Pro­ba­tion pe­riod to count for new civil ser­vants be­sides UPSC marks

The cri­te­ria for cadre al­lo­ca­tion through Civil Ser­vices Exam (CSE) con­ducted by Union Public Ser­vice Com­mis­sion (UPSC) may con­sid­er­ably change if Naren­dra Modi Gov­ern­ment at the Cen­tre ap­proves the new pro­posal. by San­jeev S.

Alive - - Contents -

It must be noted at the out­set it­self that in an un­prece­dented move that will sig­nif­i­cantly al­ter in a sharp de­par­ture from the past the way civil ser­vants are in­ducted, marks se­cured by can­di­dates in the UPSC civil ser­vices ex­am­i­na­tion may not now be the sole cri­te­rion for al­lot­ting them the all-In­dia ser­vice of their choice. The Cen­tre is con­tem­plat­ing a rad­i­cal change in the al­lo­ca­tion of ser­vices to suc­cess­ful can­di­dates of the civil ser­vices ex­am­i­na­tion.

At the be­hest of the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice (PMO), this NDA gov­ern­ment headed by Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi is as­sess­ing if the 15week Foun­da­tion Course for new re­cruits at the Lal Ba­hadur Shas­tri Na­tional Academy of Administration (LBSNAA) can be turned into a scor­ing ex­er­cise and if the ser­vice and cadre can be al­lo­cated based on their “per­for­mance” there.

As is the norm till now, those who clear the civil ser­vices ex­am­i­na­tion con­ducted by the Union Public Ser­vice Com­mis­sion (UPSC) are al­lot­ted the In­dian Ad­min­is­tra­tive Ser­vice (IAS), In­dian For­eign Ser­vice (IFS), In­dian Po­lice Ser­vice (IPS) and other Cen­tral Ser­vices based on their UPSC exam ranks well be­fore the com­mence­ment of the foun­da­tion course. Af­ter that, they are sent to LBSNAA for train­ing which starts with a 15-week Foun­da­tion Course, the du­ra­tion of the Foun­da­tion Course for of­fi­cers of al­most all the Cen­tral Ser­vices is three months.

As per the doc­u­ments re­viewed by the jour­nal­ists, the PMO now wants to com­pletely al­ter that process and al­lot ser­vices and cadres to can­di­dates only af­ter tak­ing into ac­count how they fare in the Foun­da­tion Course. It is -said that, “The de­part­ments have been asked to ex­am­ine the fea­si­bil­ity of giv­ing due weigh­tage to the per­for­mance in the Foun­da­tion Course, and mak­ing ser­vice al­lo­ca­tion as well as cadre al­lo­ca­tion to all-In­dia ser­vices of­fi­cers based on the com­bined score ob­tained in the exam and the Foun­da­tion Course.”

Let­ters have gone out from the Depart­ment of Per­son­nel and Train­ing (DoPT) to var­i­ous cadrecon­trol­ling min­istries, seek­ing their views on the pro­posed move. Need­less to say, if it is im­ple­mented, the move runs the high risk of turn­ing the ser­viceal­lo­ca­tion as well as cadreal­lo­ca­tion ex­er­cise into a sub­jec­tive process as the Foun­da­tion Course, de­signed to pro­mote in­ter­ser­vice ca­ma­raderie, is a com­bi­na­tion of ac­tiv­i­ties car­ried out at the academy.

Com­po­nents

The course con­sists of aca­demic com­po­nents such as public administration, law, po­lit­i­cal sci­ence, be­sides a num­ber of ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties such as trekking, vil­lage vis­its and in­ter­ac­tion with fel­low pro­ba­tion­ers. Any new change should not be made in a tear­ing hurry with­out due de­lib­er­a­tion, proper

At present, the Foun­da­tion Course counts for 400 marks, but along with the other phases of the pro­ba­tion pe­riod, only goes to­wards es­tab­lish­ing se­nior­ity within the batch, and in the IAS, is used as a marker for pro­mo­tion in the of­fi­cial’s ca­reer. The lat­est move with far-reach­ing con­se­quences to give weigh­tage to the Foun­da­tion

Course in de­ter­min­ing the ser­vices and cadres has di­vided groups of serv­ing and re­tired civil ser­vants.

dis­cus­sion and a thor­ough de­bate on its pros and cons be­cause it will have far reach­ing con­se­quences on the gov­er­nance qual­ity in our coun­try!

At present, the Foun­da­tion Course counts for 400 marks, but along with the other phases of the pro­ba­tion pe­riod, only goes to­wards es­tab­lish­ing se­nior­ity within the batch, and in the IAS, is used as a marker for pro­mo­tion in the of­fi­cial’s ca­reer. The lat­est move with far-reach­ing con­se­quences to give weigh­tage to the

Foun­da­tion Course in de­ter­min­ing the ser­vices and cadres has di­vided groups of serv­ing and re­tired civil ser­vants. While some have raised strong ob­jec­tions say­ing that the move could give rise to a trend where high-rank­ing can­di­dates will no longer get ser­vices of their choice, oth­ers wel­comed the idea.

Padam Vir Singh who served as Direc­tor at LBSNAA and was at the Academy for 13 years be­fore his re­tire­ment in 2014 said that, “It was not a bad idea at all”. Ac­cord­ing to him, the short in­ter­view that can­di­dates gives, af­ter clear­ing the UPSC­con­ducted civil ser­vices exam wasn’t enough to “judge them prop­erly”. He also pointed out that, “The pro­ba­tion­ers them­selves will be able to make a bet­ter choice af­ter the Foun­da­tion Course by match­ing their am­bi­tion with their ap­ti­tude.”

Go­ing fur­ther, K Ashok Vard­han Shetty who is a re­tired IAS of­fi­cer him­self and a former Vice Chan­cel­lor of the In­dian Mar­itime Univer­sity makes the most con­vinc­ing ar­gu­ments against this Cen­tre’s pro­posal by say­ing that, “can­di­dates who have cleared the CSE will have to wait till the foun­da­tion course is over to know which ser­vice and cadre they are likely to get. The gov­ern­ment has said that this is a sug­ges­tion un­der con­sid­er­a­tion and that no fi­nal de­ci­sion has been taken yet. There are good rea­sons to be­lieve that the new pro­posal is legally un­sound, ad­min­is­tra­tively un­fea­si­ble and has not been thought through prop­erly.”

Shetty fur­ther points out that, Ar­ti­cle 320(1) says: “It shall be the duty of the Union and the State Public Ser­vice Com­mis­sion to con­duct ex­am­i­na­tions for ap­point­ments to the ser­vices of the Union and the ser­vices of the State re­spec­tively.” Thus, the duty of con­duct­ing the CSE is vested only in the UPSC. If the marks se­cured in the foun­da­tion course in the train­ing academy are in­cluded for al­lo­ca­tion for ser­vices, it would make the train­ing academy an ex­tended wing of the UPSC, which it is not. There­fore the new pro­posal vi­o­lates Ar­ti­cle 320(1).”

It also can­not be lightly dis­missed what Shetty points out in his third ar­gu­ment. He says that,

“the train­ing academy has fa­cil­i­ties to han­dle not more than 400 can­di­dates for the foun­da­tion course. If this limit is ex­ceeded, the foun­da­tion course will have to be con­ducted in other train­ing acad­e­mies sit­u­ated in other cities. With only about 12 fac­ulty mem­bers in the train­ing academy in Mus­sorie, the train­er­trainee ra­tio for the foun­da­tion course is very high, and it will be im­pos­si­ble to do the kind of rig­or­ous and ob­jec­tive eval­u­a­tion that is re­quired un­der the gov­ern­ment’s new pro­posal.

Tough com­pe­ti­tion

It is well known that com­pe­ti­tion in the CSE is very in­tense. The dif­fer­ence of a few marks can de­cide whether a can­di­date will get the IAS or, say, the In­dian Or­di­nance Fac­to­ries

Ser­vice. There­fore, the in­clu­sion of the highly sub­jec­tive foun­da­tion course marks can play havoc with the fi­nal rank­ings and with the al­lo­ca­tion of ser­vices and cadres, and ruin count­less ca­reers.” Well said!

Shetty in his fourth and fi­nal ar­gu­ment points out el­e­gantly that, “while about 600-1,000 can­di­dates are se­lected ev­ery year for all the ser­vices put to­gether, nearly 60-70% of the can­di­dates qual­i­fy­ing for the IPS and Cen­tral Ser­vices Group A do not join the foun­da­tion course in Mus­sorie as they pre­pare for the civil ser­vices (main) ex­am­i­na­tion again to im­prove their prospects. Clearly, it is not pos­si­ble to eval­u­ate such can­di­dates in the foun­da­tion course as con­tem­plated in the new pro­posal.”

Bluntly put, there can be no deny­ing that the civil ser­vices in In­dia now do need some re­forms as the steel frame has rusted over the last few decades! But the re­forms must be mean­ing­ful and in the right di­rec­tion!

Shetty in his con­clud­ing re­mark rightly con­cludes that, “No­body de­nies that the steel frame of the In­dian civil ser­vices has turned some­what rusty and need re­form. But what is odd about the new pro­posal is that it seeks to tin­ker with pre­cisely that as­pect of the civil ser­vices – re­cruit­ment – that is least in need of re­form.”

When real chal­lenges faced

The real prob­lems of the civil ser­vices are not with re­cruit­ment; they are with what hap­pens af­ter an of­fi­cer joins the sys­tem. Even the best and the bright­est can lose their bear­ings in a sys­tem that places a pre­mium on loy­alty, po­lit­i­cal con­nec­tions and com­mu­nity/caste clout rather than on merit; in which in­de­ci­sion and in­ac­tion are sel­dom pun­ished, while per­form­ers stand a greater chance of get­ting into trou­ble as they take more de­ci­sions; which pays lip ser­vice to hon­esty but is thor­oughly rot­ten in­side and ex­pects of­fi­cers to ei­ther shape up or ship out; in which per­for­mance ap­praisal is based more on the per­sonal likes and dis­likes of one’s su­pe­ri­ors than on ac­tual work done.

Harsh Man­der who is him­self a former em­i­nent civil ser­vant ques­tions the lat­est move by PMO in his en­light­en­ing edi­to­rial ti­tled “PMO’s pro­posed changes in civil ser­vices al­lo­ca­tion are an at­tempt to weaken In­dia’s steel frame” in which he men­tioned that “The se­lec­tion process is un­tainted by nepo­tism, by sub­jec­tive bias and prej­u­dice, by in­di­vid­ual likes and dis­likes. The sug­gested re­forms would change all this.”

At present there is an ar­du­ous marathon (to which many bright and am­bi­tious young peo­ple de­vote sev­eral of the best years of their youth) of a writ­ten ex­am­i­na­tion fol­lowed by an in­ter­view, su­per­vised by the Union Public Ser­vices Com­mis­sion. This se­lec­tion process, what­ever its flaws, is none­the­less the most cred­i­ble in the coun­try for its ob­jec­tiv­ity and in­tegrity (more so than even the se­lec­tion of the mem­bers of the higher ju­di­ciary, which re­mains en­veloped in wor­ries about judges choos­ing other judges on sub­jec­tive and non­trans­par­ent grounds).

Can­di­dates for the higher civil ser­vices are se­lected based on their scores in this ex­am­i­na­tion. It is this score which de­ter­mines if they get the ser­vice of their choice. The far-reach­ing change that is be­ing pro­posed is that the ex­am­i­na­tion run by the Union Public Ser­vices Com­mis­sion would now only de­ter­mine if a can­di­date is among the roughly 1,000 or so of­fi­cers who will be al­lot­ted to any of these di­verse ser­vices (which as you can imag­ine are vastly dif­fer­ently val­ued). What the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice wishes to do is to eval­u­ate the trainee of­fi­cers in the Foun­da­tion Course, add these scores to their ex­am­i­na­tion scores, and al­lot them to var­i­ous ser­vices based on this com­bined score.

Cur­rent se­lec­tion sys­tem is fair One might ask, quite rightly: Does the higher civil not need re­form? And if so,

what is wrong with try­ing out what the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice has pro­posed? To an­swer this, I must re­turn to the ques­tion with which I be­gan this es­say: Why did newly-In­de­pen­dent In­dia not cast away a civil ser­vice es­tab­lished by our colo­nial mas­ters? Sar­dar Pa­tel fa­mously de­scribed the In­dian Ad­min­is­tra­tive Ser­vice as In­dia’s “steel frame”.

The past

In­dia ac­com­plished free­dom amidst fear­some vi­o­lence based on re­li­gious strife. There were myr­iad other po­ten­tial frac­tures in this fledg­ling na­tion – of lan­guage, eth­nic­ity, caste, class and many oth­ers. The ex­pec­ta­tion was that a great deal of this could tear In­dia apart, and that its mul­ti­ple rup­tures could be ag­gra­vated by com­pet­i­tive pol­i­tics. It was a small band of care­fully se­lected civil ser­vants who would be ex­pected to hold the coun­try to­gether, with fair­ness, firm­ness, in­tegrity, in­de­pen­dence and com­pas­sion. This was to be In­dia’s steel frame.

Look­ing back to the past 70 years, it is ev­i­dent to all that In­dia’s higher civil ser­vices have failed to live up to the lofty faith that the coun­try’s found­ing fa­thers and moth­ers had placed on them. There have in­deed been sev­eral civil ser­vants who have con­trib­uted valu­ably to public ser­vice and na­tion build­ing. But taken col­lec­tively, as a tribe, there can be no doubt that the higher civil ser­vices have let the coun­try down at mo­ments in our his­tory it was needed most.

For in­stance, dur­ing the Emer­gency, dur­ing com­mu­nal mas­sacres such as in Nel­lie in 1983, in Delhi in 1984, Gu­jarat in 2002, and in­deed the ris­ing tide of mob lynch­ing in cur­rent times, when the Babri Masjid was pulled down, dur­ing caste mas­sacres, in im­ple­ment­ing land re­forms, in build­ing a ro­bust set of public ser­vices of ed­u­ca­tion and health­care for all cit­i­zens, and in de­sign­ing and im­ple­ment­ing pro­grammes to com­bat poverty, to name only a few.

If the higher civil ser­vices have in these ways failed to live up fully to their prom­ise to the coun­try, why should we not give the pro­posed re­forms a chance? This is be­cause the pro­posed rem­edy would be far worse than the mal­ady. For the civil ser­vices to ful­fill the man­date that the coun­try placed on their shoul­ders, we re­quire women and men of courage of con­vic­tion, in­tegrity, com­pas­sion, a deep sense of jus­tice, con­vinced about the equal­ity of castes and gen­ders, un­tainted by com­mu­nal, caste and pa­tri­ar­chal prej­u­dice, and im­bued with a deep sense of public ser­vice.

Spe­cial­ity

There is ad­mit­tedly noth­ing in the present mode of re­cruit­ment of civil ser­vants that tests any of these qual­i­ties. But the high dis­tinc­tion of this se­lec­tion process, un­matched by any other in the public sec­tor, is its in­tegrity and fair­ness. It is un­tainted by nepo­tism, by sub­jec­tive bias and

If the higher civil ser­vices have in these ways failed to live up fully to their prom­ise to the coun­try, why should we not give the pro­posed re­forms a chance? This is be­cause the pro­posed rem­edy would be far worse than the mal­ady. For the civil ser­vices to ful­fill the man­date that the coun­try placed on their shoul­ders, we re­quire women and men of courage.

prej­u­dice, by in­di­vid­ual likes and dis­likes.

The pro­posed re­form would change all this pro­foundly. The fate of the 1,000-odd of­fi­cers who are se­lected for the wide range of public ser­vices would now lie in the hands of a few of­fi­cers ap­pointed to the Lal Ba­hadur Na­tional Academy of Administration who would be em­pow­ered to give them scores that would dra­mat­i­cally de­ter­mine their fu­ture lives and work.

With all their fail­ings, what­ever cred­i­bil­ity the higher civil ser­vices still re­tain is be­cause of the undis­puted in­tegrity of its se­lec­tion process. At least the merit of its se­lec­tion process, what­ever its other flaws, can­not be faulted for per­sonal bias, even less cor­rup­tion. If this pro­posed change is in­tro­duced in the garb of re­form, then it will surely be the death-knell of an al­ready en­fee­bled cadre of public of­fi­cials.

Train­ing pe­riod

It would also vi­ti­ate com­pletely the best pe­riod of a civil ser­vants train­ing. I un­der­went the Foun­da­tion Course in 1980, and I was a mem­ber of the fac­ulty that ran these cour­ses for three years, be­tween 1993 and 1996. We were free to de­sign our train­ing pro­grammes as we chose. In our time, we be­lieved that the early train­ing of the young of­fi­cers should en­cour­age young civil ser­vants to re­flect, ques­tion, dis­sent; to im­bibe the val­ues of the

Con­sti­tu­tion and of public ser­vice; to un­der­stand the coun­try’s prob­lems, their causes and pos­si­ble so­lu­tions; to com­bat big­otry and pa­tri­archy; to nur­ture their ide­al­ism; and to en­cour­age in­tegrity, courage, em­pa­thy, truth and a sense of jus­tice. These are dif­fi­cult goals, and our suc­cess was at best par­tial.

But think of what would hap­pen if young of­fi­cers who gather in the Foun­da­tion Course re­alise that the rest of their lives will de­pend on what a few se­nior of­fi­cers think of them. All that would hap­pen is that from the first day of their ap­point­ment, they would learn the lessons of con­form­ity, of syco­phancy, and of de­struc­tive com­pe­ti­tion with their peers, leav­ing no place for com­rade­ship or the kin­dling or strength­en­ing of ide­al­ism.

De­stroy­ing an­other public in­sti­tu­tion the ques­tion then arises: Why is Prime Min­is­ter Modi con­tem­plat­ing such a fun­da­men­tal change that would de­stroy the very in­sti­tu­tion that was crafted by lead­ers like Sar­dar Pa­tel and Jawa­har­lal Nehru to hold the coun­try to­gether. I can see only one ra­tio­nale from his per­spec­tive.

Dur­ing his en­tire ten­ure, his gov­ern­ment has packed ev­ery in­sti­tu­tion with per­sons com­mit­ted to the ide­o­log­i­cal world-view of the Rashtriya Swayam­se­vak Sangh.

One in­sti­tu­tion that it has not had suc­cess with so far is the higher civil ser­vices: the gov­ern­ment is free to ap­point per­sons who lack merit but score well in ide­o­log­i­cal com­pat­i­bil­ity to im­por­tant po­si­tions, but it can­not in­flu­ence the

se­lec­tion of of­fi­cers of the higher civil ser­vices. If the pro­posed change comes through, then this would no longer be the case.

Pos­si­bil­ity

It would be en­tirely pos­si­ble for the gov­ern­ment to pack the Lal Ba­hadur Na­tional Academy of Administration with of­fi­cers com­mit­ted to the ide­ol­ogy of the Sangh, and also to mar­ket fun­da­men­tal­ism. Once a gov­ern­ment is voted out of power, ide­o­log­i­cally com­mit­ted vice-chan­cel­lors, judges, heads of public cul­tural cen­tres, and so on, can be changed, but not civil ser­vants. They are part of the per­ma­nent civil ser­vice, and will re­main in po­si­tions of au­thor­ity long af­ter a gov­ern­ment is re­moved by the demo­cratic process.

The Sangh be­lieves in a Hindu na­tion, not a na­tion in which all peo­ple of very faith have equal rights safe­guarded by the Con­sti­tu­tion. In its tur­bu­lent four-year stew­ard­ship of our coun­try, there is much that the Modi gov­ern­ment has de­stroyed in our public in­sti­tu­tions. The civil ser­vice is one in­sti­tu­tion that must be de­fended, oth­er­wise even its rusted and de­bil­i­tated steel frame will col­lapse, and In­dia will lie in even greater dan­ger of fall­ing apart.”

Harsh Man­der has a valid point in what he has said. Cen­tre must pay heed to what he has said. Af­ter all, he is a former ex­pe­ri­enced and em­i­nent civil ser­vant known for his in­tegrity and im­pec­ca­ble char­ac­ter! Cen­tre must not brush aside lightly what­ever he has pointed out in his en­light­en­ing edi­to­rial which I have cited my­self in my ar­ti­cle.

It has to be ac­knowl­edged though that this idea of pro­ba­tion pe­riod to be counted for de­ter­min­ing the rank­ing is it­self is not new. In 1989, a Com­mit­tee headed by his­to­rian Satish Chan­dra had rec­om­mended that the ex­am­i­na­tion for the re­cruit­ment be di­vided into three stages – the pre­lim­i­nary ex­am­i­na­tion, the main ex­am­i­na­tion as well as a Foun­da­tion Course – be­fore the ser­vice and cadre is al­lot­ted to the suc­cess­ful can­di­dates.

Many civil ser­vants ap­pre­hend that it could have high po­ten­tial for mis­use. A civil ser­vant added on the con­di­tion of anonymity that, “Ser­vice al­lo­ca­tion af­ter foun­da­tion course will have tremen­dous po­ten­tial for mis­use un­less it is done ob­jec­tively and in a trans­par­ent way.” With the pro­posal com­ing from the PMO, it would be dif­fi­cult for the cadrecon­trol­ling min­istries to say no, he added.

Re­ac­tions

An­other bu­reau­crat from the IAS said that it would lead to a lot of ar­bi­trari­ness. “The pa­pers, the sub­jects, the fac­ulty and also the over­all stan­dards ev­ery­thing is dif­fer­ent for dif­fer­ent foun­da­tion cour­ses. As a re­sult, there would be a lot of ar­bi­trari­ness in some­thing as cru­cial as ser­vice al­lo­ca­tion for which can­di­dates put in so much ef­fort,” the of­fi­cer said. He also lamented that, “It is also un­healthy to make the pro­ba­tion­ers com­pete from day one of their foun­da­tion course; the ca­ma­raderie among them will be lost.”

No doubt, Cen­tre has to dwell, de­lib­er­ate and de­bate very minutely and prop­erly on this be­fore tak­ing any de­ci­sion on this as it will have very po­ten­tial far reach­ing con­se­quences for not just civil ser­vants them­selves but also on the qual­ity of gov­er­nance that will be on roll in our coun­try!

The Sangh be­lieves in a Hindu na­tion, not a na­tion in which all peo­ple of very faith have equal rights safe­guarded by the Con­sti­tu­tion. In its tur­bu­lent four-year stew­ard­ship of our coun­try, there is much that the Modi gov­ern­ment has de­stroyed in our public in­sti­tu­tions. The civil ser­vice is one in­sti­tu­tion that must be de­fended, oth­er­wise even its rusted and de­bil­i­tated steel frame will col­lapse, and In­dia will lie in even greater dan­ger of fall­ing apart.”

Harsh Man­der: Former em­i­nent civil ser­vant and a so­cial ac­tivist now.

Lal Ba­hadur Shas­tri Na­tional Academy of Administration, Mus­soorie.

Sar­dar Pa­tel had de­scribed the In­dian Ad­min­is­tra­tive Ser­vice as In­di­aʼs “Steel Frame”.

Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi ad­dresses trainee IAS of­fi­cers at LBSNAA in Mus­soorie, Ut­tarak­hand.

Shri Padamvir Singh, Former Direc­tor at LBSNAA.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.