Saturday, March 18, 2023
HomeIndiaGovernanceMajority of IAS recruits are engineers or just graduates, not 'domain experts'

Majority of IAS recruits are engineers or just graduates, not ‘domain experts’

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Amid calls to induct ‘experts’ into the civil service, DoPT data shows an overwhelming majority of IAS picks have no specialisation of any kind.  

New Delhi: Earlier this month, the NITI Aayog suggested that civil servants should be allocated positions and services in the government on the basis of their talent and domain expertise.

That could turn out to be a huge challenge if official data is anything to go by, as it turns out that a majority of the recruits to the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) —  the dominant civil service in the country — is engineers or graduates.

Data with the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), for the years 2014 to 2016, shows that only a fraction of recruits have specialisation of any kind. The data for 2017 and 2018, although available, has not been fully organised by the government.

Consider this: In 2016, of the 176 IAS officers recruited, 56 had a degree in engineering, 73 were graduates in different branches of science, humanities and commerce, and only 25 had any degree beyond graduation.

Of these 25 too, many had studied engineering and followed it up with an MBA degree. Just a handful of recruited IAS officers had specialised degrees such as medicine (20), in law (1) and chartered accountancy (1).

The situation improved in 2015 but even here engineers dominated the list.

Of the 179 IAS recruits in 2015, 73 had degrees in engineering, 40 were graduates in other subjects, and 51 had a degree after graduation. The rest had degrees in medicine, law and dental sciences, among others.

In 2014, 69 of the recruits had degrees in engineering, 34 were graduates in different subjects, and only 39 of the 175 selected to the IAS had degrees after graduation.

Infographic by Arindam Mukherjee |

“Across batches, if you see, most people study engineering before coming into the service, but that doesn’t mean they should only be given service based on what they have studied,” said a 2016 batch IAS officer on condition of anonymity. “That would kill the nature of civil services in India.

“Very few people even have a Master’s degree in any subject, so there is no ‘domain expertise’ as such — it is something we acquire on the job,” the officer added.

Also read: NITI Aayog recommendation is spot on, average age of IAS entrants is 27

A trend across the civil services

The trend is not limited to the IAS alone. Nearly half of those who crack the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) civil services examination are engineering graduates, the government had said in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha last year. In fact, of the 20 UPSC toppers in 2017, 19 were engineers, it had said.

Moreover, most engineering graduates and doctors chose subjects such as public administration and sociology for their civil services exam, as opposed to subjects from their own fields, the government said. For example, not even 10 per cent of the doctors picked medical science as an option.

“There is always a difference between what one has studied and what one is interested in or good at,” said Parveen Kaswan, an Indian Forest Service officer from the 2016 batch. “In my batch, for example, I can say at least 40-50 per cent of the officers were from the IITs.”

Kaswan lists two reasons for this engineering dominance in the services.

“One, the general output of engineers is very high, and so there are more engineers in every field; and two, those coming from IITs have very high exposure and confidence levels, so they make it in the mains and interviews,” he said.

Call for ‘domain experts’

In its ‘Strategy for New India @75’ document released last week, the NITI Aayog has recommended bringing in “domain experts” into India’s otherwise generalist bureaucracy by suggesting that recruits into the civil services be placed in a “central talent pool”, after which candidates can be allocated positions in the government based on their qualification and expertise.

The recommendation is the latest attempt to shed the civil service, especially the dominant IAS, of what some call its anachronistic opposition to domain expertise.

While a NITI Aayog official had told ThePrint that the recommendation is “just an idea”, which would be sharpened if accepted by the government, the analysis of the educational qualification of IAS recruits shows that looking for domain expertise among the selected candidates may be an exercise in vain, some former civil servants said.

Also read: NITI Aayog says cap IAS entry age at 27: Keeping services youthful or limiting talent pool?

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  1. I can’t understand why this print have problem with Civil services officer and specially with ias. I guess that all the reporters of print are failed in upsc cse exam so I’m frustration they are writing against ias.

  2. I support many of the people who have added their valuable inputs here like Kavita, Sandip Patel, Dr Mohan Ranawade and Amitabh Shrivastava. The initial ten years of service of an IAS officer that forms the all-important grassroots level exposure has nothing to do with educational background. They are mostly of generalist nature. It is when they start to get posted in the headquarters, they are in need of domain expertise. I can give the author several examples of officers who have acquired specialized degrees in the course of their career, MBAs PhDs even, in fields completely different from what they did in graduation. That too from some of the top universities in the world like Harvard, MIT and Oxford. On the whole the article demonstrates the lack of research on the part of the author and the paucity of understanding of how the service works.

  3. Niti Ayog’s opinion is a frantic search without doing any homework,only a plethora of datas are given.But, it is a good gesture for national interest.First of all the title of IAS is possibly is a common man unfriendly term and probably an undemocratic one.S econdly entry qualification should be raised accordingly the age.Engineering degree as well as PG holders are also domain specific.But presently domain specific postings are not given.Therefore domain specific posts should be advertised,accordingly persons should apply.Alas !Our our political allrounders have not thought of it yet.

  4. what problems do you have with engineers? A candidate with engineering background especially civil is most suited for this job because of the nature of work he does in engineering right from finance, budgeting to infrastructure. Any one who works hard snd has talent should get the post. Print, don’t write articles with just half knowledge about anything. I never expected such article from you.

  5. Upsc selection process is very difficult from other exams. so whos student were clear this exam and got the job an ias officer they are able to manage everything from other expert. Handle the people, decision making, public relations and handle all aspects.they are very expert in all matter so that it does not mater who held which degree, low, engineer, commerce, humunity or other.hence niti ayog is wrong decision for upsc aspirant Because the ias aspirants doing is very hard work from all aspect

  6. I don’t know why NITI ayog is approching for changes in the selection of IAS on the daily basis,which is created problem for the students who are preparing for the IAS or who want to be IAS in future.If some is passing the CSE then its means that person is master and intelligent enough that he/ she can handle any situation.So i kindly request you not to do give such kind of statements because these things creating a mental pressure on us.

  7. Niti ayog thinking in very limited dimensions in so many ways.
    1. Regarding age limitations in UPPSC
    I am school drop student because of financial constraint. Now again I want to study and complete my graduation after few years. And I am preparing for upsc. Being as village student we face lot of challenge. We have very limited information.That not make sense , village student is not talent.NITI ayog policies only good for rich student which will get everything timely. Not for us which will get late degree information knowledge and so on…
    Niti ayog damage current policies for upsc regarding age.

  8. The Print need to publish articles by experts of that domain only. The author has made many comments without understanding what is expertise and how expertise is developed.
    Further, this article does not give any concrete suggestions. Simply, a collection of statistics and general observations.

  9. Before asking for a domain expert , please change the eligibility criteria for the exam. On one hand you are sayingthat a normal graduate can take the exam and on the other side you want expertise in the one specific field .Just for the sake of change you are altering a process which has given capable and meritorious candidates. Think twice !!

  10. Author has no idea of socio economic ground realities. All IAS and other service officers started as GENERALIST and performed well. Domain expertise is learnt with pasaage of time and experience. If these officers would not have been there country would have faced several problems as intellectual strength is too weak as how a doctor or economist can solve the water problem unless has idea of day to day problems. Who will control law and order or provide the nutrient deficient poor people the right mix of food. In fact tnis article is poorly researched and VAUGE. as article says sime foemer officials say then kindly give the NAME of these bureacrats. Why say some. I think this article is sponsored by neolibetal people and party. The Print should publish analytical not biased one.

  11. In today’s information world, engineers are the communities which are flexible enough to adapt any challenges. They are empowered with intellect to serve any government field based on their exposure to the changing world scenarios. Students from other backgrounds are not so much exposed to the world. Hence engineers are ruling everywhere.

    Why NITI aayog is not suggesting to pursue political career only for those who are qualified in political science, political philosophy, anthropology, social behavior and other humanities subjects? Let there be no MP, MLA, minister, PM/CM without humanities qualification.

  12. We have to live with the time.Expertise is requirement to enable faster & correct decissions in complex situations.Gone are the days when lack of expertise in myriad operations of the Govt functions forced induction of bright minds to become jackal of all trades.With abundance of professional expertise,a rethinking is required to harness the services of these domain experts in bureaucracy, many of whom have also exceptional leadership abilities.

  13. The writer of this article is illinformed to say that engineering is not specialization. Infact engineering is the only course which offers specialization at graduation.

  14. If any body think that indian bureaucratic system has worked well or is working well, then what can be said.Every thing is relative.
    When any one try to change the system for better , people are themselves reluctant to change.
    We are corrupt people and run by mostly corrupt system.

  15. They are looking for “domain expertise”. Ok! But, if Most of the selected candidates in UPSC CSE are from engineering background. So what’s wrong with that? One should notice, particularly NITI Aayog that why Engineers are leaving their engineering subject and getting attracted towards CSE. Loophole is in the engineering regime itself. Students from Engineering college knows better that work hard where you get result. In India engineering has become a joke. Thinking along with CSE also think about the overhauling of Engineering education.
    All these are result of letting education become business leading to “Jobless Growth” thereafter.

  16. What Niti ayog has proposed for IAS recruitment will definitely boost the administrative system and development of our country. Every matter is fast changing in 21st century India. The old conventional method of IAS recruitment doesn’t work well now for which pace of development has become slow. There are hundreds of bureucrates of IAS level who mostly depend upon clerks to make a decision !!! Files are pending months after months on their tables without appropriate solution of matters, ultimately putting people in distress !! Hence NITI ayog decision is most welcome.

  17. IAS has been a glorified clerical job that has insignificant contribution to nation’s growth. Can anyone give one instance of an IAS officer who turned around the fortunes of a sub-division, their first level of posting, let alone a district. Lotus eaters! Disband this service quickly.

  18. Engg graduates IAS are doing much better than graduates in other discipline.Most of the IIT graduates are working fearlessly without fear of politicians .Their dealing with industries are far better than others.

  19. It will be a bad move for the bureaucrats (specially IAS) if people other than them (experts) get into the higher position but it will be a good move for India.
    There are many people in India who can contribute to the development of India in the speciality of their expertise much more than the bureaucrats.
    But sadly ,it’s never gonna happen.

  20. Most intelligent people in the world are ENGINEERS..they have high confidence and technical approach towards every problem.. thats why upsc exams looks not that much difficult.In 6 month(semester) we studied 6 subjects mns total 84 subjects(including lab).who said they don’t have experiance in the field.??they are highly experienced. I am expecting 100% IAS officers to be engineers. even they can crack medical exam too?..that’s the power of engineers..

    • Idiot u are not getting job in engeenering that is why roaming here n there 🥴 first of all try to be an engineer first useless

  21. Stating that IAS recruits are not having “domain experience” is like saying that a fresh NDA recruit to the air-force has no capabilites to fly a plane.

    There seems to be a NITI Ayog attempt to push senior Government officials to the cadres generally filled up by IAS cadres by a parallel appointment system.

    NITI Ayog has done enough damage to this Government and hopefully it doesn’t have its own way to advise the Government that parallel installation would do more good than carry on with the UPSC examinations

  22. They are not supposed to be experts ab initio.
    Its like saying that those who get thru CAT or IITs shud be Management experts or Engineers from their inception.

  23. And yet the IAS machinery has been working beautifully over MANY DECADES, without the officers having any “specialization”!!

    The proof of the pudding is in the eating, says an old proverb. Meaning in this context: the goodness, solidity, reliability of the PRESENTLY USED selection process is vindicated by the fact that it “has delivered” — the officers chosen by this process “have delivered” over not one or two years but many decades.

    I can venture a guess. The present selection process tests a candidate’s analytical skills (intelligence) and moral fibre. So, they are quick on the uptake, and upright. That’s why they nimbly shift from one ministry to another and STILL GIVE TOP performance in each place.

    It will be a big mistake to tinker with the present selection method. Another excellent byproduct of the current method has been that India has remained a SECULAR country! Perhaps some people are not happy with that.

  24. This is a weird argument – Law and medicine are specialization and engineering not. And how can we have domain experts without experience as most of the Civil Services recruits have just finished their studies? The whole purpose of IAS is to have a cadre of bright people who can man general administrative positions at least for first 10-12 years of their career. During which they get exposed to various fields in Districts – rural development, public health, Panchayati Raj, finance, law and order etc. Post that exposure, IAS officers can be allocated 2-3 areas of their interest in which they can get advance training as well as on-the-job training to equip themselves for higher policy function in state or central government.
    Actually its not so much about ‘domain expertise’ in civil services than leadership skills which IAS officers attain through high level experience and exposure to public services.

    • Then one should do away with all the education taught in our schools and develop leadership skills. Please just get into a government deparrment and see why our services lack. even after 71years since british left we have not been able to improve public delivery services to the least. The secret to success of the developed world is their focus on specialisation and promotiona of technical experts. In india er do not value both then why teach our kids to be good engineers and doctors rather ask them to be good ias and be on pinnacle of power sheen responsibility and accountability for the rest of their life. Let technocrats be sent to dark dungeons of obsoleteness. This country doesnt require them.

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