New Delhi: Discontinuing redundant civil services, reforming the empanelment process, introducing mandatory deputation of IAS officers at the Centre, expanding lateral entry in the government, and continuing the process of forced retirements — the Narendra Modi government is planning these and more ambitious civil services reforms in its second term.
Senior officials told ThePrint that the plan is to expand civil services reforms, including those initiated in the first term of the Modi government — lateral entry for example.
There is no clarity on the expected implementation timeline for these measures, said the sources, adding the government is planning them in its second term.
The big steps
In a major planned overhaul of the system of selecting top officials for senior positions in the central government — joint secretary, additional secretary and secretary — the Modi government is looking to reform the decades-old empanelment process.
The process has often been seen to be somewhat opaque by officers. The government is of the view that it is also very slow, and the delays in empanelment often result in several senior officials in services other than the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) joining the central government at junior positions.
While the exact measures to reform the process have not yet been decided, officials in the know said there is intent to make the civil services more representative at the top levels.
Rationalisation of civil services, which refers to reducing the country’s more than 60 civil services — eliminating those which are redundant or merging similar services — is a proposal that was made by the NITI Aayog last year.
The government feels some services have ceased to be useful over the last few decades, while there is a need to introduce new services that may be in sync with contemporary times, said a government official who did not wish to be named.
As a result, there is some degree of stagnation among officers belonging to services that have become redundant, and there is a need to address this, the official added. In the next five years, the Modi government could consider merging, eliminating and introducing new civil services.
In a bid to address the staggering vacancies in the central government, there is also a plan to make central deputation of IAS officers mandatory.
Over the last few years, the number of IAS officers coming to the Centre has been dropping constantly. The government seeks to address what it feels is an unprecedented scarcity of officers in the central government by ensuring IAS officers from across the country mandatorily serve at the Centre for a few years.
The Modi government is also looking to take measures to make the civil services more dynamic and updated, according to the sources.
In the next few months, the government will expand its online training programs for civil servants called the Integrated Government Online Training (IGOT).
Another important reform to this effect will be to encourage officials to learn a foreign language. Since every ministry has a division which deals with foreign countries, it is felt that officials from across the services, and not just those from the Indian Foreign Service (IFS), should have a grasp over a foreign language, said the official quoted above.
The government also seeks to expand the pool of officials eligible for the PM’s Awards for Excellence in Public Administration started in 2018.
While the award presently only takes into account the achievements of those working at district levels, it is felt that it should be opened up at other levels to enable services other than the IAS and Indian Police Service (IPS) — which have postings at district levels — to compete for the prestigious award as well.
Lateral entry expansion
Continuing its attempt to bring in domain expertise in the central government, the government will also expand lateral entry in the government in the next five years.
As reported by ThePrint earlier, the government has already identified over 40 positions at the director and deputy secretary levels for which it would recruit individuals from the private sector.
Officials also said the crackdown on corrupt or non-performing government officers will continue as part of the Centre’s anti-corruption drive.
More officials would be removed from government service under Fundamental Rules 56 (J) and All India Services (15) 3 in the next five years.
As reported first by ThePrint, the Centre is also looking at setting up a National Recruitment Agency, which would conduct a one-stop exam for all the non-gazetted Group B and Group C posts in the government.
Since a single individual applies for more than one post, they end up applying through various recruitment agencies, thereby delaying the process of recruitment. The new system will ensure that the recruitment time is compressed to three months, a senior DoPT official had earlier said.