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Any connection between education of top IAS officers & jobs they do is purely coincidental

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From a physics grad heading home ministry to an English scholar in agriculture, 49 of 57 secretary-level IAS officers in posts at odds with their educational qualification.

New Delhi: The man in charge of India’s internal security is a physics graduate, while the man in charge of agriculture is an English scholar; the top bureaucrat in the power ministry has studied botany.

It is the story of almost all secretary-level officers in the Indian government, whose educational qualifications have very little to do with the posts they hold. Of the 57 secretary-rank IAS officers, only nine are currently heading ministries that have a direct relation to what they have studied.

The Centre’s advertisement, allowing ‘talented and motivated Indian nationals’ a lateral entry into government services, has been praised and panned. It has also restarted a long-standing debate regarding the bureaucracy — should officers be allotted ministries and departments as per their area of expertise?

ThePrint analysed the educational qualifications and backgrounds of the secretary-rank IAS officers in the government as per their executive records available online. While the advertisement released Sunday was for posts at the joint secretary level, in order to assess the level of expertise of officials at the highest echelons of Indian bureaucracy, we analysed the qualifications of secretary-level officers alone. And though there are 81 secretaries in the government of India, 57 belong to the IAS, while the rest belong to other services.

Graphic by Siddhant Gupta

No relation between education and post

The educational backgrounds of many secretaries have little to do with the domains they are heading.

Consider this: The home secretary, Rajiv Gauba, is a graduate in physics while Rita Teaotia, the secretary in the Ministry of Commerce and Industries, holds a post-graduate degree in history.

The environment secretary, Chandra Kishore Mishra, has degrees in history and law, even as the only secretary-level officer to have a degree in environmental sciences, Shobhana K Pattanayak, heads the department of Agricultural Cooperation and Farmers Welfare in the agriculture ministry.

The justice secretary in the law ministry, Alok Shrivastava, on the other hand, has studied everything but law — electrical engineering, public policy, science and economics.

The secretaries of the sports and youth ministries possess diverse educational degrees that have nothing to do with sport or youth. Rahul Prasad Bhatnagar, who heads the sports department, has studied physics and economics, while Amarendra Kumar Dubey, who heads the youth affairs department, has studied botany, law and economics, among other things.

Agriculture secretary Tarun Shridhar is an MPhil in English, while Ajay Kumar Bhalla, who has studied botany, is the secretary in the Power Ministry. The department of official languages in the home ministry is headed by Sailesh, an economics post-graduate.

Domain experts missing

The finance and defence ministries, which ostensibly require the highest degree of expertise, particularly lack domain experts.

None of the five secretaries in the finance ministry have a degree in economics.

Of the five, Neeraj Kumar Gupta and Ajay Narayan Jha have studied electronics and history, respectively; Rajiv Kumar has degree in zoology and law.

The two others, however, are business studies graduates. While Hasmukh Adhia has studied accountancy and business management at the graduate and post-graduate level, he also has a PhD in yoga. Subhash Chandra Garg, who heads the economic affairs department, has a degree in accountancy and finance.

In the defence ministry, Sanjay Mitra, who heads the defence department, has studied physics and economics, Ajay Kumar, who heads the defence production department, has studied engineering and applied economics. However, Dr Christopher S, who is a scientist, heads the department of R&D in the ministry.

This disparity is being cited by backers of the government move as a much needed disruption of a system that fails to bring in domain experts to formulate policy for the country. Doubters, however, fear that the government could use the move to usher in political appointments.

Full list of educational qualifications of 57 secretary-ranked IAS officers

The few exceptions

Asha Ram Sihag, who serves as the secretary in the Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises, has actually studied industrial engineering, while Raghvendra Singh in the Culture Ministry, has studied history at both the graduate and post-graduate level.

Girish Sahni and Renu Swaroop, secretaries in the Ministry of Science and Technology; Sekhar Basu, secretary in the Department of Atomic Energy; Rajeevan M. Nair, secretary in the Ministry of Earth Sciences and Sivan K, secretary in the Department of Space are all scientists — given that these posts have been traditionally reserved for scientists.

The list of exceptions also includes two secretaries — those of the department of legislative and legal affairs — in the law ministry who are domain experts.

The Ministry of External Affairs consists of only IFS officers, while the department of Posts in the communications ministry is headed by an Indian Postal Services officer, Anant Narayan Nanda.

Most other secretaries in the government are IAS officers who have risen up the ranks, hopping from one domain to another, irrespective of their educational qualification.

Resistance to reform

This isn’t the first time that the question of lateral entry into the civil services has cropped up. In 2008, when the second Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) had called for lateral entry at both the central and state level, resistance from bureaucrats ensured that the recommendation did not see the light of day.

In fact, when Vaidya Rajesh Kotecha, an ayurvedic doctor, was appointed as the secretary in the Ministry of AYUSH last year, in what was reportedly the first instance of lateral entry at the secretary level, there were reports of much resistance from officials.

Parameswaran Iyer, the secretary in the ministry of drinking water and sanitation too is a lateral entrant, who had prematurely retired from the IAS to work at the World Bank and was head-hunted by the Modi government from there.

पढ़ें हिंदी में: शीर्ष आईएएस अधिकारियों की शिक्षा का उनके कार्य से मेल खाना महज़ एक इत्तेफ़ाक़

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  1. Lateral entry into the civil servises should be a welcome step given the fact that the service requires domain experties. But the government should keep in mind while implienting this paradigm shift that for decades the recruitment process has been of generalist nature so the aspiring cadidates focus on improving their general studies rather going into any expertise domai. So the government should inspire aspiring youths to acquire domain expertise at their initial stage of grooming.

  2. I wonder they would still have domain expertise after working for so many years in all kind of departments before becoming secretary. Consider all of them just simple graduates. In MP A MBBS doctor IAS is incharge of electricity board.

  3. Lateral entry only on the basis of interview is not fair. This will involve too much of corruption and favourism on ministry side. People with good connection will easily get the job. Just like upsc exam it Should also be conducted in the same way. Only a person from relevant field should be eligible to appear in the exam.

  4. This is about Secretary level in the center. Bkth the CEO of the Smart City pronect of Bhubaneswar and Rourkela in Odisha are IAS. Where as city planner with ecpertise in the domain should be made the CEO.

  5. If the policymakers are right what should be the educational qualification of Prime Minister of India. What should be his/her expertise? Not a chaiwallah, jhadoowallah, samosewallah i suppose.
    Just my 2 cents.

  6. One thing most of them just may have in common is “how to get rich, QUICK” and either be a sycophant of the party in power or be loyal to the person who appointed them and create hinderance in uncovering their misdeeds and scuttle any related inquiries.

  7. The existing system of bureaucracy removed the technical experts from head post of Dept. or Ministry. The senior technical officer has to report to a junior IAS officer, who has been appointed head of the Dept. or Ministry. Further, the junior IAS officer can change / remove proposal approved by the technical head, despite the IAS officer doesn’t have his domain.

  8. The fact is, top Indian bureaucrats, chosen by the UPSC through a rigorous and transparent process, are among the finest in the world. Only the best can aspire to qualify in the extremely competitive civil services examination and the educational background of the candidates has not diluted the quality of the bureaucracy. On the other hand, lateral entry sounds good in theory, but it will open the floodgate to nepotism and corruption. Why tinker with something which has worked so well till now? And if the government is so conscious about getting the best officers, what about introducing a similar system for recruiting the best politicians?

  9. Why General VK Singh is not defence Minister of India as he is well aware of the difficulties faced by the soldiers. How can home minister of India can take decision about ceasefire in Kashmir. Does he know what harm a stone can do to the security personnel. A good driver need not to be a good mechanic. An IAS officer selected among lakhs of candidates and after that he is trained. If an illiterate can become CM of a state then why not a civil servant with humanities background can lead scientific organisation.

  10. Dear writer,

    If you will be only paid if you do some PR work for Govt, then you may directly say so. Readers can spare some effort and time not reading your article.

    Anyway, thank you for your extensive research, now I will present you a list and you please enlighten me about your views on that.

    PM – political science (distance education) still contentious
    Jaitleee – LLB
    Rajnath singh – MSc Physics
    Prakash Javadekar – BCom
    Smriti Irani – 12th Std (of course being a serial actress she should know about working of textile industry for sure)
    Uma Bharathi – 6th Std (slow claps)
    Most other minister LLB

    I hope this is totally fine for you and the only issue is that IAS officers(who dont select the post themselves) are highly qualified in some other field other than their graduation.

    Also you have concluded very well that this is the root cause of all issue of India. Beautiful article. Beautiful Research. Keep up the PR work.

    PS: I personally don’t believe that edu qualification is reqd for ministers. Just giving a counter argument here.

    Assumption of the author is that corrupt, bootlicking beauracrats will be replaced by efficient, sincere and brilliant Samaritans from the corporate. I work in a corporate company and let me tell you, bootlicking is an art you have to learn it from corporates. IAS officers will be no match for them in that field.

  11. If a Medical Surgeon like BJP spokeperson Dr. Sambit Patra can become the director of ONGC then why not a bureaucrats from other domain can’t handle another. There are many actors, sportspersons who have qualified their education mark in various degrees. Drop outs heading their own business and innovations. Then why all the necessities of an outcry now. Corrupt and nepotism is a brand our main quest to advertise by the government. If a chaiwala can be termed as an experience politician to head a nation lawmaking system than why not a bureaucrat from other domain of his/her studies gain the required experiences to head the designated field?

  12. Today there are CEO’s in many banks who are engineering graduates and most of them are successful bankers. The basic qualifications one acquires will not help in climbing the career ladders. Only the management skills will help to be a successful leaders/ buracrats.

  13. Sundar Pichai a METALLURGICAL ENGINEER from IIT Kharagpur is heading Google !!!
    It’s not only graduation subject which matters but also your experience of 35 years in working life.
    Can you conclusively confirm that the Home secretary has no experience with MHA or the Agri secy has never served in Agri related ministries.
    How many of Indians today are pursuing jobs related to their graduation degrees !
    Domain expertise is not graduation degree!!

    What is clear is that print is not the place if you want amore nuanced view

  14. I am a retired IAS officer. There are three layers of experience needed for arriving at the right policy for a state or for the centre. First is the political screening of ideas. Something which is politically unviable cannot be forcefully thrust on the people. Experienced politicians know the pulse of the people and they can predict the response of people to every policy decision. It is reported that Jawahar Lal Nehru used to correctly predict the percentage of letters he would receive in support of or opposed to his policy initiatives. This has nothing to do with the subject he studied for his degree. The skill has come to him as a result of his political interaction with people over the years.

    Second is defining the implementation lay out of the policy. The government machinery that implements the policy is not an automaton. The road map of implementation has to be carefully delineated taking into account the pitfalls at every stage. This requires understanding of the working of government agencies, legal and political nuances, psychology of the beneficiaries as well as of those who may try to misuse loopholes. Sometimes an unpopular action needs to be taken and an experienced IAS officer can modulate the action plan to provoke less opposition. The skill to plan an effective implementation comes out of years of handling similar exercises. What you studied in the college has nothing to do with it.

    Now the domain knowledge. That comes from experts. That is the primary material. But the primary material by itself is not consumable. It is like the making of a car. The automobile engineer is the technical expert. If he makes a car on his own, it won’t sell. You need a designer to make the car attractive to the potential buyer. Then you need a marketeer to fix the price, the distribution system, the incentives and advertising. If somebody says that the designer and the marketeer are not needed, I can only say that it is a very simplistic analysis.

  15. That’s the beauty of the job.
    You dont need a B.Ed to run the Education Ministry, nor a Medical Degree to administer the Health Ministry…
    You need Administration skills, Creative thinking, Zeal and Integrity.
    Long live the IAS.
    PS: You surely don’t need to be a Printer to run the PRINT !!!

  16. Wow ! What a research. Must applaud for your efforts.
    But how do you think these bureaucrats have reached this stage.
    Since the time their careers have started, they have spent time at grassroot levels of this country. They have served in the places (minimum 10 years with every IAS officer) where you wouldn’t think of living.
    And their experiences have equipped them with better managerial and across fields insights.
    I would request you to do similar research across the countries. In Trump’s cabinet itself you will find people from different academic background heading different tasks. There’s a neurosurgeon who is not heading health department and businessmen who are not heading commerce and industry !
    Lateral entry is a positive step as it would bring in domain experts in govt offices. Mr. Raghuram Rajan, Arvind Subhramaniam, Nandan Nilekani have shown how lateral entry can be beneficial.
    But totally slamming our current bureaucrats and the system like everything’s been like a shit.
    I am sorry I don’t approve of your thought.
    You are a media person and would be expected to use this tool responsibly as people read your material and for opinions. You are expected not to post any erratic idea that comes to your mind.
    Thanks for reading !

  17. Please sack the editor who commissioned & cleared this stupid article. The writer & his bosses are morons who don’t know that IAS officer undergo a 2-year training for which they get a JNU master’s degree. Shekhar Gupta turning The Print into another den of third-rate journalists.

  18. I appreciate and loud the move of government to appoint public citizens in ministry as per the requirement of qualifications required for the work to be undertaken. List provided of Secretaries confirm they are not for the post to justify the requirements as per the ministry requirements. Question arises, will these bureaucrats allow such drastic step, as our government is being run by such cadre officers? I wish all success to the project. It should also be ensured that apart from relevant qualifications those held experience and expertise in the field. Bolo Mera Bharat Mahan

  19. Most non sense post The print.
    Clearing UPSC CS Exam itself is an education of most that exist (without any degree). This includes all the syllabus that is necessary for to knw what is required.
    Fine, lets agree with your point for a moment. Then please tell :
    1) is a post graduate/graduate holding a post irrelevant to his study background more ironical than a minister running the whole department or ministry without any education. (Names are many, so need not mention)

    2) seeing the current education system of our country, can we say a person holding degree of any subject is likely to have the knowledge also. Being a graduate and degree holder is diff then having knowledge and skill.

    3) do these officers choose the department they are posted in by themselves?? Who is the appointing authority and by what extent this authority has knowledge and education ?? Hope you get my point.

  20. Did politician who heading the ministry is an expertise. Expertise come only from experience. The IAS are going through vigorous training. The persons who are running big business in India had not got the degree in the field. So many Richest men in India are running so many business organisation . Did they qualified in all sector. To justify your action you can post.

  21. Don’t publish plain stupidity. The IAS or any UPSC recruited Group A post has nothing to do with the educational qualifications in that particular stream. They are there to manage people, not to provide technical advice. They are provided with ample technical support in the department they work in to make those crucial decisions. Also they are provided a rigorous training in management and how to deal with pressure and be accountable. Plus if you are arguing on the ground of educational qualifications, then why stop just at bearucrats. Include the politicians as well who are above bearucrats and are directly responsible for decisions. Make every minister have a degree in his department of concern. And all those having less than desired qualifications should be chucked out. But that would include our prime minister as well. So that part would most definitely be overlooked by you. Please stop brainwashing with all this nonsense. Let the people have some faith in bearucrats who meet and deal with people on ground on a daily basis and stop spreading hate.

  22. Bureaucrats are generalists like MBAs in private sector…They manage…Don’t operate whatever they are heading…By this logic fisheries will be headed by fishermen and mining by miners…You have to understand that quality and selection criteria of joint secretary is already very strict even for IAS and allied central service officers…Most of them have vast experience and degrees of manager law and what not.

  23. Bureaucracy is administration. It has no relation to the education. The training for a bureaucrat matters. The humungus task of man management is the biggest challenge. The person with domain expertise can hardly be overlooked but to expect a scenario change under their leadership is too much an expectation.

  24. Like abolishion of Planning commission, British era beaurocracy may also be abolished and replaced with expertise in each field, as practised in countries like USA, UK etc. Beaurocracy in India is in most cases, only making obstacles and hindrance in policy implementation and do not bring forward any innovative ideas.

  25. Whether it is entry through UPSC or lateral entry, all game belongs to deputation according to their choice. How many technocrats are heading PSUs/ departments. It is also in the air that some executives from private corporates may join PSUs /departments in future.

  26. The print
    I have seen your news and that is biased to pro government
    How can you say that iitian and aispirants are happy with the desion of lateral entry and how can you assume how can lateral entry be a benefit. Have you read the official circular yet which requires 40 yrs and 15 yrs experience in the field given . No criteria else and based of loosely based order to appease and benifit the govt.
    Have a conscious and then realise what media of you are propagating.
    Govt can’t control ias lobby so they decide to put a lease by diffrent method
    All I would conclude my dear Editor that u will also be responsible to some extent for shaking the core values of this country
    I am a liberal man not attached to any party.
    Check your facts and follow a ethical journalism or you are contributing to chaotic society.

  27. Lateral entry will be resisted…as highly experienced private sector professionals take up jobs which these generalists cannot do… many ias OFFICERs do not know what a mcb is how home wiring is done..but they head heavy industries portfolio

  28. Too much hate being spread and that too with complete nonsense reasoning. Any has officer, no matter what background he/she is from has gone through a process that we call national service. Barring a few corrupt and uninterested ones, the world is not at all a bad place to live. The first 21 years of any ones life do not distinguish between the officers and that is the beauty of this organisation called upsc that has been celebrated ever since it was introduced. After the graduation though every has officer has to go through a rigorous study time to clear the case and even after success in India ‘s toughest exam, it does not end there. 100 weeks of training follow. Then assistance collecter under training,then sam, then dm and so on with every achievement is service comes a milestone. When this bureaucrat reaches a union govt secretary rank he/she already has a 25 year experience as an administrator in the govt. Of India and regardless of the graduation these people have the acumen and experience required to be sitting at that post. Some tom sick and harry from any mnc boasting of a good profile might not be able to answer a rookie general studies question if we do get to talk about the knowledge levels of these bureaucrats. So I feel this is a bad decision which can have serious repercussions. Better the Dopt and GOI save face in time.

  29. These IAS officers have no interests in their job. They perform their jobs without any interests or aptitude. Their only aim, passion, destiny is to reach next promotion and on. Nowadays, there is an extension to it, to confirm post-retirement perks like member, secretary in some committee, commission etc. Thus, you can not expect anything better from them, except some exceptions. Otherwise, a finance secretary may not comment that investment by s person is not taking risk. That’s the argument given for taxing dividend. The civil service is an instrument deployed by British people to control the administration when India was under their rule. But Indian politicians wanted to perpetuate that British arrogance and made IAS permanent. Otherwise, there’s no need for the IAS, as it stands now, for India.

  30. Right, there is no relation between qualification of a bureaucrat and the post he/she is heading. But, here we are making some unfounded assumption.
    First, the bureaucrats are generalist by birth. Infact, bureaucrats have variety of qualifications and there could be a mechanism wherein they would be allowed to get expertise in some fields of his/her interest and thereafter posted in those areas only. But we rarely see this phenomenon in government. The posting are not done on the basis of their expertise.
    Second, we assume that there is a correlation between college degree and expertise in that field. For example, Nandan Nilekani is graduate in Electrical Engineering but has got expertise in software and IT industry. So, by that definition the services of Nandan Nilekani should be used only where there is Electrical Engineering involved.
    Third, we assume that lack of expertise is hindering policy making. We all know that there are ample number of experts and consultants in the Government. They advise of technical matters. So, there is no dearth of expertise in the Government.
    Fourth, we always tend to attribute “policy formulation” as the cause of poor governance and rarely talk about the problems in policy implementation. The one and the main hurdle in policy implementation if the political intervention in the working of bureaucrats. Why government is not serious about fixed tenures? About posting the bureaucrats according to their expertise? There are ample number of bureaucrats in the government having PG degrees from world class Universities in the fields like Health, Urbanization, Rural Development. But they are rarely posted in the ares of their expertise. Why? You know it better.

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