The PMO has proposed allocating the cadre and service to probationers only after they complete three-month foundation course. Govt says just a suggestion, no final decision taken.
New Delhi: The Modi government is considering a significant change in the existing rules to allocate the service as well as the cadre or state to those qualifying in the prestigious All India Civil Services Examination.
The PMO has sought the opinion of the cadre-controlling ministries on a proposal to allocate the cadre and the service to probationers only after they complete their three-month foundation course.
At present, qualifying candidates are immediately allocated the service as well as the cadre based on the ranks they secure in the examination, conducted by the Union Public Service Commission, for 24 all-India services including the premier Indian Administrative Service, the Indian Police Service, the Indian Foreign Service, and the Indian Revenue Service, among others.
If the proposal does come through, those cracking the prestigious exam may now have to endure a nerve-wracking three-month wait, until they complete their foundation course, to know about the service and cadre they are being allocated.
An earlier version of this report triggered strong reactions, with DMK working president M.K. Stalin demanding the immediate withdrawal of the proposal, calling it a move aimed at nullifying reservation for Dalits and backward classes.
Responding to the report, the central government issued a clarification. “DoPT sources clarified that no final decision has been taken and it is one of the suggestions under consideration,” a government spokesperson said in a statement.
Although senior officials in the know claimed the PMO had not explained the rationale behind the proposal, they pointed to other efforts by the Modi government to finetune and mould the civil services by getting new recruits to work in the national capital.
The government has also introduced a new cadre allocation policy this year for India’s top bureaucracy to protect the national character of the all India services. The policy was aimed at stopping the services from turning regional in nature by letting officers choose from a variety of states as their cadre, aside from their home state by dividing the cadre into five zones.
One senior official, who spoke to ThePrint on condition of anonymity, cautioned that the government was only exploring the option and has hence invited views and suggestions of the cadre-controlling ministries, to see if the option is feasible. Nothing much should be read into it as of now, the official stressed.
The latest proposal has been incorporated into a letter that the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) last week forwarded to the cadre-controlling ministries.
The DoPT, while pointing out that the suggestions have come from the PMO, has sought the “consideration” and “necessary action” of the ministries so that the change could be implemented from this year. The letter has urged the ministries to examine the existing rules of service and provide their inputs on the matter within a week.
The letter has urged the ministries to study the feasibility of allocating service and cadre based on the combined score a candidate secures in the civil services examination and the foundation course.
The letter does not specify what criteria would be followed to assess a candidate’s performance during the foundation course. It does not make clear whether the ‘performance’ in the foundation course would be solely based on an objective written examination or on other aspects to be assessed by the faculty or other officers of the academy.
The letter also does not mention how candidates would be assigned to the training academies.
At present, IAS and IFS (foreign service) probationers have their foundation course at the Lal Bahadur Shashtri National Academy of Administration (LSBNAA) in Mussoorie, while the probationers of other services are divided among the three training academies for their courses — the LSBNAA, the State Academy in Hyderabad and the State Academy in Bhopal.
If it does go through with the new proposal, the government will have to find a way to divide the probationers into the three academies.
Although the new proposal is still only being explored by the government, serving officers ThePrint spoke to had mixed reactions, with most expressing reservations.
One senior officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that the intention of the move may be to better assess candidates.
“Today the qualifying candidates are assigned cadres and services just on the basis of their ranks, without adequate knowledge about the individual. The foundation course can help assess their conduct, behaviour and other such factors before they are assigned a premier service,” the officer said.
But it could have high potential for misuse, he added: “Service allocation after foundation course will have tremendous potential for misuse unless it is done objectively and in a transparent way.” With the proposal coming from the PMO, it would be difficult for the cadre-controlling ministries to say no, he added.
Another senior bureaucrat termed the proposal as being “sinister”.
“If the service and the cadre allocation are determined on the combined score of the civil services examination and the score or performance of the foundation course, it will dilute the role of UPSC by increasing the interference of the executive,” the officer said.
Yet another bureaucrat from the IAS said that it would lead to a lot of arbitrariness. “The papers, the subjects…the faculty and also the overall standards ….everything is different for different foundation courses. As result, there would be a lot of arbitrariness in something as crucial as service allocation for which candidates put in so much effort,” the officer said.
“It is also unhealthy to make the probationers compete from day one of their foundation course; the camaraderie among them will be lost.”