The Modi government has drastically increased intake through UPSC exams but 22% IAS posts still lying vacant.
New Delhi: India is facing a severe officer crunch in its premier civil service — the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) — with the crisis hitting both the Centre and the states.
Data accessed by ThePrint from the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) shows that 22 per cent of the total sanctioned IAS posts are lying vacant across the country.
The data shows there are 5,104 IAS officers against the sanctioned strength of 6,553 officers – a shortfall of 1,449 such officers.
The 1,449 vacancies include 926 direct recruitment posts and 523 promotion posts.
The direct recruits are selected through the civil services examination conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), while the promotion posts are filled up by personnel from the state civil services who are promoted to the IAS after serving a certain number of years in their respective states.
The current UPSC recruitment figures, however, are the highest they have been in several decades — over the past two years, the UPSC has directly recruited 180 candidates for the premier service.
But this intake is offset by the fact that anywhere between 145 and 160 officers also retire every year, resulting in an annual net addition of just about 30-40 officers to the IAS cadre.
Assuming that no new posts are created, and if the same level of recruitment is maintained, it may take about 35 years to make up the shortfall of IAS officers.
A decade of abysmally low recruitment in the 1990s
Data analysed by ThePrint shows that the crisis began to build during the late 1990s and early 2000s when the annual intake for the civil services was at its lowest.
According to the data, just 55 candidates were selected for the IAS in 1998, 50 in 1999, 55 in 2000 and 56 in 2001.
In 2002, the recruitment through UPSC was 59, 69 in 2003, 83 in 2004, 89 in 2005, 85 in 2006 and 91 in 2007.
A senior bureaucrat blamed these years for the current shortfall.
“The IAS recruitment was at an all-time low for several years back then and that is a major factor to the increasing vacancies in IAS positions at present,” the official said. “Now they can’t be filled in one go, even if the states ask for more officers”.
The recruitment figures began increasing only in 2008, when it shot up to 112, with the subsequent years of 2009 and 2010 seeing 117 and 131 recruitments respectively.
The annual IAS intake has increased substantially under the Narendra Modi government. For instance, there were 176 IAS selections in 2014 and 171 in 2015. In 2016 and 2017, the figure was 180.
The Modi government, in the same period, has notified fewer vacancies across the civil services. The vacancies are determined by the requirement raised by various state governments and central agencies.
In 2018, the UPSC notified a total of 782 vacancies while in 2017, it had notified 980 vacancies, the lowest in a decade.
The numbers are being viewed as an attempt by the government to have a leaner bureaucracy.
Six states account for 40 per cent of vacancies
Just six states — Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal and UP — account for nearly 40 per cent, or 565, of the total vacancies of IAS officers.
Uttar Pradesh, the data shows, is the worst with 110 posts lying vacant, followed by Bihar (107) and West Bengal (98).
In the direct recruitment category, 320 of these vacancies are in five states — Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. In the direct recruitment category, the DoPT assigns a specific number of IAS officers to states every year after the UPSC exam, depending on both the states’ requirements and the preferences put forth by the qualifying candidates.
Bihar and Karnataka, along with Jharkhand, Haryana and J&K, are the worst performers in filling up the IAS promotion quota, where officers from the state services are elevated, accounting for 237 of the vacant posts (45.3 per cent of total) in this category.
Experts say this is a worrying trend as the onus, in filling promotion vacancies, is with the states, many of which have a shortage of officers.
“Promotion vacancies in IAS can be filled up immediately by the states,” a senior DoPT official told ThePrint. “Many states don’t initiate the process for holding Departmental Promotion Committee (DPC), which leads to an accumulation of promotion vacancies in the IAS”.
The DPC is a mechanism through which states fill up their promotion vacancies. DPCs are held in the UPSC, where a member of the UPSC chairs a meeting with Central and state government representatives.
Sources said the DPCs are supposed to be initiated and driven by the states whereas the DoPT is only supposed to confirm the number of vacancies reported by the states.
States’ attitude, legal issues stumbling blocks
The senior DoPT official blamed a lackadaisical attitude on part of the states and a large number of pending court cases against state civil service officers for stalling the filling up of promotion quota vacancies.
“Many states end up asking for additional direct recruit IAS officers from the central government to fill up their vacancies, whereas they should first make rigorous efforts to fill up the promotion vacancies on priority,” the official said.
Asked if the number of direct recruitment of IAS can be increased from the present 180, the official pointed out that it is the highest annual intake in the history of the civil services.
“It will not be desirable to increase the direct recruitment to IAS from the present high level since it will disrupt the entire cadre management of the IAS,” the official said.
The brunt of this IAS officer shortage, however, is borne by the central government, since there is no central cadre and the Centre is dependent on the states for IAS officers at all levels.
Most states, grappling with shortages of their own, do not send the required number of officers to the Centre.