Reforming Indian Bureaucracy Part II: Efforts to reform the system

Part I of the article dealt with describing the bureaucratic system and a critique of its performance. This part will deal with efforts made in Modi Sarkar 1.0 and 2.0 to reform the system.

Efforts to reform the system

Training-Related Changes

During Modi 1.0, a new rule was introduced under which the Assistant Secretary program for fresh IAS recruits required them to work for three months in a central government ministry before proceeding for assignments in their respective state cadres. This was with the view to expose them to policy making at the national level at the beginning of their careers [8].

In 2019, after the second electoral victory for Modi Sarkar, the government has initiated some bolder steps. A major decision was to have a common foundation course for all Group A services including IAS officers who previously enjoyed an elite status and were never grouped along with other Group A services.

This has been viewed as an attempt to “break the silos”. Thus, the 94th foundation course was a historic one. Held between August and December 2019 for 744 Group A officers including IAS officers, the course not only helped “break the silos,” but training content was also made more real-world centric covering aspects like future of technology and exponential thinking, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, and future trends in manufacturing and logistics [9].

Training content changes aspired to make the training about general problem-solving rather than about solving specific problems [10].

An online test for fresh recruits of the IAS, IPS, and IFoS is on the cards. The test would need to be taken before attending the foundation course. Similarly, the idea of digitalising training is also being mooted. Thus an online training program, the Integrated Government online Training (iGOT) is being contemplated [8].

Also, being considered is the splitting of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) into two with one department dedicated to training matters and the other department dealing solely with personnel issues like postings, service conditions, and deputation. Prior to this, ministries were responsible for training officers working for them, but under the new scheme envisaged, this task would be performed by the dedicated Training Department.

The training department would not just deal with training but would also look at evaluation, monitoring, and appraisals of all officers, irrespective of the ministries they work for. A dedicated training department is expected to lead to better performance evaluation and coordination among the ministries A higher budget has been allocated towards training to be carried out by this new unit [10].

Another idea proposed is setting up the “National Civil Services University” whose sole function would be training of civil services officers from its various branches. In the current scenario, there are a multitude of training institutes for civil service officers and some institutes have better trainers than others so having one university would ensure that all officers receive a standard quality of training from highly qualified faculty to learn about public policy and governance [8].

Lateral Entry of Domain Experts

In June 2018, Modi sarkar 1.0 initiated the lateral entry of domain experts into the civil services albeit on a micro scale by bringing in 10 domain experts. This is being sought to be scaled up in the second term.

In June this year, Niti Aayog hired 38 domain experts as a part of the lateral entry effort. Unlike the regular practice of hiring consultants on contract, these domain appointees “will be overseen by the Central Civil Service Rules, 1964, which govern other civil servants” for the purpose of service rules but will not be entitled to official transport, residential accommodation and certain other facilities permissible to government employees [11].

Carrying out such appointments for various departments and ministries and upping the scale of such appointments will make it possible to reduce the numbers of bureaucrats recruited through the traditional method. For example, some key members of Minister Nitin Gadkari’s staff are from outside the IAS and it is possible for more ministries to embrace this practise [12].

Since 2014, the Modi government has broken tradition by empanelling several non-IAS officers for secretary posts. This move has heartened non-IAS officers who can now aspire for heading ministries in their respective functional areas. Thus, in 2014, two non-IAS officers were empanelled as secretaries.

In 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, four, six, two and six officers were empanelled as secretaries, respectively. In the past 3 years, the highest number of officers empanelled as joint secretaries are from the Indian Railway Service followed by the IRS [13].

Breaking the Hegemony of the IAS Cadre

In June 2019, the government compulsorily retired 12 Income Tax officers from the IRS. A week later, 15 customs officers from the IRS were similarly made to undergo forced retirement on charges of corruption [14].

In the same month, the DoPT requested all ministries and departments to recommend names of officers for premature retirement including IAS and IPS officers “under Fundamental Rule 56(j) (1) and Rule 48 of CCS (Pension) Rules, 1972. Fundamental Rule 56(j) of Central Civil Services (Pension) Rules, 1972, provides for compulsory retirement of government staff in public interest.” What is noteworthy is there is a rule in existence for this which had not been applied [15].

Also, as previously mentioned, the common foundation course for IAS and other Group A officers was started with the intent of “breaking the silos.” Similarly, the iGOT program mentioned above is an attempt at greater assimilation of the IAS cadre with other Group A officers [8].

360 Degree Appraisal System

In 2018, Modi sarkar initiated the 360-degree appraisal system that is commonly used in corporate organizations. Appraisals will involve an anonymous committee of retired bureaucrats to assess an officer’s efficiency and efficacy based on the feedback received from seniors and subordinates, colleagues and external stakeholders.

Additionally, the officer would also be assessed on moral grounds through a comprehensive background check of his/her integrity and reputation.

To put the entire appraisal system online and accessible for review by the concerned ministries, the government has started “SPARROW” i.e. Smart Performance Appraisal Report Recording Online Window. Recently, SPARROW was extended from IAS to other cadres by the DoPT. Another DoPT portal is the “System for Online Vigilance Enquiry” (SOLVE) which helps assess board-level appointees [16].

Restructuring

Partial restructuring initiatives have been commenced and all 8 services under Railways will be merged under the Indian Railway Management Services (IRMS). The decision to merge these eight services was taken in December 2019 [17]. The process is likely to be completed by November this year [18].

The eight services include three Group A services: the Indian Railway Traffic Service (IRTS), the Indian Railway Accounts Service (IRAS), and the Indian Railway Personnel Service (IRPS). Other services included are the Indian Railway Store Services, the Indian Railway Service of Engineers, The Indian Railway Service of Mechanical Engineers, The Indian Railway Service of Electrical Engineers, and The Indian Railway Service of Signal Engineers.

References (continued from Part I)

[8] How Modi govt is quietly ‘revolutionising’ the training of IAS, IPS, IRS officers, The Print, March 2020: https://theprint.in/india/governance/how-modi-govt-is-quietly-revolutionising-the-training-of-ias-ips-irs-officers/381410/

[9] PM Modi attempts long-awaited overhaul in bureaucracy, The Hindustan Times, November 2019:  https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/modi-attempts-long-awaited-overhaul-in-bureaucracy/story-EWO2IHX6wTSpUNpIfDx6NL.html?utm_source=share&utm_medium=ios_app&utm_name=iossmf

[10]  PM Modi is set to change the way IAS officers are trained, TFIPost, August 2019: https://tfipost.com/2019/08/major-overhaul-in-bureaucracy-on-the-cards-pm-modi-is-set-to-change-the-way-ias-officers-are-trained/

[11]  Niti Aayog hired 28 domain experts…in lateral-entry push, The Print, June 2020: https://theprint.in/india/governance/niti-aayog-hires-38-domain-experts-at-director-deputy-secretary-level-in-lateral-entry-push/442882/

[12] A bureaucrat-mukt bharat, Economic Times, May 2016: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/blogs/et-commentary/steel-frame-of-bureaucracy-is-an-obstacle-to-development-its-time-to-rehaul-it/

 [13] To break IAS grip, Modi government is picking more non-IAS officers for top jobs, The Print, December 2019” : https://theprint.in/india/to-break-ias-grip-modi-govt-is-picking-more-non-ias-officers-for-top-jobs/336379/

[14] Modi Government forcibly retires 15 more IRS officers on charges of corruption, The Print,  18 June 2019: https://theprint.in/india/governance/modi-govt-forcibly-retires-15-more-irs-officers-on-charges-of-corruption/251522/?amp

 [15] After IRS, Modi government wants to forcibly retire IAS, IPS, review tainted ones monthly, The Print,  22 June 2019: https://theprint.in/india/governance/after-irs-modi-govt-wants-to-forcibly-retire-ias-ips-officers-review-tainted-ones-monthly/253190/?amp

[16] Lords of the Files, India Today, September 2018: https://www.indiatoday.in/magazine/cover-story/story/20181001-lords-of-the-files-1344297-2018-09-22

[17] Indian Railways to unify all 8 services at all levels, Economic Times, December 2019: https://government.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/governance/indian-railways-to-unify-all-8-services-at-all-levels/73004705

[18] Rail merger of 8 cadres into IRMS likely to be completed by November this year: Economic Times, August 2020: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/transportation/railways/rail-merger-of-8-cadres-into-irms-likely-to-be-completed-by-november-this-year/articleshow/77399045.cms?from=mdr


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Anuradha
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