How Sangh Parivar is influencing India's budding bureaucrats
A number of IAS aspirants coached by Samkalp, an institute inspired by the right wing, have been making it to the civil services.
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Recent reports that Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's (RSS) joint general secretary (Sah Sarkaryawah) Krishna Gopal will lecture successful civil service candidates on July 17 in Delhi in the course of which he will mainly talk about nationalistic ideas, does not come as a surprise.
Samkalp, the Delhi-based organisation which was formed with the idea of identifying and guiding students "who can contribute towards nation-building through civil services and help them inculcate true Indian values and ethos", has in fact completed two decades of training civil service aspirants this year by holding classes, tutorials and mock interviews.
In these years, hundreds of aspirants have been assisted by the organisation to fulfil their dream of joining the Indian bureaucracy.
The organisation is part of the Sangh Parivar and its links to the parent organisation is symbiotic, not institutional.
In fact, while not being an affiliate of the RSS in the style of the BJP, VHP, Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh or ABVP; Samkalp is among those numerous organisations that are considered to be Sangh-inspired bodies.
Until these organisations and institutes come into public limelight, they remain unknown to the world, silently spreading the gospel of the RSS.Samkalp has now grown manifold and had coached this year's IAS topper.
Beginning in 1986 as an organisation engaged in running schools in several towns and cities of north India, besides training school teachers to inculcate "rashtriya bhawna" from an early age, Samkalp morphed into one of the leading institutes training civil service aspirants in the 1990s.
The institute has now grown manifold and currently charges Rs 30,000 (plus taxes) for coaching in General Studies and another Rs 20,000 (plus tax) for a main subject. The programme for the former is seven months in duration and for the latter, classes are held for 250 hours.
For those who pass the Mains, further guidance is provided in preparing for the interview, and mock interviews and other special sessions are conducted. It is not necessary to have been coached by Samkalp for the prelims and mains for seeking admission to the interview guidance programme, for which the institute charges a fee of Rs 800.
Samkalp is in spotlight this year because Tina Dabi and Anantnag-based Athar Aamir, the topper and second-ranked candidate respectively for the civil service exams this year, were coached by the institute for the interview. Dabi had earlier been coached by Rau's IAS Study Circle for the prelims and mains.
The story of Samkalp's metamorphosis from a small Sangh-inspired outfit into an institute with its own building and several centres in Delhi and "outside chapters" in places ranging from Coimbatore, Guwahati, Bhopal, Ranchi, Ludhiana and Haridwar has its genesis in a routine discussion among members of the BJP think tank in the early 1990s when PV Narasimha Rao was prime minister.Sangh leader Krishna Gopal will address the successful civil service candidates this year.
At that point there was a general sense within this group and party leaders that sooner or later, they would get a shot at governance. Former national security adviser Brajesh Mishra was a key member of this group which included former Mizoram governor, AR Kohli (father of Nalin Kohli).
Kohli said that one day he argued the BJP might win seats but all efforts would come to a naught if the bureaucracy did not change. "I argued that the bureaucracy was full of jhola wallahs", said Kohli, alluding to JNU-type radicals and others with a socialistic mindset, qualifying that unless the bureaucracy was transformed, the national sentiment would remain ranged against the Sangh. "I even suggested that we should start an IAS coaching camp but this was not taken seriously," he added.
Samkalp was then steered by an RSS functionary Santosh Taneja and an unplanned meeting with Kohli morphed the institute when Taneja saw the merit of Kohli's argument. It soon started classes and began holding mock interviews and conducting other necessary sessions for IAS aspirants.
The venture was supported by several RSS functionaries who provided logistical support and they included Madan Das Devi, one-time joint general secretary and the linkman between the RSS and BJP during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee regime. MG Vaidya, the Bauddhik Pramukh of the RSS then was also involved besides Dharmendra Gupta, another important RSS leader.
Jagdish Shettigar, former member of the BJP think-tank and among those who formulated the BJP's stance on issues of globalisation in the 1990s, recalls that initially these sessions were held on the floor of a linked-organisation in the Paharganj area of Delhi.
The first batch of 26 aspirants were trained in 1996 and 14 of them qualified for the civil services. No one made it to the IAS but one of the aspirants joined the IPS while others joined other Central services. The next year, Samkalp breached the IAS barrier and 13 of their wards qualified for this prestigious service. The number of aspirants who approached the institute was 84, and 59 of them qualified for different services.
The number of those coming to Samkalp increased with every passing year and its success rate too grew - by 1999-2000 more than 100 interviewees had approached them and the success rate of 90 per cent made the institute a go-to body for civil service aspirants. In recent years, as Samkalp has become a massive set up, its success rate has dipped but as the result this year demonstrates, it still remains among the top coaching institutions in the country for the civil services.
Aspirants who enrol with Samkalp do not have to swear allegiance to the RSS or its affiliates, but interaction with RSS leaders and retired bureaucrats sympathetic to the Sangh creates lifelong bonding and influences thinking. The team of mentors, advisors, faculty and working committee is a virtual who's who list.
This is perfectly legitimate, and the only eyebrows which may be raised when scrutinising Samkalp is over the allotment of government land for its offices and campuses, but even on this point, given the proclaimed philanthropic nature of the organisation, it will be tough to make the charges stick.
Other political forces have left this vital space completely free for commercial institutes and the Sangh has very neatly moved into the field and acquired tremendous space and is able to influence civil servants even before they qualify for the services. It would not be an exaggeration to say that hundreds of mid-career officers of different civil services have gone through the RSS portals and all in the name of nation building.