With Punjab finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal kicking off a controversy by questioning the English skills of state’s IAS officers, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) on Tuesday said the FM should try to improve the efficiency of the state bureaucracy by learning to do official work in Punjabi.

While speaking at the World Punjabi Conference on Sunday, Badal had said barring a few, most IAS officers can’t write letters in English. “Sometimes we hold our heads in shame as to how these people cleared the IAS (exams). They cannot even write letters or memorandums to the government of India,” Badal said.

“Barring one or two, other IAS officers, mostly don’t know how to write English. They don’t know how to write a letter,” he added. Badal made the remarks while pointing out that most work in the government was being done in Punjabi.

In a statement here, former minister and SAD spokesman Maheshinder Singh Grewal said it was befuddling as to why the finance minister was trying to improve the English skills of civil officers by raising this issue at the concluding function of the World Punjabi Conference.

“If the finance minister had raised the issue of improving the Punjabi writing skills of civil officers, many of whom are from other states, it would have been understandable.

But he is questioning the English writing skills of the officers even though they have passed the requisite test for the same before being inducted into the civil services. This raises questions on the selection process of the UPSC which has tested and selected them”, he added.

The Akali leader said the issue also raised a wider question of what action chief minister Amarinder Singh proposed to take. The CM could make arrangements for improving the English skills of the officers by asking them to go in for refresher courses.

“The finance minister could also disclose the names of the two officers who fit the bill as per his standards of English and ask them to conduct courses for the larger fraternity,” he said.

Grewal said in case Badal was still not satisfied he could himself take on the responsibility of teaching civil servants the art of writing memorandums by taking their personal classes or bringing in teachers from whom he had learnt to write memorandums. “We don’t want our FM to hang his head in shame.. ” he said.