Is IAS self-de­struc­t­ing?

With­out analysing and un­der­stand­ing the rea­sons for the short­age of IAS of­fi­cers, which is mainly due to the ar­chaic re­cruit­ment sys­tem and chaotic cadre man­age­ment, PMO has opted to aban­don the con­sti­tu­tional scheme of things and run to the mar­ket

Gfiles - - COVER STORY -

WRIT­ING in the MarchM 2011 is­sue of gfiles I Ih had raised a poser whether thereth is hope for civil ser­vices to sur­vivesurvi and had re­sponded thus: “Yes, if civil ser­vants re­vert back to the co con­sti­tu­tional scheme of things from which they have drifte drifted and rein­vent them­selves to be­come a fear­less, in in­de­pen­dent, hon­est and effi ef­fi­cient en­tity bound by an esprit de corp­scorp which is awfu aw­fully ab­sent now…” TheTh mes­sage and the choice were ob­vi­ous—resur­gence or swan­song! This mes­sage has gone un­heeded and all in­di­ca­tions are that elite IAS is head­ing to­wards self-de­struc­tion. Niti Aayog, His Majesty’s Think Tank, with­out much knowl­edge of In­dia and its gov­er­nance sys­tem, wants to has­ten this process. The Aayog has vir­tu­ally be­come a cor­po­rate con­sul­tant urg­ing the pri­vati­sa­tion of all in­fra­struc­ture and ser­vices, rais­ing a se­ri­ous pub­lic fi­nance is­sue as to where the ‘vastly en­hanced’ rev­enue com­ing to the gov­ern­ment due to ex­panded tax base and com­pli­ance through de­mon­eti­sa­tion, Aad­haar link­age, GST and IT raids would go! Now they want to pri­va­tise the IAS, which is the most po­tent in­stru­ment of demo­cratic gov­er­nance covenanted in the Con­sti­tu­tion by the Found­ing Fa­thers of In­dia’s Repub­lic (Ar­ti­cle 312).

Re­cently this Aayog rec­om­mended to the Gov­ern­ment of In­dia to em­ploy per­sons from the pri­vate sec­tor at all lev­els of the gov­ern­ment—in­clud­ing Sec­re­tary and Joint Sec­re­tary. Ac­cord­ingly, in­struc­tions have gone from the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice to the Depart­ment of Per­son­nel & Train­ing to pre­pare a broad out­line of modal­i­ties for se­lect­ing pri­vate in­di­vid­u­als for ap­point­ment in the ranks of Deputy Sec­re­tary, Di­rec­tor and Joint Sec­re­tary. Num­bers are be­ing put out to jus­tify this se­ri­ous move of ‘lat­eral en­try’ into the IAS. Ac­cord­ing to re­cent statis­tics given to Par­lia­ment, there are 4,926 IAS of­fi­cers as against their to­tal au­tho­rised strength of 6,396, leav­ing a short­age of over 1,400. The gov­ern­ment has in­creased an­nual in­take of IAS of­fi­cers to 180 dur­ing the last four years. With­out analysing and un­der­stand­ing the rea­sons for this short­age, which is mainly due to the ar­chaic re­cruit­ment sys­tem and chaotic cadre man­age­ment, PMO has opted to aban­don the con­sti­tu­tional scheme of things and run to the mar­ket! What is the con­sti­tu­tional scheme of things? Re­spond­ing to the grave cri­sis cre­ated by par­ti­tion and postBri­tish ad­min­is­tra­tive vac­uum, Sar­dar Val­lab­hb­hai Pa­tel wrote to Prime Min­is­ter Nehru in April 1948 ad­vo­cat­ing the for­ma­tion of in­de­pen­dent civil ser­vice in the func­tion­ing of which “po­lit­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions, ei­ther in its re­cruit­ment or in its dis­ci­pline and con­trol, are re­duced to the min­i­mum, if not elim­i­nated al­to­gether.” This was strongly op­posed by the Chief Min­is­ters of the States and many mem­bers of the Con­stituent Assem­bly. In his speech to this Assem­bly in Oc­to­ber 1949, the Sar­dar thun­dered: “The In­dian Union will go. You will not have a united In­dia if you do not have a good All In­dia Ser­vices which has in­de­pen­dence to speak out its ad­vice....” Sar­dar Pa­tel had his way and IAS was es­tab­lished to be the bul­wark of post-in­de­pen­dence gov­er­nance. In fact, the Con­stituent Assem­bly re­solved to es­tab­lish IAS for “at­tract­ing to the high­est ser­vice the best ma­te­rial avail­able in the coun­try trans­gress­ing po­lit­i­cal bound­aries”. If the pub­lic per­cep­tion that came out of two sur­veys held in 2010 is to be be­lieved, this “high­est ser­vice” is now sub-serv­ing low­est po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests rather than per­form­ing pub­lic ser­vice for which they were re­cruited and covenanted. Sur­vey re­sults clearly in­di­cated an ad­min­is­tra­tive col­lapse lead­ing to ap­palling cor­rup­tion and com­pro­mise. This is just the op­po­site of what the Found­ing Fa­thers had en­vis­aged. Self-de­struc­tion of IAS started dur­ing Emer­gency when bulk of civil ser­vants chose to crawl when asked to bend by the min­ions who des­e­crated the Con­sti­tu­tion and demo­cratic gov­er­nance en­shrined therein. On the morn­ing af­ter the noc­tur­nal dec­la­ra­tion of Emer­gency on June 25-26 night, 1975, IAS bureaucrats of the Union Home Min­istry ran like head­less chick­ens is­su­ing panic-rid­den di­rec­tions and draft­ing dra­co­nian laws/rules to bring In­dia un­der au­toc­racy in­stead of ques­tion­ing the death of democ­racy and the de­struc­tive role played by an ex­tra-con­sti­tu­tional power-cen­tre. Dis­trict mag­is­trates signed de­ten­tion or­ders un­der MISA in bulk with­out ap­ply­ing their mind, ush­er­ing in a po­lice raj. Soon there­after, po­lice com­mis­sion­ers be­came dis­trict mag­is­trates them­selves and the self-de­struc­tion of IAS got apace. Since then it has been downslide with se­nior IAS of­fi­cers pan­der­ing to ev­ery wish of the po­lit­i­cal mas­ters. I have known Chief Sec­re­taries and Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­taries in States seek­ing the ‘mind of the Chief Min­is­ter’ on de­ci­sions to be made be­fore writ­ing their notes. Ap­point­ments to cov­eted po­si­tions de­pended on IAS of­fi­cers’ ca­pac­ity to ‘read the mind’ prop­erly and not based on per­for­mance, merit or in­de­pen­dent think­ing. This dis­ease then spread to the Cen­tre.

Self-de­struc­tion of IAS started dur­ing Emer­gency when bulk of civil ser­vants chose to crawl when asked to bend by the min­ions who des­e­crated the Con­sti­tu­tion and demo­cratic gov­er­nance en­shrined therein

LIBERALISATION, glob­al­i­sa­tion, pri­vati­sa­tion (LPG) re­forms in the early nineties brought in a fur­ther slide in the IAS. The FDI-GDP model of devel­op­ment ex­horted civil ser­vants thus: “In­vestors are com­ing with lots of money. Our main job is to re­ceive and fa­cil­i­tate them”. In the event, ‘pan­der­ing’ the amir aadmi com­ing with mon­ey­bags be­came a higher pri­or­ity for an IAS of­fi­cial than ba­sic gov­er­nance of serv­ing the aam aadmi to lead a dig­ni­fied life. These con­flict­ing agen­das have led to the IAS acquiring a split face. As a re­sult, an ad­min­is­tra­tive in­stru­ment con­ceived, de­signed and struc­tured as per­ma­nent civil ser­vice has vir­tu­ally de­scended into ‘spoils sys­tem’, ab­sorb­ing the neg­a­tive as­pects of both—cor­rupt gets the best and can­not be fired! Lat­eral en­try is the prod­uct of spoils sys­tem. Be­fore we dwell into its spread in In­dia let us look at USA, the home of this sys­tem in gov­er­nance. Be­cause

of the priv­i­lege of a di­rectly elected Pres­i­dent to form his own team eam to run the gov­ern­ment, he has the he right to choose his top bureaucrats s from any­where, along with their con­fi­den­n­fi­den­tial as­sis­tants, with­out any com­pet­i­tive pro­ce­dures. But there e are lim­its and checks and bal­ances es in which the ca­reer civil ser­vants s pre­dom­i­nate and are safe­guardedd from ar­bi­trary dis­missals and ad­verse verse ac­tions from po­lit­i­cal ap­pointees. ees. In fact, po­lit­i­cal ap­pointees can­not, willy-nilly, oc­cupy po­si­tions ns tra­di­tion­ally served by ca­reer fed­eraled­eral em­ploy­ees. There are 1,212 se­nior nior lead­ers chosen by the Pres­i­dent, nt, in­clud­ing cab­i­net sec­re­taries es and their deputies, heads of most in­de­pen­dent agencies and nd am­bas­sadors, who must be con­n­firmed by the Se­nate. A ‘Sched­ule dule C’ is a type of po­lit­i­cal ap­point­ment­ment in the US who serves in con­fi­den­tial ntial or pol­icy roles im­me­di­ately sub­or­di­nate rdi­nate to other ap­pointees. As of 2016, 6, there were 1,403 ‘Sched­ule C’ ap­pointees. oin­tees. This cat­e­gory does not need Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion.

THE agency re­spon­si­ble e for mon­i­tor­ing and im­ple­ment­ing ent­ing the civil ser­vice sys­tem is the Of­fice of Per­son­nel Man­age­ment, ment, Amer­ica’s ver­sion of our Union Pub­lic Ser­vice Com­mis­sion sion (UPSC). As US gov­ern­mentnt ex­pert and an­a­lyst David Co­hen en puts it: “While the po­lit­i­cal ap­pointees at the top can­not be blamed for all the ills of the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, they are a large part of the prob­lem. They make the job of the ca­reer civil ser­vant harder, drain­ing his en­ergy and damp­en­ing his cre­ativ­ity and ini­tia­tive. They com­prise whole lay­ers of un­nec­es­sary bu­reau­cracy and im­pede com­mu­ni­ca­tions and work flow. They of­ten have fish other than their man- age­ment du­ties to fry, and some of those fish have a bad smell. They also cost a lot of money.” This sum up the spoils sys­tem in USA and the shenani­gans of Trump pres­i­dency bears tes­ti­mony! Ap­pre­hen­sion about lat­eral en­try in In­dia is that such ap­point­ments will not be made by merit. Cur­rently IAS of­fi­cers are se­lected through a fiercely com­pet­i­tive and largely fair ex­am­ina- tion con­ducted by the UPSC. In the In­dian con­text con­text, lat­eral ap­point­ments will be made at the wishes of the po­lit­i­cal mas­ters an and their cor­po­rate spon­sors and will m mostly in­duct loy­al­ists, ham­per­ing the neu­tral­ity of the civil ser­vices. It wi will lead to ex­po­nen­tial growth of favo favouritism and nepo­tism. Yet this opti op­tion is be­ing pushed with vigour. Though ground­work has been go­ing on for qu quite some time, the real ‘pri­vati­sa­tion o of IAS’ agenda gath­ered steam in the last three years. First thing that hap hap­pened was the strange ap­pari­tion of IASI pro­ba­tion­ers start­ing their train­ing from the top as As­sis­tant Sec­re­taries t to the Gov­ern­ment of I In­dia at Delhi in­stead of at the bot­tom as Assi As­sis­tant Com­mis­sioner/ Col­lec­tor in a far-off dis­trict, giv­ing a clea clear sig­nal that desk work is more im­port im­por­tant than field ex­po­sure. This is sig­nifi sig­nif­i­cant be­cause the USP of IAS is the valu­able vil­lage/grass­roots ex­pe­rien ex­pe­ri­ence they gain, their wide con­tacts with the pub­lic and po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship right from the stage of their first post­ing in the block/ tehsil/dis­trict, and their var­ie­gated ex­po­sure in dif­fer­ent as­sign­ments which are boo boon for peo­ple-cen­tered pol­icy mak­ing,makin con­ceiv­ing and de­sign­ing d devel­op­ment-cum-wel­fare proj projects/pro­grammes and their eff ef­fec­tive and ex­pe­di­tious im­pleme im­ple­men­ta­tion. This was sought to be ne neu­tralised. Then came the steep re­duc­tion of the role of IAS at the de­ci­sion-mak­ing level of Joint Sec­re­taries in Cen­tral Gov­ern­ment de­part­ments and re­plac­ing them with per­son­nel from other ser­vices who have no grass­roots ex­pe­ri­ence or ex­po­sure. For the first time, over 30 per cent of Joint Sec­re­taries in cen­tral gov­ern­ment are from ser­vices out­side IAS. It is get­ting worse

as would be seen from the re­cent ap­point­ment of Joint Sec­re­taries. Out of 21 of­fi­cers only seven (onethird) are from the IAS and the rest are from In­dian For­eign Ser­vice (IFS), In­dian Rev­enue Ser­vice (IRS) and other Cen­tral Ser­vices. An­other dis­turb­ing trend is that sev­eral IAS Joint Sec­re­taries have sought and ob­tained pre-ma­ture repa­tri­a­tion to their re­spec­tive State cadres and very few em­pan­elled IAS of­fi­cers are seek­ing dep­u­ta­tion to the Cen­tre. Equally dis­turb­ing is the em­pan­el­ment of Sec­re­taries wherein even the lim­ited prac­tices and con­ven­tions evolved over a pe­riod of time to re­duce ar­bi­trari­ness was thrown to the wind and there was com­plete over­haul of the way as­sess­ments were made. This led to al­most 35 per cent of the of­fi­cers who were due to be em­pan­elled be­ing left out for no rhyme or rea­son. The new process was sup­posed to be merit-based with the con­fi­den­tial re­port (CR) dossier be­ing loaded with di­verse in­puts drawn from a va­ri­ety of sources. No one knows what these in­puts were. There are no ex­pla­na­tions as to why some peo­ple have been left out or what cri­te­ria have been fol­lowed, what kind of in­puts were ob­tained to make the as­sess­ment or where they were ob­tained from. There was also no re­dress for an of­fi­cer who felt un­fairly treated. In­tro­duc­ing such un­cer­tainty in ca­reer ad­vance­ment at the end of a ca­reer is not just in­ex­pli­ca­ble, it is whim­si­cal and ar­bi­trary. All these seem to be part of an or­ches­trated move to ease-out the IAS from the cen­tral gov­ern­ment and bring in ‘ex­perts with domain knowl­edge’. In their sup­port, pro­po­nents of this move are quot­ing the ob­ser­va­tions of the Chair­man of the Sev­enth Pay Com­mis­sion, Jus­tice AK Mathur, and its Mem­ber, Dr Rathin Roy: “Se­nior man­age­ment and ad­mi­nis- tra­tive po­si­tions in gov­ern­ment have evolved con­sid­er­ably and are grow­ing more tech­ni­cal, re­quir­ing spe­cific domain knowl­edge.” But they need to an­swer one moot ques­tion—In the In­dian con­text what is the needed ‘domain ex­per­tise’ for those who run the gov­ern­ment? Is it cor­po­rate-pan­der­ing and push­ing preda­tory ‘devel­op­ment’ mod­els thrust by rich ‘movers and shak­ers’? Or, is it ba­sic gov­er­nance de­liv­ered through ef­fec­tive and just gov­ern­ments that could up­lift the mis­er­able mil­lions and keep the coun­try united? If it is the for­mer, the IAS is cer­tainly dis­pens­able. Not so, if it is the lat­ter. Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi takes great pride in build­ing The Statue of Unity for the in­de­fati­ga­ble Sar­dar Pa­tel lo­cated in his home State of Gu­jarat. At 182 me­tres, it would be world’s tallest statue bear­ing tes­ti­mony to the stel­lar role played by the ‘Iron Man of In­dia’ in unit­ing and hold­ing to­gether a di­verse and dis­parate In­dia soon af­ter In­de­pen­dence. IAS was the in­stru­ment he cre­ated to unite the coun­try and hold it united. Dis­mem­ber­ing this ser­vice would be a nega­tion of all that the Sar­dar stood for and could be detri­men­tal to the coun­try’s fu­ture.

WHY blame the three-year old Prime Min­is­ter and his ‘cor­po­rate’ ad­vi­sors for at­tempt­ing to dis­mem­ber the IAS? For long, many in­cum­bents of this ser­vice—past and present—have been self-de­struc­t­ing IAS from within by will­ingly play­ing to ev­ery mas­ters’ tune. The once tall and stately oak tree, which with­stood storms and will break but not bend, has at many places be­come river­side reed that bows to ev­ery wind that blows by! ‘In­sights IAS’, a web­site de­voted ex­clu­sively to UPSC and civil ser­vice mat­ters, has this to say: “Largescale lat­eral in­duc­tion would, in fact, amount to a vote of no-con­fi­dence in the gov­ern­ment per­son­nel man­age­ment sys­tem, rather than in the highly ded­i­cated, mo­ti­vated and tal­ented of­fi­cers who have chosen to join the civil ser­vices…. Lat­eral en­try can­not be a panacea for ev­ery­thing. It has been an ex­cep­tion in the In­dian civil ser­vice sys­tem and should con­tinue to be so”. In­deed true. IAS is per­ma­nent civil ser­vice and not spoils sys­tem and must re­main so. It should also be­have and per­form so. For this the ser­vice must go through fun­da­men­tal and holis­tic re­con­fig­ur­ing to trans­form it­self into a vi­brant, trans­par­ent man­age­ment cadre so that the unimag­i­na­tive, ac­qui­esc­ing and ego­cen­tric civil ser­vant can be­come an imag­i­na­tive, un­ac­qui­esc­ing and re­sul­to­ri­ented man­ager. What is more, IAS man­darins should get out of the idio­syn­cratic and in­breed­ing mind­set that is at­ro­phy­ing the ser­vice. Only this can halt the self-de­struc­tion of IAS. The sooner the bet­ter!

The Niti Aayog has vir­tu­ally be­come a cor­po­rate con­sul­tant urg­ing the pri­vati­sa­tion of all in­fra­struc­ture and ser­vices, rais­ing a se­ri­ous pub­lic fi­nance is­sue as to where the ‘vastly en­hanced’ rev­enue com­ing to the gov­ern­ment due to ex­panded tax base and com­pli­ance through de­mon­eti­sa­tion, Aad­haar link­age, GST and IT raids would go!

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