Silent cry of the BCS officers

BCS is that elusive pot of gold that entices job-seekers. To many families with daughters of marriageable age, a BCS son-in-law is considered the ultimate 'catch'. And for many persons seeking various services, BCS conjures up an image of an arrogant and corrupt officer who must be addressed as 'sir', only very rarely a civil and polite service provider. But there is another side of the BCS officers, their silent cry only known to the sufferers, the victims. This 'silent cry' has been revealed in the book 'OSD-nama' by Sheikh Abdur Rashid, published recently by Muktachinta.

Who is this Sheikh Abdur Rashid?

A total of 361 officers were selected for the 10 general cadres of the 1982 (regular) batch. Sheikh Abdur Rashid stood fourth among the 361 in the combined merit list and first in the admin cadre merit list. In all considerations, whether his merit, age, honesty, reputation, intellect, he was prime material for the post of cabinet secretary. Yet he had to retire as additional secretary. And in the last seven years of service, he had been OSD. He had been among the top of his class in the department of political science at Dhaka University.

What does 'OSD-nama' reveal?

Sheikh Abdur Rashid has been serving as additional secretary of the home ministry. On 3 November 2008, the home secretary had been invited as chief guest to an event in Dhaka Central Jail to launch a sweater knitting programme aimed at rehabilitating convicts in regular life. As he was otherwise preoccupied at the time, he asked Sheikh Abdur Rashid to go in his stead. Rashid turned up at the event accordingly. At the end of the launch, he stayed on at the request of certain senior jail officials, to watch some comedy and entertainment performances by the prison inmates.

A committee was formed, headed by Rashid's successor, an additional secretary. Without any proof or evidence, they accused Sheikh Abdur Rashid, saying that the programme in the prison had been an insult to the Jail Killing Day. In January 2009 a departmental case was brought about against him and he was made OSD.

The investigation report of the case found Sheikh Abdur Rashid guilty. As a punishment, it was proposed that he take forced retirement in 2011. When PSC refused to impose this punishment, a re-investigation was carried out and he was relieved of charges in September 2016. Even though the re-investigation report was given in November 2012, he was exempted of charges nearly four years later. In the meantime, when his junior colleagues became secretaries and cabinet secretary, he demanded his due promotion. His demand was ignored. This book is the narrative of a deprived, meritorious, honest and hard-working BCS officer.

How degeneration of BCS began

Before the independence of Bangladesh, the civil service had been based on merit during the British rule and even in Pakistan times. The irregularities began from the very first BCS recruitment after independence. A notice was issued in June 1972 that only freedom fighters would be recruited as BCS officers. It was expected that freedom fighters would be recruited to public service after independence, but instead of any competition, recruitment was made on the basis of oral exams. They joined the service between August and November 1973.

Another notice was issued in July 1972. This notice gave scope to only non-freedom fighters to apply. Had this opportunity to apply not been restricted to non-freedom fighters, but kept open for all, then freedom fighters could have applied too. But as there was no scope for freedom fighters to apply, the non-freedom fighters faced resistance.

Following a concise competitive exam, they joined service in April 1977. It took them four and a half years to get their jobs. The conflict between these two batches hindered the country's civil service from taking off on a good start.

Janatar Mancha and politicisation of civil admin

The Janata Mancha ('people's platform') was set up on 23 March 1996 in from of the National Press Club. A section of government officials and employees of the secretariat, led by Mohiuddin Khan Alamgir, violated public service rules, to rebel against the government and take to streets, joining Awami League's political platform.

BNP times

Later when BNP ascended to power, the trend to identify BCS officials according to their political colour, continued. It is said that the officials were identified according to political party with letters of the English alphabet (A, B, J). Superseding senior officials, supporters of the ruling party were given promotions, while others were deprived.

Awami League rule

When Awami League came to power once again in 2009, conflictive divisions took on new heights in the administration, under the leadership of the party's political advisor. Certain backbencher BCS officers joined this drive, grabbing promotions and choice posts, superseding meritorious, honest and efficient officials. The writer of the book under discussion, Sheikh Abdur Rashid, was victim of their conspiracy.

Predicament caused by postings

Postings in the prime minister's office, the posts of deputy commissioner, PS to the ministers and state ministers, are considered attractive and rewarding to the BCS officers. Officials who are given these posts under one government are deprived of these positions by the other government. They are often even sent on forced retirement.

Inter-cadre discrimination

Officers outside of the BCS cadre, even when leaving their cadre, are subject to discrimination. Two names come to mind now -- Ranajit Kumar Chakraborty and Mohammad Azharul Haque. Both of them were absolutely perfect secretary material, yet they had to retire as additional secretaries.

A convoluted form of Gresham's Law pervades throughout the BCS administration, where 'bad officials drive out the good officials'

Data on deprivation

A study carried out by former secretary and civil service researcher, Abdul Awal Majumdar, revealed that a total of 142 officers of the 1982 batch were in service in 2009. Of them, 46 were promoted as secretaries and 96 were deprived of promotion. Most of those who were promoted, lagged behind on the merit list and most of these deprived were forerunner on the list.

The name of Nasimul Ghani must be mentioned here. We sent him on research work to his former workplace in Biswambharpur in Sunamganj. He had served there in 1990. Around 25 years later when he went there in 2014, the people thronged around the dak bungalow to get a glimpse of their dear horse-riding UNO. This officer, sixth on the merit list, honest, hardworking and with a penchant for people's welfare, was forced to go on retirement!

Who stands to lose?

In this manner, a convoluted form of Gresham's Law pervades throughout the BCS administration, where 'bad officials drive out the good officials'. This is the back story of today's BCS administration, riddled with corruption and inefficiency. Sheikh Abdur Rashid's book, 'OSD-nama' could be a guideline to resolve the extensive problems that grip the public administration.

* Muhammad Fouzul Kabir Khan is a former secretary and economist  

* This column appeared in the print an online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ayesha Kabir