The Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre has started the process of empanelling officers belonging to the Indian Police Service (IPS) and other Group A services for appointment as secretaries and additional secretaries in different ministries. So far, only Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers were given these posts.
The move, aimed at creating a larger pool of talent at the senior administrative level, has brought cheer to non-IAS officers, who have been complaining that they are not treated equally with their IAS counterparts even though they join the services after appearing for the same Civil Services examinations conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). A group of these officers has submitted a petition to the Seventh Pay Commission, seeking pay parity with their IAS counterparts.
Cabinet Secretary Pradeep Kumar Sinha set the ball rolling by asking the secretaries of Central government ministries and cadre-controlling authorities to seek nominations of officers for these posts. As per the proposal, the government wants to draw up panels of IPS, Indian Forest Service, Indian Revenue Service and other Group A officers for secretary and additional secretary posts.
An India Revenue Service (IRS) officer told The Sunday Guardian that this was a welcome step and will ensure more quality in administration. “There are certain ministries like Finance, Railways, Information, Environment, etc., that have officers from the Indian Revenue Service, Indian Railway Service, Indian Information Service and Indian Forest Service. They become specialists of these ministries. They are the most suitable people to head the ‘line ministry’,” he said.
Association of Retired Senior IPS Officers president, Sankar Sen said: “The government has done it despite the stubborn resistance of the IAS officers’ lobby. I think this is a good step, which will bring more efficiency in administration. At present, IPS officers are hardly made secretaries, that too only in the Ministry of Home Affairs. If IAS officers can head ministries, why cannot IPS officers take up the responsibility? After all, they also clear the same UPSC examination and are equally talented.”
The IAS officers are, of course, not happy with this turn of events.
The president of the IAS Officers’ Association, Sanjay Bhoosreddy refused to comment on the matter, saying he was not aware of the details of the letter written by the Cabinet Secretary. However, an IAS officer said on the condition of anonymity that there was no need to change the existing system. “IAS officers develop inter-disciplinary approaches, as, during their postings in districts, they get the experience of dealing with all departments, people’s representatives, public, etc. They become versatile and deal with any situation. An IAS officer is the most suitable candidate for heading a ministry’s bureaucracy,” he said.
He also cited a report by a Joint Parliamentary Committee headed by Sharad Pawar, which said some 13 years ago that all departmental secretaries should be from IAS. The issue, according to him, was deliberated threadbare by many senior MPs at the time, arriving at the conclusion that only IAS officers should head the departments.