In the end, this may have been the closest non-IAS officers came to parity with the much-envied IAS.
The Modi government has deferred a decision on the pay panel’s contentious recommendation for parity between IAS and non-IAS officers when the Union Cabinet took a call on its recommendations earlier in the day.
The move seals any hopes of blunting the edge that IAS officers have enjoyed in pay and career progression over other civil services such as the Indian Police Service (IPS) and the Indian Revenue Service (IRS).
The high-powered panel of civil servants headed by cabinet secretary PK Sinha – that was tasked to examine the report – had suggested that the contentious parity issue be looked at separately by the ministries concerned.
“The Cabinet has accepted this view,” a government official said. Not that the Cabinet had much of a choice. “The panel’s recommendation for parity was never discussed by the committee of secretaries,” he said.
Asked about the rationale of not taking a decision on the contentious parity issues, finance minister Arun Jaitley told HT that it would have come in the way of early implementation of the panel’s report. “The discussions would have gone on endlessly,” the minister said.
The pay panel had recommended ending the IAS’ supremacy by a two-thirds majority.
Pay panel chairman Justice AK Mathur backed parity between IAS and the two other All India Services, Indian Police Service and Indian Forest Services. A second member, Prof Rathin Roy, wanted to abolish the practice of giving any edge to any civil service while a third member, Vivek Rae – a retired IAS officer – insisted the special treatment for the IAS continues.
“It is disappointing, but not surprising,” said an official of Confederation of Civil Service Associations (CoCSA), a group of 20 non-IAS civil services.
The IAS had an overwhelming majority member committee headed by Sinha that scrutinised the recommendations; eight out of 13 members of the panel were IAS officers. And nobody really expected them to take a decision against their own service.
IAS officials have argued that the pay panel had exceeded its brief by jumping into the parity controversy, a view echoed by Vivek Rae in his dissent note too.
Speculation that the pay panel would push for bridging the divide between the IAS and other civil services including the police had last year provoked a social media spar even before the report was submitted.
Pay panel chairman Justice Mathur’s backing for parity was the strongest so far.
Justice Mathur had insisted that the IAS had arrogated to itself all power of governance and cornered all key posts in the government. “It is time that government take a call that subject domain should be the criteria to man the posts and not a generalist,” he said in his report, warning that the widening gap between the IAS and other services could lead to a chaotic situation.