Government is planning to overhaul the existing rules for allocating services as well as cadre to the UPSC qualifiers. The Modi government has asked for opinion of the cadre-controlling ministries on a proposal to allocate the cadre and the service to probationers who qualify the prestigious All India Civil Services Examinations only after they complete their three-month foundation course.
This would mean that mere marks in the UPSC conducted All India Civil Services Examination would not be enough for candidates to get their service allocation and opt for preferential allotment of cadre. Their performance would be evaluated all over again in the foundation course before a decision is made on which candidate is suitable for which service and what cadre he or she deserves.
The present rules for all India service officers mandate all probationers to immediately get service and cadre allocation based on the ranks they secure in the examination, conducted by the Union Public Service Commission. The rule is uniform for 24 all-India services, including the premier Indian Administrative Service (IAS), the Indian Police Service (IPS), the Indian Foreign Service (IFS), the Indian Revenue Service (IRS), among others.
Cadre or state is generally allotted to IAS, IPS and Indian Forest Services (IFoS) officers. While merit plays a big role in such allocations, candidates are also asked to indicate cadre in descending order of their preference. Service preference is also sought from successful candidates but final allotment is on merit and availability of seats.
“If the government implements the proposal, it would be demoralising for candidates slogging hard to be high on merit of All India exams to get service of their choice. No one would know until their foundation course, what is in store for them,” said a civil service aspirant who is reappearing in exams to get higher score and service of choice.
While government sources maintain that the move is a reward merit based on combined score of candidates in the main exam and the foundation course, it is also seen as a move to retain talent at early stages of their career in the Centre to bring in fresh thinking to policy making.
The government has also introduced a new cadre allocation policy 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.
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has sought the opinion of the cadre-controlling ministries and departments (department of personnel and training, ministry of home affairs and ministry of environment and forests) on the proposed changes and has desired necessary action on it for its implementation in the current year itself. The new proposal 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 proposal, however, does not specify the criteria that would be followed to assess a candidate’s performance during the foundation course. Also, the proposal does not clarify the format or the assessment of the performance in the foundation course. There is no mention of the procedure by which candidates would be assigned to the training academies.
The serving officers have mixed reactions to the government proposal. Some say that the intention of the move may be to better assess candidates. Presently, 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.
But some officers pointed that the service allocation after foundation course will have tremendous potential for misuse unless it is done objectively and in a transparent way. However, with the proposal coming from the PMO, it would be difficult for the cadre-controlling ministries to say no. The officer termed the proposal as being sinister.
Some are of the view that 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.
Some retired civil servant are of the view that the idea is fraught with dangers as it hands over enormous powers in the hands of directors of training institutes while relegating independent body like UPSC to play a second fiddle. While it is good to evaluate candidates at the foundation course for cadre allocation to ensure their seriousness during training, service allocation process should not be changed unless a uniform and independent assessment process is devised.
However, the basic drawback of the proposal is the non uniform system of foundation course conducted for civil service probationers. While IAS and IFS probationers have their foundation course at the Lal Bahadur Shashtri National Academy of Administration in Mussoorie, the probationers of other services are divided among the three training academies for their courses — Lal Bahadur Shashtri National Academy of Administration in Mussoorie, the State Academy in Hyderabad and the State Academy in Bhopal. How candidates would be selected for each institute is not yet known. Neither there is any move to have a uniform training programme for all candidates so that evaluating them on the basis of combined score in mains and foundation course will be more realistic.