PMO has circulated a proposal which may lead to major change in the allocation of services to successful candidates of civil services examination. However, without debating the merits of the proposal, political opposition has raised a false alarm
The Government’s proposal to change the rules for allocating services and cadres to candidates who have cleared the civil services exams conducted by the Union Public Services Commission (UPSC) has kicked up a controversy. The Department Of Personnel and Training (DoPT) is mulling a proposal to alter the existing process and it has sent communiqués in this regard to various cadre-controlling ministries, seeking their views.
Currently, candidates who manage to crack the UPSC Civil Services examination are given Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS), Indian Foreign Service (IFS) and other Central services on the basis of their ranks and merit. The Union government is now assessing that if the 15-week foundation course for the probationers at Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA) could be turned into a scoring exercise and if the service and cadre could be allotted based on their ‘performance’ there.
Misinterpreting the Well-Intentioned
There cannot be two opinions on the issue that the steel frame of the civil services in India needs structural reforms now. The multiplying challenges in the governance warrant the same. Several reports by Transparency International have highlighted the deep-rooted corruption in the civil services. The Vohra Committee report highlighted the lack of secular governance and pointed to the intellectual deficiencies of civil servants after they join the services.
The Narendra Modi-led NDA Government took on the task. This involved the sheer risk of unpopularity for the Government with an aggressively opinionated and prejudiced opposition, both political and intellectual. Firstly, the Government brought in a new policy for cadre allocation for IAS, IPS and other officers, aimed at ensuring “national integration” in the country’s top bureaucracy. The candidates are required give their choice in the descending order of preference from amongst the various Zones, and not only States. The policy would ensure national integration of the bureaucracy as officers will get a chance to work in a State which is not their place of domicile.
In the next step now, the PMO wants to examine if service allocation/cadre allocation to probationers selected on the basis of the examination can be made after foundation course, as per the communication sent by the personnel ministry to different cadre-controlling authorities.
Soon after the announcement, opposition jumped-in crying foul. Congress president Rahul Gandhi accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of wanting to appoint officers of the RSS" choice into the central services by manipulating the merit list.
However, the idea itself is not new. In 1989, a committee headed by historian Satish Chandra recommended that the examination for recruitment be divided into three stages – preliminary examination, main examination as well as a Foundation course – before the service and cadre were allotted to successful candidates. The Committee also cited report of Kothari Committee (1974-76) headed by scientist and educationist DS Kothari, which had similar opinion.
The Committee on Civil Service Reforms (Hota Committee Report, 2004) recommended that aptitude and leadership tests may be introduced for selection, and that probationers may be allowed one month’s time after commencement of training to exercise their option for Services.
Therefore, one fails to understand that how including the weightage of the foundation course would help in ‘ appointing officers of the RSS" choice into the central services by manipulating the merit list’, as Mr Gandhi feels.
The foundation course is intended for the new recruits to the All India Services and Central Services (Group A). It equips fresh entrants with requisite skills, knowledge and attitude to shoulder responsibility as public servants. Its main objective are: to foster greater cooperation and coordination among various public services by building an esprit de corps; to promote all round development of the personality of an officer trainee- intellectual, moral, physical and aesthetic.
Of course, these are subjective criteria and incorporating them in the overall scheme of the examination and then services/ cadre allocation can bring its own problems like biases, favouritism and rising competition among the probationers. However, if we are certain about the abilities of our training academies, like LBSNAA, why we must judge the proposal in haste?
Rahul Gandhi has alleged that ‘the PM’s plans to appoint officers of RSS’s choice into the Central Services, by manipulating the merit list using subjective criteria, instead of exam rankings. ’ The very hash tag which Mr Gandhi used to accentuate his protest is laughable. How a proposal which would be only implemented after a comprehensive consultation with all the concerned departments which are involved in the services/cadre allocation could be dubbed as overturning a constitutional body like the UPSC? It can be labeled as such by only those who haven’t taken wider consultation seriously at all in the past, like the Congress Party.
Civil services examination pattern has been certainly evolving over the last five decades starting from the Kothari Committee, Satish Chandra Committee, Y.K. Alagh Committee, Anandakrishnan Committee, Bhattacharya Committee, S.K. Khanna Committee, Nigavekar Committee, Purushottam Agarwal Committee, and Baswan Committee. It goes without saying that more than three-fourth of these Committees was appointed by various Congress Governments? So with every new change or seeking change, was Congress party trying to sabotage a constitutional institution like UPSC? Mr Gandhi must answer that.
As far as subjective criteria which constitute the foundation course are concerned, how any public services could be bereft of them? Can any civil servant disagree that their every day job is if anything, but subjective? Doesn’t it require ‘ fostering greater cooperation and coordination among various public services by building an esprit de corps’ something which the foundation course contemplates upon? So how incorporating that component for the services/ cadre allocation could sabotage the selection process?
It must again be accentuated that PMO has circulated a proposal for wider consultation. Any final call would be taken in accordance to the laid down procedures. Civil services aspirants, who study the political processes and institutions, can grasp this reality and they would not be moved by any false alarm which is being raised by the political opposition.