Civil servant trainees
A batch of trainee civil servants at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie | Representational image | Photo: LBSNAA | Facebook
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New Delhi: Generalist, bureaucratic and status-quoist — these are some of the criticisms levelled at civil servants in India. The Modi government is quietly working to change this perception, through some sweeping and controversial reforms undertaken in the civil services.

A revamped foundation course for trainees, a digital platform for relevant on-the-job training, a proposed university dedicated to the training of civil servants, and deliberations on setting up a separate ministry for training — by introducing fundamental changes in all rungs of civil service officers in the country, the Modi government is seeking to radically transform governance.

While these steps have often been eclipsed by the more controversial reforms attempted by the government — lateral entry of domain experts, forced retirement of “tainted” officers, concerted attempts to break the stranglehold of the IAS, experiments with the time-tested recruitment rules of civil servants, etc — civil servants told ThePrint that the reforms in training, albeit less headline-grabbing, are expected to have long-term implications for the country’s estimated 2.5 crore civil servants from Group A, Group B and Group C.

“Over the last few years, there has been a concerted attempt to re-orient training to ensure that it becomes more futuristic, in sync with transformations in policy-making and experience, rather than theory-based,” said a senior official in the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT). 

“It is something that the Prime Minister has been personally invested in — to ensure that the country’s civil services shed the image of being status-quoists.”


Also Read: Modi govt plans overhaul of IAS, IPS, IFS to modernise services, eliminate redundant posts


Shift from theory to practical implementation

Soon after coming to power, the Modi government introduced an assistant secretary programme for fresh IAS recruits, wherein they would be appointed to different central government ministries for three months before they are sent off to their respective state cadres.

Through the three months, officers are required to work on projects — any new policy in their areas — and present it to their ministries on completion of the programme.

The reform, known to be a brainchild of PM Narendra Modi, was brought in to ensure officers get a hang of the nuances of policy-making at the national level from the beginning of their careers.

“That reform was the first to signal a shift in how the focus of training is changing,” said a senior IAS officer. “The government did not want officers to simply be consuming theoretical knowledge before they are sent to their cadres.”

Since then, the government has been working towards changing the course structures and curricula of the various training institutes to ensure there is a shift from theoretical knowledge to practical implementation.

Last week, ThePrint reported that the government is all set to introduce an online test for civil service recruits before they begin their foundation course (FC) — an introductory course for fresh Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS), Indian Foreign Service (IFS), Indian Revenue Service (IRS) and other recruits.

“The idea is to ensure that all the theoretical training that the officers would get during their foundation course is given online, and officers can be tested on it before they start the actual FC,” said the IAS officer quoted above. “This would ensure that the FC focuses on case studies, field and skill-based training.”

However, this shift is not limited to the foundation course alone. The officer said all levels of training — including at mid- and senior-level — will gradually undergo this change.

Online training – digitising the civil services

Crucial to this shift is the government’s emphasis on its Integrated Government Online Training (iGOT) programme — an online training module for central- and state-level civil servants launched earlier this year.

“It will take time, but what is being attempted is to create an entire digital architecture wherein there is constant training of officers that is relevant to their role,” said the DoPT official.

While the government is yet to take a final decision in the matter, it is said to be exploring the idea of linking the training of officers to their postings in various departments.

“A lot of times, training and courses had nothing to do with what officers actually did on the job,” said the IAS officer. “Since there is an increased focus on domain expertise, officers will be encouraged to undertake courses in their areas of work through iGOT.”

The government has already tied up with all its training institutes and international universities like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to provide online training to all government employees in governance, administration and public policy through iGOT.

Among other things, iGOT will considerably lower the cost of delivery of training since it will be digitised.


Also Read: Modi govt plans to scrap ‘opaque’ empanelment process for civil servants, to advertise posts


Breaking the silos, upending the hegemony

Increasingly, the Modi government has invoked the idea of “breaking silos” in the functioning of civil servants, and ensuring there is no hierarchy between the 20-plus civil services.

It is an indirect form of restructuring that the government has sought to bring in through the training of officers as well.

Last year, Modi launched Aarambh, a combined foundation course for civil servants, to ensure that members of different services are not trained at different academies.

The idea behind a common foundation course is that officers do not develop a sense of hierarchy from the beginning of their careers,” said another official from the DoPT. 

“The Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy is often seen as the most premier of training institutes because IAS officers go there… Now, with all civil services going there, this perception is bound to change.”

Greater assimilation is one of the goals of iGOT as well.

“While the training so far has been good, it has been limited to a privileged few within the government,” said the official. 

At present, no more than 5,000 officers get trained in a year, while the actual number of government officers who should be getting training is 8-9 lakh,” the official added. “What this does is make 1 per cent of the bureaucracy highly trained, while the others become redundant… Mandating online training is bound to make training more easily accessible.”

The larger vision

According to officials, the reforms instituted so far are not random. They are driven by a larger vision to “revolutionise” the civil services, said the second DoPT official.

In order to streamline training reforms, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) had last year asked the DoPT to explore the idea of splitting itself into two departments

While the move has not progressed further, it signalled the PM’s emphasis on transforming training, DoPT officials said.

In the same vein, the government is now exploring a proposal to establish a National Civil Service University (NCSU) that would oversee the training of all IAS, IPS, IRS and other civil services.

“While the plan has not firmed up yet, the idea is that the university should be able to ensure that there is a common minimum standard of training followed by all national training academies,” the first DoPT official said.

The NCSU would be set up under the DoPT with training institutes such as the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, the National Academy of Direct Taxes, the National Police Academy, and the Indian Institute for Public Administration (IIPA) under its jurisdiction.

“Right now, the training institutes in Delhi, Mumbai, etc tend to have better trainers, curriculums… There is no standardisation,” the official said. “The university will ensure that the same rigour and high-order faculty resources can be instituted across the board.”

The second DoPT official said the university would also be “a breeding ground for professional trainers” who can then impart training across the academies.

“Right now, training postings are seen as a punishment… Once the university comes into being, it will ensure that there are ample number of professionals who can train other officers in public policy, governance, etc,” said the second DoPT official.

The university will ensure that there are regular training analysis, curriculum revisions, etc. undertaken by all academies to ensure that India’s civil servants remain in sync with rapid transformations in governance models, technology, etc, officials said.

“There are many changes that are being worked on, but the underlying point is that training is not an area that got much attention traditionally… It was casually remarked that the bureaucracy is unchanging and averse to growth and learning,” said the second DoPT official. “Under this government, you see a concerted attempt to change that.”


Also Read: And then they came for me — IAS, IPS officers share fears under Modi govt in WhatsApp groups


 

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22 Comments Share Your Views

22 COMMENTS

  1. The problem with IAS is little to do with training them or their abilities in general. It is a mindset with which they come and exert “Power”. As a child, all the members of a family say that go into IAS because it comes with “power”. Free home (at times in a 100 crore home paid expenses) till retirement, power over businessmen, favours recieved, opportunities to earn crores through bribes, meet with the whose who, and what not. The arrogance with which they talk is legendary and the sad part is that once the new batch comes in, they too become arrogant. They are unquestionable and they need to perform really badly to be fired (if at all). It is not a merit-based system. The world has already developed much more efficient models of government administration and we are still thinking of refining one which was flawed from the beginning. Most politicians want to do things for the people because it gets them votes, be it making a temple or making roads or giving freebies. Bureaucrats are the ones to delay and do trashy execution as they are not bothered since the job is secure and there are no repercussions.

  2. It is not just living to the needs of the day, but with a farther foresight with simultaneous modus operandi to execute efficiently alongwith satisfying the aggrieved of their unjust managerial and administrative lacunae s. SINCE the precious time of those aggrieved are not lost but regained.

  3. Does this really help anyhow to resolve the common people’s problem? Those are around 70% of the total population, with no education,no basic survival facilities, just living for everyday bread and butter. IAS officer and IPS officer posses some unique mental calibre,let them handle the hurdle themselves. Just don’t pressurise them in the name of political influence or routine transfers.

  4. It’s impressing that Modi Government is leaving no area of governance untouched. The drastic modifications proposed in training &, orientation of civil servants will bring in a sea change in the role of civil servants, crucial to meet the demand of aspirational India. Civil services thus may be able to shed off it’s ego centric status quoism & become an effective instrument of a truly public welfare modernist state. Besides, efficient, work oriented, theoretical &, practical training there should also be in place a robust screening mechanism during first five year & mid level five years of service to assess the suitability of Civil Servants for their placements, based their aptitude, interest & performance. The scrutiny should also be made at these levels to purge the services to get rid of corrupt, inefficient & incorrigible ones. The Govt should also ensure the Civil Servants a working environment with adequate functional & career safeguards ,necessary to wean them away from the undue influence & servitude of their poltical masters. The secured work tenure & freedom from despotic transfer posting of Civil Servants should also be taken care of for their smooth & efficient working. Hopefully, the Government will make a concerted & holistic effort to streamline these long overdue changes.

  5. Get rid of this shit colonial service. It has all the inherent evils of a non meritocratic system – one exam for life, perks and priveleges from medieval times, time based promotions, devotion to hierarchy, political nexus, lack of openness, talent locked and lost, low morale and the list goes on. Remove all this, make them compete in the labor market after a decade in the ‘service’ and you will know how they get assessed in the real world. An officer’s real value is post retirement and it is directly proportional to the friends they made, among rich businesses, politicians of power and foreign governments. Can anybody in this country ever have an honest debate about the worth of this service in the 21st century? Please educate me..

    • Many of the things you said are absolutely correct. Clearing a single exam can’t be the basis for lifelong privilege. However, no country in world gives up governance entirely to market forces. A permanent bureaucracy is needed no matter how much of colonial hangover we attach with it. Thus, solution has to be a middle one. Like you yourself said, there must be mid-career reviews, training opportunities, merit based promotion system etc. This service is needed in 21st century as well, though you would need to change it’s packaging to ensure it’s relevance.

      • Agree with your point that market forces cannot substitute good governance. Let us even leave the political-burearcacy nexus. Instead look at the relationship between the bureaucrats and the broad base of folks, the lower heirarchies that move files (literally). If incentives are so skewed due to one exam (made it to IAS, did not make it) and that becomes lifelong servitude/angst disguised as a job, I would be a very pissed off and a horribly low motivated individual. We have a choice to make the ‘service’ purely meritocratic (on the job performance, fired for underperformance) and the cadre more broad based or we can make small tweaks to adjust motivations of just senior folks by mollycoddling them to no effect. My preference is to the former as I would hate to know my trajectory is finite on the first day of work. If yours is otherwise, I respect your views too.

    • Actually Even if we want to get rid of Civil Services (which would be useless) we can’t. They form such crucial part in our system that govt without without civil services would crash. And we don’t have to get rid of something just because it was a colonial legacy. Lastly civil services was infact a good idea and we’ll be needing them in 20th Century as well

    • Actually Even if we want to get rid of Civil Services (which would be useless) we can’t. They form such crucial part in our system that govt without without civil services would crash. And we don’t have to get rid of something just because it was a colonial legacy. Lastly civil services was infact a good idea and we’ll be needing them in 20th Century as well

    • Actually Even if we want to get rid of Civil Services (which would be useless) we can’t. They form such crucial part in our system that govt without without civil services would crash. And we don’t have to get rid of something just because it was a colonial legacy. Lastly civil services was infact a good idea and we’ll be needing them in 20th Century as well

  6. No where in the world , government officers, specially IAS officers, exert so much power as they do in India. And this hunger for power breeds corruption. Not all officers are corrupt though, I have seen honest IAS officer also who does not have even a flat of his own after thirty years of service. But they rae exceptions only.

  7. Why there is a need for
    1) learning horse riding
    2)eating like a white sahib with spoon & fork
    3) wearing western dress with coat in tropical India

    • I m totally agree with u. .. There is no need for horse riding all that things that they do in LIBASANA training centers……

  8. They also teach how to tourcher pupils who did not able to give bribe as they are THE money collected symbols of working government nothing will change with any reform very said experience from this side

  9. Reformation is must along with the time and needs . But this projected task is a herculean job . Base is very deep rooted with a strong girders . Let we all bless Modi be successful in this endeavor

  10. We are lucky that we have the leadership of Mr. Narendra Modi. Have we seen this kind of effort by any of the previous governments in past 70 Years. The present day beaurocrat is a perverted version of their earlier British version.

    • Mr Modi is well on way in making India into a laughing stock
      He has completely lost focus on economy and is wasting time on promoting cow urine

  11. Modi government is transformative in more than setting new normal. Pendulum is moving from left to right after 70 years. Obviously this is neither the end nor permanent. One who reads this will hang in there for long time and would have made impact as well.

  12. It is nice to see that in The Print, ocassionally good news also makes headlines. Bad news alone is not news. Break that silo!

  13. As with much else, there is a gulf between theory and practice. Each young mandarin, after training at the Academy, looks around, sees how the system is functioning. Who is getting ahead, which attributes seem to be getting rewarded. IPS officers serving all over the country, including those in the better administered states, see Uttar Pradesh and Delhi.

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