Millennium Post

Cracks in the steel frame

The pen is mightier than the sword. Truly, it’s the IAS officers who use this weapon to the hilt to bring changes in society benefitting its large sections. It won’t be wrong to say the IAS officers form the steel frame of Indian administrative system.

No doubt, people who take up this profession have some of the best minds. There are aspirants such as doctors, IITians, candidates selected for lucrative corporate jobs, who prefer to serve in the Indian Administrative Service instead of availing opportunities in the private sector. The motivation squarely is to be part of the public service edifice.

However, the grim reality is that for the past several years, there has been a fall in the number of IAS officers selected across the country. As per a report of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), the shortage amounted to almost 30 per cent of the full strength among the IAS officers in the year 2012. In 2013, it came down to 24 per cent. The latest figures show a shortage of 1,480 against the total authorised strength of 6,217.

Of the total 1,480 vacancies for such officers, a highest, 135, exists in Uttar Pradesh, while it’s 119 in West Bengal, 105 in Madhya Pradesh, 90 in Bihar and 84 in Jharkhand, minister of state for personnel V Narayanasamy had told Lok Sabha in a written reply during the just concluded winter session of the House. A total of 78 vacancies each exist in Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Mizoram and Union Territories (AGMUT) cadre, while the number varies in other states – 75 in Rajasthan, 67 in Tamil Nadu, 62 in Maharashtra and 60 each in Karnataka and Kerala among other, he said.

In 2012, the picture was more unpleasant as there were 1,777 posts lying vacant. There were 3,392 directly recruited officers out of 4,377 officers in position and the rest were promotees. In 2012 also, Uttar Pradesh was at the top with the highest number of vacant positions at 216, followed by Bihar at 128, Madhya Pradesh at 118, Rajasthan at 112 and Jharkhand at 100.

At present, about 4,737 IAS officers are working in various central and state government departments across the country. However, the side effect of the shortage of these civil servants in states across the country is severe. While key seats are lying empty, officers are forced to hold multiple assignments because of the crunch.

With fewer bureaucrats in place, many senior officers are burdened with cross-state multiple responsibilities. For instance, ‘a junior IAS officer, who is posted as director in one department in Bihar, is also the secretary in another. Similarly, an IAS officer posted in the secretariat also has to take care of outdoor work, which creates problems in the execution of work in offices,’ said a source in Patna.

Bihar’s IAS cadre strength is 326, but only 198 IAS officials are there in the state of over 100 million people. The state government led by Nitish Kumar has ‘imported’ officers to ease the crunch. Almost all these ‘imported’ officials happen to hail from Bihar. They are on deputation for a tenure of five or three years.

Holding states responsible for the shortage of the officers, SN Mishra, editor of Indian Journal of Public Administration, says that it’s the dominance of ministers which is restricting officers to join state cadres. Citing the cases of Durga Shakti Nagpal and Ashok Khemka, the chairman of Lok Prashasan Editorial Board, says that officers prefer not to join states just to avoid undue political pressure on them. The another reason behind officers not choosing Bihar or UP cadre is the education system in these states being in very bad shape.

‘So the IAS officers feel that if their children would be educated there, they will not get well trained in schooling and discipline. Also they will not be brought up in a competitive environment,’ states Mishra, who was on the board of Personality Test Committee of the officers.

Rejecting any fault in the recruiting process, Mishra, the honorary treasurer of IIPA governing body, says there is no lack in the recruitment process of the government of India. ‘It’s the fault of state governments who rely on officers of state commission as they work in connivance with the government, which is not in the case of IAS officers.’

While on the other hand senior IAS officer Shakti Sinha rubbishes the report of the central government that speaks of any shortage in the rank. Blaming the state governments, the former finance secretary in the Delhi government says, ‘The figures are exaggerated. There is no shortage of IAS officers as of now.’

A senior IAS officer says that such shortfall can lead to inefficiency and delays at work and it puts undue pressure on the rest of the serving officers and officials. ‘If you have too many portfolios with you, it gets difficult to devote as much time as you would like to in order to do full justice to each subject,’ the officer said.

Taking cue of shortage of officers, the Central government has gradually increased the annual intake of IAS officers under Direct Recruitment Quota. In promotion quota, prompt actions have been taken for holding of Selection Committee meetings for appointment by promotion or selection of State Service Officers to the IAS. Also, to select quality officers, now the government has made it mandatory for state service commission officers seeking promotion as IAS to clear an examination.

Also, the government has accepted the Baswan Committee recommendations on the requirement of IAS officers. The panel had made 13 recommendations that included cadre review every five years and state governments sending names well in advance. The committee’s recommendation of increasing direct intake to 180 has been implemented, the DoPT minister said.

In order to meet the quality of officers, a Civil Services Survey report published in 2010 stressed on the issue of lateral entry of at higher level in the government from the private and non-profit sector into an otherwise cadre-based bureaucracy. The survey being conducted by Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions Department of Administrative Reforms & Public Grievances, said that the entry of professionals from outside will help infuse a different work culture in government while enabling the government to tap the talent wherever available. In this regard, the Second Administrative Reforms Commission has observed: ‘There is almost universal acknowledgment of the need to induct outstanding skills and talent from outside the government to staff some positions in government departments.’ The Commission further recommended that the positions in the government for which outside talent would be desirable should be earmarked and interested and eligible persons from open market may also be considered for such positions.
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