NITI Aayog wants age limit for general IAS-IPS aspirants reduced to 27. In 2016, Baswan panel wanted age limit cut to 26 years, but Modi govt has been sitting on it.
New Delhi: The NITI Aayog, in a recent report titled Strategy for New India At 75 has recommended bringing down the age limit for the general category IAS and IPS candidates from 32 to 27.
But at the same time, the Narendra Modi government has developed cold feet over a report it commissioned in 2015 to deal with the shortfall of IAS officers, which had made almost the same recommendation.
The B.S. Baswan committee submitted its report to the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) on 9 August 2016. It suggested changes in the civil service exam pattern, and wanted the age limit for general category candidates to be brought down to 26.
It did not recommend any changes for SC/ST candidates, who have an age limit of 37 years. Highly-placed sources from the Department of Personnel and Training told ThePrint that the panel made another crucial recommendation — stop the use of regional languages as a medium to write the civil services examination.
A few months later, Jitendra Singh, the minister of state responsible for personnel, told Parliament that the recommendations were being examined. But the report has been languishing ever since — the government never made the full report public, apparently fearing political ramifications.
The Baswan committee report is not the only one to have made a suggestion to reduce the age limit. Since 2001, several other committees set up to reform the civil services have suggested this move, but none of them have seen the light of day.
Three recommendations ignored
The 10th report of the Second Administrative Reforms Commission on Refurbishing of Personnel Administration — Scaling New Heights in 2008 had also suggested reducing the age limit for candidates writing the exam to 25 for general candidates, 28 for OBCs and 29 for SC/ST and physically challenged candidates.
It had also suggested reducing the number of permissible attempts in the civil services examinations to 3, 5 and 6 respectively for general, OBC, and SC/ST and physically challenged candidates.
The age limit for general candidates at that time was 30, with four permitted attempts. However, instead of accepting the report and reducing the age limit, the limit was increased to 32 with six attempts.
Similarly, the P.C. Hota committee in 2004 had said that the age of entry should be reduced to 24 years for general candidates, with concessions to candidates belonging to weaker sections of society.
“It may be futile to expect a person in his thirties, already married and well into domesticity and coming with an accumulated mental baggage, to learn the basics of ethical behaviour during foundational course training in the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration at Mussoorie,” the Hota committee report had said.
The Y.K. Alagh Committee in 2001 had also recommended the reduction of the age limit from 30 to 26 years.
Why govts haven’t acted on these reports
A senior IAS officer with the central government told ThePrint that while a reduction in the age limit for both general category and SC/ST aspirants would be a “wonderful and much-needed” reform, governments believe there will be a political price to pay for it.
“The age of induction into the civil services should definitely be reduced. When a candidate above 30 years of age is inducted into the civil service, he/she gets a much smaller training period. Like any profession, a civil servant also needs adequate training,” the officer said.
“However, it is a politically touchy subject for governments, as reducing the age limit will alienate the unemployed youth in the country, who appear for the exams year after year with the hope of making it to the civil service.”
Another top civil servant agreed: “After a certain age, attitudes harden. Commitment, sincerity, integrity are some of the essential qualities a civil servant must inculcate, but after an age, it will be difficult to mould the attitude of a candidate.
Also, at a higher age, many aspirants have family responsibilities, so their physical and mental capacities go down during two years of rigorous training, the official said.
“Moreover, a lot of frustration develops among those who do not qualify finally. And for those who do, the effective career span is affected, with the result that many retire before reaching higher posts.
“There is a fear of mobilisation by civil services aspirants, and no one wants to disturb the status quo,” the official added.
This article has been updated with quotes from senior civil servants.