Fewer bureaucrats opting for Centre at senior management grades, shows data

Consequently, more than half of the senior management grade officers at the Centre are now from services other than the three All India Services
There has been a sharp drop in the percentage of All India Services officers — Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS) and Indian Forest Service (IFoS) — taking a posting in the central government at senior management grades. It has been matched with an explosion in the number of officers of the same cadres posted to the states. 

Consequently, more than half of the senior management grade officers at the Centre are now from services other than these three All India Services. As the table shows, the pace of cha­nge in just a few years has been striking. These officers dominated the ranks of joint secretary to the level of secretary at the Cen­tre in 2015-16. Not anymore. By 2018-19, officers from central ser­vices like those in revenue, audit and accounts made up half of those senior positions. This was briefly reversed in 2019-20 but the trend has resumed in 2020-21.

In a mirror image-like situation, every major state of India has appointed dozens of chief secretaries and director generals of police, or DGP, defying the logic of the hierarchy of command in the administration. 

As the transfer and posting window has opened in the government after a year of suspension due to Covid, this shortage at the Centre and surfeit at the states is giving a headache to those managing cadres. Since Dec­ember 2020, over 90 joint sec­retaries have been posted at the Centre, of whom half are from non-All India Services. The Department of Personnel and Training has written to the states to encourage IAS, IPS and IFoS officers to move to the Centre on deputation.

According to the central staffing scheme, both the all-India cadre officers and central service officers are eligible to join these posts. The annual report of the Department of Personnel and Training describes it as a systematic arrangement for the selection and appointment of officers to senior administrative posts at the Centre: “The raison d’être of such a scheme is the   need for fresh inputs at senior levels in policy formulation and programme implementation from diverse sources.”

Joint secretaries at the Centre are the heads of bureaus into which each ministry is divided. Above them are only the addit­i­onal secretary and the secretary, who report to the minister directly. Thus, the joint secretary is eff­ectively the most significant senior management grade position in the central government. There are about 450 joint secretaries in the central government of whom about a fifth relinquish charge every year. Data shows it is IAS officers etc borne on the rolls of Delhi, Goa and Union Te­r­rito­ries, from the Northeast, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar who form 30 per cent of those at the Centre.

Recognising that this trend will deepen, top government off­i­­cials plan a major overhaul of the civil services to encourage sp­­e­cialists. As a starting point, they have reached out to a range of pe­ople to join the Public Hum­an Resources Council set up un­d­er PM Narendra Modi to deepen the ideas about these.

The PM’s Council is expected to direct the reforms in the civil services, which Modi has repeatedly flagged. The latest of these was his assertion in Parliament that there is no reason why only IAS officers should run all types of government-managed business enterprises.

Government officials to whom Business Standard reach­ed out said the setting up of the Council was essential to manage the scale of the reforms envisaged by Modi. Last year in Sep­t­ember, the cabinet had approved “Mission Karmayogi” described as a national programme for capacity building in the civil services.

There is a lot to the Karma­y­ogi programme, one of these officials said. While the government has already announced plans for lateral recruitment to the levels of joint secretary and directors, there are plans to set up performance dashboards for heads of departments in all services. This will ensure that the changes are not limited to just who are recruited to run the dep­ar­tments but on how they are run.

The first round of changes will happen in the IAS as the premier administrative service. In the next round, the silos created by central services like tax, railways and the various accounts services will also be dismantled.

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