New Delhi: The Modi government’s first large-scale bureaucratic reshuffle in its second term has spread anxiety among Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers in the country — of the 33 joint secretaries that the government had appointed Monday, only seven are from the IAS.
“Never has the government appointed so few IAS officers as joint secretaries in the government,” said a senior IAS officer currently on central deputation. “It is unprecedented actually.”
The Modi government has been looking to dismantle the hegemony of the IAS in the higher echelons of the bureaucracy since its last term.
In its Monday appointments, the government has picked four Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officers, while the remaining 22 are from the Indian Audit and Accounts Service, Indian Railway Accounts Service, Indian Railway Service of Signal Engineers and Indian Statistical Services.
Fewer IAS empanelments
The government’s apparent move to reduce the influence of the IAS in New Delhi’s power corridors isn’t confined just to appointments. The number of IAS officers being empanelled by the government is also at a record low.
Empanelment is the process of qualifying officers for positions in the Central government, from which some are eventually selected as joint secretaries, additional secretaries and secretaries among others.
Since retaining power, the Modi government has empanelled 57 officers for the position of joint secretaries. Only one of these officers is from the IAS.
The government has, instead, empanelled 26 officers from the Indian Railway Service, eight from the Indian Economic Service and seven from the Indian Audit and Accounts Service among others.
“See, it is very rare that the government appoints so few joint secretaries, but the truth is that even the number of IAS empanelments has been coming down for a host of reasons since the last few years,” said another IAS officer from Punjab. “So when the IAS pool is shrinking, the appointments will obviously shrink too.”
‘A way to reduce IAS numbers’
IAS officers, already anxious over the government’s lateral entry scheme, are viewing this new development as a way to reduce their numbers at the Centre.
“This is obviously a way to ensure that IAS numbers come down at the Centre,” said the first IAS officer. “One way was lateral entry, this is another.”
Earlier this month, the government wrote to all state governments asking them to send IAS officers in greater numbers on deputation — a move which is now being seen as pointless in the backdrop of the recent appointments.
“If you’re asking state governments to send more IAS officers, then why aren’t you appointing more from the pool you already have?” asked the officer. “Surely, you have more than seven empanelled IAS officers… This is a whitewash.”
A DoPT official, however, said the two developments are unrelated. “The government has been constantly pushing more IAS officers to come on deputation since their numbers have been falling,” the official said. “Also, the government is facing a shortage at the director and deputy secretary level… It’s in that context that states were asked to send more officers.”