Gfiles has completed 10 years of publication. With this issue, we embark on our second decade. It is an achievement in which we take some measure of pride. gfiles has consistently given its readers reports that are neither so arcane as to be unintelligible to motivated readers, nor so condescending as to insult their intelligence. gfiles was founded on what we believe is a sound premise: Our founding Chief Editor Inderjit Badhwar wrote in the first editorial: “gfiles is more than an information vehicle. It is an interactive and participatory platform for public servants to express their joys, sorrows, anxieties, hopes and ambitions. There is no similar forum. The content helps general readers to understand that bureaucrats are not robots but dynamic individuals who have to use uncanny dexterity and tact to deal with thedaily pressures from politicians and influence peddlers to use governance as a milch cow for vested interests. We cut through rumour mills and help India’s civil servants reach out to one another and become acquainted with their issues, practical problems, everyday challenges and the intricacies of their working environment.”
When we started gfiles in April 2007, governance as an issue was not much talked about in the media. We decided to fill this void and consciously took a decision to focus on programmes and policies of the government. The idea was to reach out to those working within the government and make the people aware of the complex issues of governance, particularly about the formulation and implementation of public policy. I feel that national media is still not focusing on hard core issues of governance as the thinking is that it makes news boring. On the other hand, it becomes the duty of Civil Services to open up more and discuss what they are doing, how they are doing it and what the intent behind their decisions are. This will not only curb rumours about their actions but also fill the gap between the deliverers and the delivered. The general perception that steel frame is hard to pierce should change and more sharing of information should happen.
In 2007, when gfiles started, Civil Services was settled and at ease, the political agenda was clear and they were busy in implementing Manmohan Singh’s dream to liberate India from inspector raj. gfiles was not part of the government, so it was important to understand and let others also understand how and what the government is doing. So, we started talking to the Secretaries of Central ministries. Secretaries were happy to discuss the functioning of their ministries as this was a new idea. Second important aspect was putting the photos of secretaries on gfiles cover. That put the spotlight on the Secretary for a month within and outside the government and in demand among colleagues and batchmates. This was a novel idea-nobody had done so. gfiles did it. gfiles did 47 cover stories with Secretaries, including two Cabinet Secretaries of the Government of India. It was for the first time that issues of governance were brought into the public domain with close scrutiny. In April 2009, in the midst of the general elections, the then Cabinet Secretary KM Chandrashekhar spoke to gfiles for almost three hours and his interview was carried as the cover story. Our stand to focus on governance had been vindicated.
The 2G scam, however, changed the whole paradigm of governance. One paragraph of the audit report of CAG and Supreme Court taking cognizance created furore among civil servants. It created a policy paralysis in the government. Once I met a Joint Secretary and asked him what stops him from working freely in the government. He said there are 4 Cs and 1 R-CAG, CBI, CVC, Courts or an RTI inquiry after retirement-that don’t allow a civil servant to work freely.
Most times, officers cooperate. But sometimes it is not possible due to the gravity of the task. This makes political bosses furious. The situation has become so complex today that secretaries of ministries stop performing a year before their retirement because they don’t want to be called back by the CAG, CBI, CVC, courts or face an RTI inquiry after retirement. The 2G and Coalgate scams have shattered the confidence of the bureaucracy. The ‘4Cs and 1R’ thus has become one of the major causes of policy paralysis besetting the government.
gfiles has witnessed a major change in governance in last 10 years. Participative Civil Services is a bygone era. Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, has changed the whole dynamics of governance. He is a very clear-headed Prime Minister and his social, political and economic agendas are very comprehensible. Now, only South Block thinks and directs. He is adaptive to all kind of ideas from within and outside the domain of the government. It’s now top-down approach in the government. Second most important development is that IAS and IPS are no longer the main tools to govern the country. There is a transformation in Central ministries; officers from Railways, Income Tax, Mechanical Engineering Services, Railway Traffic Services, Railway accounts Services, Defence Account Services and Central Secretariat Services have started serving as Joint Secretaries. It is the beginning of the end of hegemony of IAS, IPS and IFS in the Central government. Civil servants are still running the State administration efficiently and respective Chief Ministers still have confidence in running the administration through them.
gfiles is not only a votary of good governance but has been equally vocal in exposing bad governance. In the process, we have highlighted and warned whenever the system was not functioning, or malfunctioning, or was taken for a ride by the vested interests. We have done exposes on NSEL scam of Jignesh Shah, Haryana land scam of Bhupinder Singh Hooda , Aircel Maxis deal, Vyapam and Dalia Scam of Madhya Pradesh, the NPA mess and Chief Secretary of Haryana DS Dhesi’s alleged involvement in allotting land to Priyanka Gandhi’s husband Robert Vadra , to name a few.
gfiles is now not only known as print magazine, but it also established gfiles good governance awards (gfilesawards.com) in 2012. It has given good governance awards to 46 top ranking civil servants till now and I wish it will grow by the day in the years to come. gfilesindia.com is digital vertical of gfiles which has a phenomenal reach-it attracts a million readers every month. Our widely read column, ‘First Stirrings’, has taken a shape in the form of a book titled ‘Memory Clouds’. The book is a compilation of 80 memoirs of senior civil servants, including three former cabinet secretaries, and is to be published soon.
When we started gfiles, it was known as Anil Tyagi’s magazine; but now, after 10 years, I am known as the Editor of gfiles. When we started gfiles, we had no idea how it would work out. We were clueless initially, but the response gfiles got made us serious and compelled us to work hard. This is how a brand takes shape and makes an impact in an individual’s life. This journey would not have been possible had former Editor of India Today Inderjit Badhwar, former Cabinet Secretary Prabhat Kumar, former Power Secretary Anil Razdan, former Haryana Chief Secretary Vishnu Bhagwant, former Secretary Internal Security (Home) MB Kaushal and our ace writer MG Devasahayam guided us during the ups and down in the journey. Also, it would not have been possible to bring out gfiles without my best friend Dr GS Sood’s advice. We disagree most of the times, but he not only my guide, but also a priceless friend. And, we cannot forget Dev Kabir Malik, who designed the gfiles logo and provided an impeccable identity to the magazine. There have been more than 100 colleagues who have advised me in this journey of 10 years. It is not possible to name all, but I thank them for their valuable suggestions which made gfiles a readable journal and potent tool of good governance. I am very thankful to Ms Yana Banerjee Bey who gave an editorial shape to gfiles, and now the Editorial team of Bushchat Media of Himanshu Joshi, Nomita Drall, and our experienced designer Manoj Raikwar, for bringing out a wonderful gfiles issue each month irrespective of all hurdles.
gfiles could not get the advertisement support in the first three months initially, but it gradually picked up. It’s the only revenue model of gfiles and publishers of gfiles do not have any other vocation but to depend on advertising revenue. I am very thankful to all our advertisers who stood with us and made it possible to continue without break for 10 years. We hope the journey will continue further with their support.
I must also say thanks to all the devoted readers, staff, board members, printers and supporters whose friendship and contributions have made this possible. I extend my most sincere and profound thank you to all.