PMO idea slippery slope to ‘saffron’ IAS

The proposal of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to change the system of allotment of service and cadre for the UPSC’s civil service recruits is ill-advised and, perhaps, wrongly motivated. The idea is to allot the service and cadre to new recruits on the basis of their performance in a 15-week foundation course at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration at Mussoorie or other academies. The foundation course already exists but has only a limited role of ranking the recruits by seniority. The new system will make the course crucial for the career of the civil service recruits because it can be used to assign a recruit who got a high rank in the UPSC exam and the interview to a lower service and promote one who got a low rank to a high service like the IAS. In effect, it will overhaul the present selection system by adding one more stage to it. 

The proposal, if implemented, will introduce a subjective element into decisions about the service of probationers. The UPSC selection system provides an objective assessment of candidates. It is not advisable to change the results of that process with an assessment obtained after a few weeks’ interaction with the recruits, which can even be personal. Even now there are charges that the assessment of recruits by the academies is not always fair. When they get more power to determine the course of recruits’ careers, the scope for its unfair exercise will increase. The future of recruits who make the grade after a long and difficult period of preparations and tests should not be decided by the subjective opinions of the director and faculty of the academy. If that becomes the norm, the recruits will be forced to compete among themselves in trying to impress the academy’s director instead of trying to imbibe the basics of administration and training to become good civil servants. It will encourage sycophancy and discourage independent and critical thinking, and promote nepotism and other malpractices. It is also likely to result in much litigation. 

The most serious concern is that the move may be intended to give a push to those whose political and other views are close to the government’s, build a ‘committed’ bureaucracy. It is seen as an attempt to produce a loyal band of administrators, similar to the efforts to saffronise areas like education. Many retired and even serving administrators have criticised the proposal. Some have supported it but want it to be implemented after careful thought and with some changes. Even those who support it cannot pinpoint its advantages and give convincing reasons for its adoption. The PMO, however, wants to rush through and implement it from this year itself. It should be opposed and resisted as it is a harmful move. 

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PMO idea slippery slope to ‘saffron’ IAS

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