Monday, February 6, 2023
HomeIndiaGovernanceTo break IAS grip, Modi govt is picking more non-IAS officers for...

To break IAS grip, Modi govt is picking more non-IAS officers for top jobs

Appointments Committee of the Union Cabinet has empanelled four non-IAS officers as secretaries and at least one of them was elevated to secretary level. 

Text Size:

New Delhi: In a break from tradition, the Narendra Modi government has been empanelling a number of non-IAS officers to become secretaries. This trend, observed since the Modi government first came to power in 2014, has given hope to non-IAS officers of finally having a shot at heading ministries in their domains.

Secretaries are in charge of departments and it is the highest post to which an officer can aspire to in her or his career. Being empanelled means clearance has been given to an officer to be appointed to a particular post.

Earlier this month, the Appointments Committee of the Union Cabinet empanelled four non-IAS officers as secretaries and at least one of them — Enforcement Directorate Director Sanjay Kumar Mishra, an officer of the Indian Revenue Service (IRS) — was elevated to the secretary level.

Mishra’s elevation took the number of non-IAS secretaries serving in the Government of India to two. The other non-IAS officer holding the post of a secretary at the central government now is Anuradha Mitra, who is the secretary, official languages. Mitra is an officer of the Indian Defence Accounts Service.

There are other non-IAS officers serving as secretaries, but these are in ministries that have traditionally been headed by domain experts, like the Department of External Affairs (headed by an officer of the Indian Foreign Service), Railways (headed by an officer of the Indian Railway Service) and Science and Technology (headed by a laterally recruited domain expert).

The increase in the number of officers empanelled from other services has given hope to non-IAS officers.

“It is really for the first time when officers from other services are even being empanelled. So, it has given some hope to the officers,” said a senior IRS officer. “Otherwise, before this government came to power, it was a given that we will always serve under the IAS…that is beginning to change now.”

Also read: 10 secretaries transferred and promoted in Modi govt’s 3rd reshuffle since May 

‘Didn’t end up becoming secretaries’

Consider this: Between 2010 and 2014, no non-IAS officer was empanelled at the secretary level. But after the Modi government came to power in 2014, two non-IAS officers were empanelled as secretaries.

In 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 likewise, four, six, two and six officers were empanelled as secretaries, respectively.

But officers also said that even though they were getting empanelled in greater numbers, they never ended up becoming secretaries.

“If you have empanelled revenue and forest service officers as secretaries, what is stopping you from actually appointing them as finance or environment secretaries?” said another IRS officer. “This is just placating other services for the sake of it.”

It has, nevertheless, been a stated aim of the Modi government to promote officers from other services in order to break the hegemony of civil servants in the higher echelons of bureaucracy.

Before 2014, non-IAS officers working in central government ministries were elevated only up to the post of directors and deputy secretaries. In the past few years, however, a large number of non-IAS officers have been empanelled as joint secretaries and above.

As reported by ThePrint, the highest number of officers empanelled as joint secretaries belong to the Indian Railway Service followed by the IRS in the past three years.

IAS officers, meanwhile, have remained disgruntled over the increasing number of non-IAS secretaries.

“This is a sure-shot way of ensuring a loyal bureaucracy…When officers from other services suddenly start getting promoted, they will obviously be indebted to the political dispensation which has allowed them to grow,” said a senior IAS officer.

T.R. Raghunandan, a retired IAS officer, however, said it is “an outmoded thinking” that only IAS can head ministries.

“All the services are equally good or equally mediocre — any service getting a lifelong advantage on the basis of marks in one exam is just unnecessary. So, it is a good thing that the government is empanelling officers from other services,” Raghunandan said.

“These recommendations have been made several times in the past as well but the earlier governments were a bit wary of the IAS. Now there is no fear of the IAS, so the government is going ahead with it.”

Also read: Modi govt to slash IPS posts by 50% at Centre as ‘states refuse to spare them’


Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Support Our Journalism

India needs fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism, packed with on-ground reporting. ThePrint – with exceptional reporters, columnists and editors – is doing just that.

Sustaining this needs support from wonderful readers like you.

Whether you live in India or overseas, you can take a paid subscription by clicking here.

Support Our Journalism


  1. As a lawyer i was sitting in Justice L.Narsimha Reddy’s court waiting for my case to be called, at the high court of Telangana at hyderabad. justice Reddy called up an IAS officer from the benches who happened to be Principal secretary to the goverment.Justice Reddy asked him like this ‘What do you think you are doing,Iam passing orders and you are shoving them in the desk,without complying. What is your name and Justice Reddy got very furious in the open court,and the IAS officer was standing facing Justice Reddy with folded hands.Finally Justice Reddy wrote his name on his desk pad to write to the Goverment.The purpose of recounting this story is to tell that IAS officers are not doing anything worthwhile ,except to move a file or two and the rest is to accept Bribes/monthly mamools,cuts, take more perks hefty ,salaries,and they hardly develop districts being collectors/dy commissners.secretaries to goverment.Corruption rules IAS.Gone are the days when Result-oriented performers were there.Now its all lazy laggards and corrupted fellows sit on Arm Chairs.In another incident an IPS officer was summoned by High court and warned seriously for not Registering FIR by his subordinate officer.In high courts this is a common phenomena.

    • The IAS officers should be shown their place : behave like a public servant and stop lording over.

  2. A welcome change. Age old issue of Bureaucrats versus Technocrats in tech intensive Departments needed to be balanced. Judiciously implemented this would stand the Country in good stead. Expertise and experience would enhance control and efficiency and optimise results. Defence and Finance, too need to be headed by professional Soldiers and Economists.

  3. The article at least accepts that the IAS had a grip. Today in the world of domain expertise, apart from the politicians can we really afford have Jacks of all Trades heading large organizations? Just like the Ministers they too end up depending on the manipulating mediocres from with organizations to pass their tenures, ruining organisation to organisation Air India being the living example. The only domain expertise they learn which is common to all organisations is to live like kings make money for self and their masters. It is the much touted steel frame of the floating BABUs that has done maximum damage to this country because they were supposed to be the cream and permanent, for their survival a lot of them sold their souls to whoever was in power by showing the way to be corrupt.

  4. A welcome rebalancing. A difference of a few marks in a competitive exam should not create a rigid mould that lasts for a lifetime. However, it is a fact that IAS officers deal with a wider variety of subjects during their careers, as compared to the more confined career profile of officers from the other services. 2. If there is disappointment with the bureaucracy in general, it is because outcomes are poor. When it comes to flying a dead duck like Air India, there is little to choose between an IAS officer and someone who has spent his life with diesel locomotives.

  5. The puch line *Marks in one exam cannot decide * Thats the crux .Definitely they can decide that the person selected is excellent but not that those remained are subpar ,Life is not milestones but a journey , So is excellence That must be the thing Indian education must keep in mind .

    PS : Definitely we need IAS officers in every ministry because generalisation is always needed where overspecialisation dominates .A physician can better manage a patient .

  6. IAS officers learn to work the system. They know how the system works and manipulate it. Only a few of them acquire additional qualifications and skills, such as Dr.Ajay Bhushan Pandey of UDAI and perhaps few more like him. I have come across IAS officers who are MDs of PSUs. They cannot decide anything without the help of their juniors in the company. It is useless having such a Head of an Organisation. On the contrary, some impertinent IAS officers interfer in matters where they have no expertise and cause immense harm and financial loss. I know one IAS officer who headed a public sector power production company. He ordered construction of about five apartment towers for the staff and officers within the vicinity of the thermal power plant. Every corner of these towers is so full of coal dust, not one apartment has been occupied! But, watch out on IRS officers. Large number of people have sticky palms. Honesty is at a premium in the Revenue department of Central Government. Besides, very few of them are exposed to economic affairs and expenditure side of running the government.

Comments are closed.

Most Popular