Predictably, a row has erupted over the move by the Union Government to change rules that would allow it to summon senior IAS officials to Delhi for deployment in the central service without nod from the states. What prompted the Modi government to do this is an acute shortage of senior-level hands to run the administration that’s infamously in slow mode. The shortage at the central level was caused by a cut in annual recruitments to the Civil Services, since the 1990s, to a level of less than half of the normal intake of 160 a year. What should have happened along with an ever-widening role for governmental intervention in varied sectors was to have raised the number of annual recruitments or given massive promotions from among the ranks to create a larger workforce at senior levels.
With all the big talk about the high merits of the civil service recruits, the facts on the ground are the Indian bureaucracy is below par when it comes to performance. In recruitments, bookish knowledge about mundane aspects of life is the yardstick and there are wheels within wheels in interviews. Young officers taking up top positions have little understanding of administrative matters but hold forth. Highly experienced officers down the line help them grasp the lessons of governance. Several IAS officers are, admittedly, highly intelligent and can quickly grasp matters. At the same time, there are a larger number of officers who exist at lower levels with great administrative acumen but cannot grow beyond a certain level. There are a few who are conferred IAS ranks, but these are mostly based on their political influence. Put together, the morale of the bureaucracy is low. They have become corrupt due to the evil influence from wayward politicians. In postings at top levels too, political influence is what matters and not merit or integrity. Those who dance to the tunes of politicians climb up the ladder.
Several non-BJP state chief ministers have taken objection to the central move to change the IAS rules. There are the usual taunts about the Centre taking away the “rights” of states and “hurting” the federal character of the Constitution. In fact, no change is possible in this country without a flurry of protests. The Centre must take decisions in the best interests of the nation. If there’s a shortage, it is not a bad idea if large-scale promotions are given to efficient junior-level officers and they are admitted to the IAS rank to perform bigger tasks. This will raise the morale of the bureaucracy too.