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In Modi govt’s bid to break IAS hegemony, Indian Railway Service is the biggest beneficiary

Hundreds of Indian Railway Service officers have been empanelled as joint secretaries in the last 3 years, while the IAS count at that rank has fallen.

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New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government has, over the last few years, made a concerted effort to break the hegemony of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) over the civil services. But so far, it has been unclear just which other service has benefitted the most from the IAS’s diminishing dominance.

The answer is the low-profile Indian Railway Service, according to the last three years’ empanelment data accessed by ThePrint.

So far, in 2019, 228 officers have been empanelled at the level of joint secretary from across the civil services. Seventy-eight of these officers have been from the Indian Railway Service, compared to just 49 from the IAS and 46 from the Indian Revenue Service. The other 55 officers represent the police, forest, postal, economic and information services.

Empanelment is the process of making officers eligible for positions in the central government, from which some are eventually selected as joint secretaries, additional secretaries and secretaries.

But this trend is not just limited to 2019.

In 2018, of the 554 officers empanelled at the joint secretary level, 197 were from the Indian Railway Service, 85 from the IPS, 73 from the revenue service, 64 from the forest service and just 49 from the IAS.

The year before, of the 411 officers empanelled, 141 were from the railway service, 52 from the revenue service, 47 from the IPS, 44 from the forest service, and 43 from the IAS.

Graph: Arindam Mukherjee | ThePrint
Graph: Arindam Mukherjee | ThePrint

Why is the railway service doing so well?

According to current government rules, the eligibility criteria for IAS officers to be empanelled for a certain position is two years less than their counterparts from other services under the Central Staffing Scheme — an advantage seen as discriminatory by the others.

“Even the 7th Pay Commission had recommended that there should be parity between empanelment rules for the IAS vis-à-vis other services,” a Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) official told ThePrint.

The official said after the Modi government decided to balance things out at the top of the civil service, the other services “have started getting empanelled in proportion to their strength”.

The Indian Railway Service actually consists of many smaller services with their own separate cadres, such as the Indian Railway Personnel Service, Traffic Service, Accounts Service, Mechanical Engineers Service, etc. “So, if you look at it, their cadres are huge, that is why the pool to select from is also huge,” the official said.

Also read: IPS officers challenge govt stand on right to form association, say it reflects IAS bias

Situation at other levels

While the IAS might be losing strength at the joint secretary level, at the additional secretary and secretary levels, it still dominates.

Forty-eight IAS officers were empanelled as secretaries in 2019, 54 in 2018 and 88 in 2017, while the corresponding figures for the other services were zero, five and four.

The numbers for the additional secretary rank follow the same trend — 52 IAS officers and 17 from other services in 2019, 96 IAS officers and 21 from other services in 2018 and 95 IAS officers and none from other services the year before that.

‘IAS officers are the new victims’

A senior IAS officer said there was a clear bias against the IAS.

“At senior levels, the pool still mostly consists of IAS officers, that’s why they are still getting empanelled… But at the JS level, you can see a clear bias against the IAS,” the officer said.

“IAS officers are the new victims. Some very obscure and random reasons are being found to not empanel deserving officers… The whole experience can be very humiliating and demotivating for someone who is prevented from getting promoted.”

However, officers from other services say despite concerted attempts to bring some semblance of parity between IAS officers and their counterparts from other services, the “gap” remains too large to be bridged.

“The IAS officers who are getting empanelled at JS level belong to the 2002 batch, while those from other services belong to 1989 or 1990 batch,” said an officer from the Indian Railway Personnel Service. “The gap is just too huge…So, the IAS officers are just crying foul.”

Also read: Modi govt ready for second round of lateral entry recruitment for 40 posts


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  1. There should be a check at periodic intervals for the babus professional check and performance check.Otherwise our country will stagnate without progress as we have seen in the post independence period.corruption is the biggest problem with the babus.

  2. There is no such thing as an Indian Railway service. Moreover, There is no service in India which constitutes of many smaller services.

    Indian railways is manned by officers selected by the UPSC – from civil services ( IRTS, IRPS, IRAS And RPF) And from engineering service ( IRSE, IRSME, IRSEE etc ).

    All aforementioned services are separate and independent services and do not fall under the umbrella of the so called Indian railway service.

    That being said, no comments can be offered by me on a policy of the govt. on a public forum

  3. The bias is also against Indian telecom service officer who got a good share at director level but his none of officer is made so far JS. What an irony

  4. The last 72 yrs of Independence has shown the incompetence and inefficiency of the IAS. Not a single govt. Dept is free of corruption either. The IAS has been the downfall of India. It must be scrapped. Only technocrats _ doctors, scientists, engineers er al. can bring developmemt.

  5. Air India has, for the first time, had an officer from the Railways to head it. One cannot judge if he has set the skies on fire. 2. An objective view should be taken, without taking sides in this turf war. What is the accumulation of work related experience a railway accounts service officer would bring to the table, as compared to the much more varied career profile of an IAS officer after twenty to thirty years of service. 2. There seems to be a growing tension between the political executive and the mandarins. One would not go so far as saying Divide and Rule but certainly an effort to create competing pools of authority. Unnecessary. Each bureaucrat should be treated as “ trusted “.

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