Reforms, equity in central staffing scheme needed

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Reforms, equity in central staffing scheme needed

Monday, 19 August 2019 | deepak jha

For better governance at the Centre and State, there should be adequate exchange of CSS officers with IAS/IPS officers on deputation in State administration so that there is a two-way exchange of experience and knowledge

Even after 72 years of Independence, the country has failed to bring in the much-needed administrative reforms in civil services and link promotions to acquired knowledge and performance.

In fact, favouritism and preferential treatment to some services is the norm rather than an exception, say senior officers. 

This is ironic, given the fact that in the historic judgment given by the Supreme Court (SC) in 1991 in the Mohan Kumar Singhania vs Union of India case by a three judge Bench, it was recorded that “there is no denying the fact that the civil services being the top most service in the country has got to be kept at height, distinct from other services since top echelons have to govern a wide variety of departments.”

However, despite the apex court establishing civil services as the top service of the country the fact remains that the Government of India (GOI) is not treating all services on a par. This is despite the fact that in a few services, especially the Central Secretariat Services (CSS) the candidates selected have higher merit in comparison to a few other Group A services.

“Promotional prospects and the empanelment process are not uniform and there is serious favouritism towards a few services. It is generally believed that IAS/IFS candidates are brighter than other services and similarly Group A officers have more merit than Group B officers. But in

reality the situation is different,” explained a government official of CSS cadre who is fighting for equity. 

In fact, CSS cadre officers feel that they are treated as “inferior” to other Group A services officers recruited by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) like the Indian Engineering Services (IES), Indian Economic Service (IES), Indian Statistical Services (ISS) and so on.

The CSS is the most important organ of the Central Government and earlier its officers used to rise to the post of Secretary to the Government of India, but gradually the IAS lobby muscled in to get postings in the national Capital. Delhi has always been considered a plum posting due to the amenities, facilities and good schools in the Capital, apart from proximity to the corridors of power. Hence over the years, the CSS has been reduced to just a subordinated service.

For instance, in Group A services, all officers get the Junior Administrative Grade (JAG) and Non-Functional Selection Grade (NFSG) in the 9th and 13th year of selection. However, candidates selected in 1998 through UPSC civil services exam who were allocated CSSC got JAG in the 16th year of their selection and are yet to get NFSG.

While IAS/IFS/IA&AS officers get their Senior Administrative Grade (SAG) in the 16th year of selection and other services start getting benefits from the 18th or  22nd year of selection, for CSS officers there is no SAG. To claim SAG the CSS officers have to undergo an empanelment process for the post of Joint Secretary.

In fact, promotions for CSS men virtually stop at the level of Director, which is allocated to all officers of Group A services upon completion of 13 years of service.

In some cases, candidates were allocated Group B services since they did not give the complete service preference in spite of having higher merit than several Group A officers.

A close examination of scores of candidates selected in 1998 reveals that the first ranker of IAS scored 63.56 per cent and 28th ranker 59.39 per cent. Both belonged to the General Category (GC) and there was a difference of 4 per cent in the score.

An OBC candidate securing rank 143 for the same year scored 55.52 per cent and a Scheduled Caste (SC) category candidate with 195th rank scored 54.73 per cent while a Scheduled Tribe (ST) candidate with 370 rank scored 52.95 per cent.

Therefore, the difference in percentage of marks in comparison with the topper is mere 4 per cent in respect of GC, 8 per cent for OBC candidates, 8.7 per cent for SC candidates and 10.5 per cent in respect of ST candidates. Given that within the GC there is a difference of 4 per cent, if we take it as a single unit for the GC candidates, then the difference of marks of OBC, SC, ST candidates in comparison with the last selected candidates within the GC in IAS is 3 per cent, 5 per cent and 6 per cent, respectively.

But promotions of candidates selected for IAS from various categories (GC, SC, ST, OBC) show  that all got the SAG scale at the same time. And for Joint Secretary empanelment also GC candidates as well as OBC, SC and ST candidates were empanelled together.

“Our point is that when all take the same exams and qualify and within few percentages there is differences in service category then the terms of promotions and career prospects within the service and empanelment should be done for the whole batch, may be through the process of a written examination so that the best will again get a chance to hold the senior level posts in the Government of India under the central staffing scheme,” explained the official.

Though selected in 1998, Group B services officials are still working as Deputy Secretary at JAG level whereas the 2010 batch of other Group A services selected through either civil services or non-civil services are eligible to join GOI as Deputy Secretary from July 1, 2019. In effect, this means that someone 12 years junior becomes equivalent to an officer of the 1998 batch of Group B services.

Several 1998 batch Group A officers with lower merit than Group B services have been approved for SAG. “This is major discrimination against Group B officers. It’s like someone who aced the IIT-JEE Exam was asked to join some diploma course because of a lower rank or for failing to submit preferences,” the officer explained.

Fortunately, the Modi Government, during the last few years has made attempts to rationalise the central staffing postings by giving opportunities to other cadres like, Indian Telecom Services (ITS), Indian Trade Services (ITS) Railway Services, Indian Forest Services and likewise, instead of just the elite IAS officers.

For better governance at the Centre and State, there should be adequate exchange of CSS officers with IAS/IPS officers on deputation in State administration so that there is a two-way exchange of experience and knowledge that would be beneficial to all.

(The writer is with the national bureau of The Pioneer)

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