RSTV – The Big Picture: Civil Services: Proposed Cadre Policy

Participants:

Anchor: Frank Rausan Pereira
Speakers: A.K. Bhattacharya, Editorial Director, Business Standard B.K. Chaturvedi, Former Cabinet Secretary C. Pal Singh, Former IGP, Punjab

Importance of this Episode:

  • The Center is considering a major change in the allocation of services to successful candidates of the Civil Services Examination. The Prime Minister’s Office has asked the department concerned to examine if the services can be allocated after the completion of the foundation course according to an official communique. The duration of the foundation course for officers of almost all the services is 3 months.
  • At present, the service allocation to the candidates selected on the basis of the Civil Services Examination conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), is made well before the commencement of the foundation course.
  • The PMO has desired to examine whether the service allocation to the probationers selected can be made after the foundation course.
  • On this edition, we examine the Pros and Cons of UPSC changing the allocation system.

Analysis by the Experts:

What does the proposed cadre policy state?

  • The proposed cadre policy states that after the foundation course, the cadre allocation and the service allocation may be decided. Presently, the service allocation is done right in the beginning when the candidates get selected after the UPSC examination and the cadre allocation is done based on a certain principle laid down by the Department of Personnel and Training  (DOPT) from time to time.
  • The intention of the cadre allocation is that we have a mix of candidates in the northern states who are brought from other states, similarly in the southern states who are brought from other states.
  • This is done so that the cadres in each state represent a mix of the country and it promotes an effective and efficient civil service.
  • The proposed policy has great issues and problems. They are as follows:
  1. Firstly, the UPSC examination is a very credible examination and everyone has great respect for it and since independence, it is hard to remember any occasion where this has been criticized and that the examination has been compromised in any manner. Thus, people have a lot of respect for this examination system. The proposed system wherein aspirants wouldn’t know as to which service they would be getting into until the end of the foundation course results in effectively compromising this system.
  2. Secondly, the foundation course is a three-month course and it is not carried out at one place. It is carried out at different places. Now, how would you compare the marks awarded at different places? It is not very clear at this point as to how this system would work? This would be because different course officials would be assessing it in different manners. Even today when student assessments are done under different universities, the same candidate gets different marks from different places. Thus, it is very difficult to say that this method will improve any amount of transparency. In fact, this would reduce transparency tremendously and will promote a culture of yesmanship towards the directors and officials as candidates would be very keen to get a good service. This is not a very good beginning for a candidate aspiring for a career in the All India Services.
  3. Lastly, the government has never participated in the selection process of a candidate in this manner before. Thus, there would be a fear that either X type or Y type of candidates would be chosen for certain services, and this would really compromise the independence of the civil services. One of the biggest factors of the bureaucracy in India is the independence of the civil service.

An important question that we need to ask ourselves is whether or not we giving rise to a committed bureaucracy?

  • India’s steel frame is known for its non-committal nature to any ruling party establishment irrespective of the party in power, the steel frame remains the steel frame.
  • It doesn’t remain committed to any political leadership at any point in time; the steel frame is supposed to uphold the rule of law and is supposed to uphold the constitution.
  • Thus, by reducing the importance of an examination system, are we giving rise to the idea of a committed bureaucracy? This has to be debated, as its pitfalls and risks need to be properly evaluated.
  • Further, there is a fear that with this new proposal, there is a possibility of centralising the decision making; it is this centralized decision making architecture that would identify who will go where and who will be placed under what cadre.
  • Now, this centralization is better left to an examination system and through an interview system. This new proposal suggests placing greater importance towards the 15-week foundation course which is subject to discretion.
  • Further, one is reducing the element of choice that an aspirant has under the current system. If today someone wants to opt for the Indian Police Service (IPS)- he/she is in a position today where they can indicate their preference.
  • Thus, it is suggested that with this new system, the individual choice of a candidate would be undermined by a fifteen-week foundation course.
  • Further, this system has served India well over the last many decades. Thus, a new proposal needs to be debated, discussed and only then can one move forward.

A Closer Look at the Foundation Course and concerns about the new proposal:

  • The marks for the foundation course is 400 marks. The foundation course also include various other activities as well such as a 10 day hiking trip and mostly it is the junior directing staff who are assessing you as to how you are performing.
  • Also, the constitution lays down clearly that the examination for the civil services would be conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). Now, with this proposal, it is suggested that one is essentially tampering with the constitution.
  • Thus, in this sense, it would be violating Article 320 of the Indian Constitution. This is because the examination which is conducted for about 400 marks in the foundation course is certainly not under the UPSC.
  • With the proposed policy, one is granting a lot of arbitrary powers to the examining authority that lies outside the ambit of the UPSC. These arbitrary powers can certainly be prejudiced. It is suggested that the proposal attempts at tinkering with the system without much awareness of its consequences.
  • Even candidates who have cleared the examination this current year are subjected to this and they are naturally worried about their service and cadre allocation.
  • Further, the Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) was set up in the year 2005, and after this commission was setup, a committee of ministers decided that the present system should continue the way it functions.
  • Further, even candidates from sections such as SC/ST etc. may feel that with the proposed new system, their allocation of marks may come down.
  • It clearly emerges that the new proposal should have been put up for debate and should have been dissected threadbare and then the decision should have been taken.

Is this proposal open to judicial scrutiny if it is felt that it violates Article 320 of the Indian Constitution?

  • This proposal would definitely open itself out to judicial scrutiny, not that it violates any specific section of the Indian Constitution, but when the process of marks allocation happens under the academy, which would be mostly done by junior officials who may be easily influenced, there will thus be a large number of petitions filed which will question the fairness of the system.
  • Thus, we are unnecessarily opening up a hornet’s nest for nothing. This system has stood the test of time and we should continue with it.

Is it felt that rather than a different allotment system, we need a better performance appraisal system?

  • Instead of trying to tinker with a well-tested and tried UPSC examination system, what the Government should have tried was to beef up the performance appraisal system and allocate the officers into services, into sectors to make them more of a specialist instead of everyone becoming a generalist.
  • Now, there are a lot of expert committee reports such as the Surendranath Committee Report which mentioned that at the age of 40, every civil servant should be given a choice to specialize in a certain area.
  • Today, we have the situation where a person who is serving a particular ministry, say, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change- he/she after a period of two years is getting into the Finance Ministry or the Commerce Ministry. Now, there are certain specialized ministries which cannot be handled as competently by a generalized administrator.
  • Thus, it is possible to introduce a strong performance appraisal system and assess their aptitude and their individual competencies in certain areas and also elicit from these officers as to which ministry or which sector they would like to serve. If this is done at the age of 40, then officers can specialize in a certain area for the next twenty years of their career.
  • International Perspective: There are many governments in the world that actually follow this policy, and as a result, at the time of international negotiations their officers come with great domain knowledge, experience and therefore, they come with a wisdom of past experience. Thus, we in India need a performance appraisal system that can actually channelize these officers into areas of expertise. This can help in improving their domain knowledge and they can make better contribution in their areas of work.
  • The proposal also talks about national integration as officers would get a chance to work in a state which is not their domicile state. The idea behind this is absolutely right. In China we have a committed civil service, thus, it has to toe the ideology of the party in power. India is a democracy and it doesn’t have a committed civil service.
  • Further, the foundation course in the present scheme is also designed towards fostering greater unity among the candidates and not for allocating the service and the cadres. It is primarily meant to foster greater interaction between them.

Concluding Points: 

  • As far as lateral entry ensuring further specialization, we should realize that there are some jobs which definitely do require specialized knowledge. For example, the secretaries to the government of India in the ministry of science and technology- they are all scientists.
  • They are also a large number of Economists, for example, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Arvind Virmani, Urjit Patel, etc. who have handled key portfolios. But, it is true that in the mid service, there is a need for specialization and the Surendranath Committee report has said that we should have specialization.
  • Lateral entry is a good idea, but it will only do limited good. We have seen in the past that we have had limited officers from outside the government system; but the government does need to build the competence and domain knowledge expertise of civil servants.
  • As far as improving the allotment process on the whole is concerned, the number of vacancies is based on the estimated demand from the states; the demands from the states across various services such as IAS, IPS, etc. are pooled together and then on the basis of the demand, the vacancies are arrived at. The important thing to note here is that when lateral entries are hired, there are rivalries, jealousies within the establishment that gets created. Thus, it is important for a larger consensus on the system as a whole to make it more workable.

Further Reading:
UPSC aspirants are advised to read the associated reports and literature associated with this topic. The links are as below:  

  1. https://darpg.gov.in/sites/default/files/SurendraNathCommitteeReport2003.pdf

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