

IPS (Retd.)

Former Director, Anti-Corruption Bureau, Govt. of Maharashtra

 

Alok Perti

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Ministry of Coal, GoI

 

R. Poornalingam

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Ministry of Textiles, GoI

 

Rajesh Prasad

IFS (Retd.)

Former Ambassador to the Netherlands

 

Sharda Prasad

IAS (Retd.)

Former Director General (Employment and Training), Ministry of Labour and Employment, GoI

 

R.M. Premkumar

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra

 

T.R. Raghunandan

IAS (Retd.)

Former Joint Secretary, Ministry of Panchayati Raj, GoI

 

N.K. Raghupathy

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chairman, Staff Selection Commission, GoI

 

V.P. Raja

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chairman, Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission

 

C. Babu Rajeev

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, GoI

 

K. Sujatha Rao

IAS (Retd.)

Former Health Secretary, GoI

 

M.Y. Rao

IAS (Retd.)

 

 

Satwant Reddy

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Chemicals and Petrochemicals, GoI

 

Vijaya Latha Reddy

IFS (Retd.)

Former Deputy National Security Adviser, GoI

 

Julio Ribeiro

IPS (Retd.)

Former Adviser to Governor of Punjab & former Ambassador to Romania

 

Aruna Roy

IAS (Resigned)

 

 

Manabendra N. Roy

IAS (Retd.)

Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal

 

K. Saleem Ali

IPS (Retd.)

Former Special Director, CBI, GoI

 

Deepak Sanan

IAS (Retd.)

Former Principal Adviser (AR) to Chief Minister, Govt. of Himachal Pradesh

 

G. Sankaran

IC&CES (Retd.)

Former President, Customs, Excise and Gold (Control) Appellate Tribunal

 

S. Satyabhama

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chairperson, National Seeds Corporation, GoI

 

N.C. Saxena

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Planning Commission, GoI

 

A. Selvaraj

IRS (Retd.)

Former Chief Commissioner, Income Tax, Chennai, GoI

 

Ardhendu Sen

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal

 

Abhijit Sengupta

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GoI

 

Aftab Seth

IFS (Retd.)

Former Ambassador to Japan

 

Ashok Kumar Sharma

IFoS (Retd.)

Former MD, State Forest Development Corporation, Govt. of Gujarat

 

Ashok Kumar Sharma

IFS (Retd.)

Former Ambassador to Finland and Estonia

 

Navrekha Sharma

IFS (Retd.)

Former Ambassador to Indonesia

 

Pravesh Sharma

IAS (Retd.)

Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh

 

Raju Sharma

IAS (Retd.)

Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh

 

Rashmi Shukla Sharma

IAS (Retd.)

Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh

 

Padamvir Singh

IAS (Retd.)

Former Director, LBSNAA, Mussoorie, GoI

 

Sujatha Singh

IFS (Retd.)

Former Foreign Secretary, GoI

 

Tirlochan Singh

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, National Commission for Minorities, GoI

 

Jawhar Sircar

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GoI, & former CEO, Prasar Bharati

 

Parveen Talha

IRS (Retd.)

Former Member, Union Public Service Commission

 

Thanksy Thekkekera

IAS (Retd.)

Former Additional Chief Secretary, Minorities Development, Govt. of Maharashtra

 

P.S.S. Thomas

IAS (Retd.)

Former Secretary General, National Human Rights Commission

 

Hindal Tyabji

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chief Secretary rank, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir

 

Jawed Usmani

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh & former Chief Information Commissioner, Uttar Pradesh

 

Ashok Vajpeyi

IAS (Retd.)

Former Chairman, Lalit Kala Akademi

 

Ramani Venkatesan

IAS (Retd.)

Former Director General, YASHADA, Govt. of Maharashtra

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