IRS officers say we have experience of revenue and govt. Same holds true for railway, forest officers. Yet these ministries are headed by IAS.
New Delhi: While the Narendra Modi government is considering allowing private sector talent a lateral entry into the higher bureaucracy, IRS officers have written to the prime minister, saying there is “merit and competence” in other central services, and not just in the Indian Administrative Services (IAS).
In a sharply-worded letter to the prime minister, the Indian Revenue Services (IRS) Association has alleged a “bias” in favour of IAS officers in matters of empanelment and selection to the secretary, additional secretary and joint secretary positions.
“Currently, no officer from the IRS is at the secretary-level and even at the additional secretary-level. The systematic discrimination has led to a negligible number of officers from our service having an opportunity to work at that level,” reads the eight-page letter dated 22 June 2018.
It adds that at the level of the secretary, additional secretary and joint secretary in the government, appointments are made based on “affiliation to the IAS”, ignoring the “merit and competence of other services”.
Of the 81 secretary-level officers in the central government, 57 belong to the IAS, and only 24 comprise those from other services and lateral entries.
A senior IRS officer who did not want to be named told ThePrint that with the Centre looking for outside talent, the association thought it was an opportune moment to “highlight the talent” within the government.
“The reason being given for lateral entries is that it will help get candidates with domain knowledge,” the officer said. “By that logic, an IRS officer is a domain expert, who has experience of both revenue and government…The same is true for railway, postal, forest officers. Yet, all these ministries are headed by IAS officers.”
There is also a perception among officers that the government is “in the mood for reform”, said an Indian Forest Service (IFoS) officer, who also did not wish to be named.
“This is their last year, and they are also talking about lateral entries, so this was a good time,” the officer said, adding that associations of other services too are contemplating expressing their grievances.
A ‘humiliating’ policy
The IRS association has called the “differential policy of empanelment” for IAS officers and other central service officers “humiliating.” It has now requested the PM to remove the “arbitrary and discriminatory system of empanelment and selection of officers at higher levels in the government”.
Its letter alleges that the Central Staffing Scheme (CSS), which is responsible for allocating central government posts to eligible officers from various services, tweaked the rules for appointment to the posts of secretary and additional secretary.
According to the IRS letter, officers from all 37 services were eligible for the secretary and additional secretary posts but in 2001, the eligibility criterion was tweaked by bringing a differential of two years between IAS officers and those from other central services.
The senior IRS officer said that this effectively meant that officers of central services such as the revenue, forest and postal services, are equated to IAS officers who are two batches junior to them.
“What is also degrading is that we are considered two years junior to IAS officers of the same batch, who have entered the system through the same exam,” the officer added.
While IAS officers require 32 years of experience in service to be eligible for secretary-level positions in the central government, their counterparts require over 34-35 years of experience, before which most officers retire, the letter states.
“We have been practically eliminated through these arbitrary rules,” the IRS officer said. “There is such a strong IAS lobby in the government that they have ensured they block all other services.”
The IRS letter also quotes the chairman of Seventh Central Pay Commission, Justice A.K. Mathur, who had observed that “over a period of time IAS has arrogated to itself all power of governance and relegated all other services to a secondary position.”
“If fair and equitable treatment is not given to all services, then the gap between IAS and other services will widen and it may lead to a chaotic situation and it will not be good for the governance and country,” Mathur is quoted as having said.