Even as central employees threaten to go on a nationwide strike to protest the Seventh Pay Commission hikes, about 3,000 to 4,000 Group A officers continue to do odd jobs at the grade and pay of mid-level bureaucrats.
These employees — belonging to the Central Secretariat Stenographer Services (CSSS), Railway Board Services, Armed Forces Headquarter Services and the Ministry of External Affairs — serve as principal private secretaries (PPS), senior PPS and principal staff officers (PSO). Their job profile requires them to attend phone calls, arrange files, pay office bills and even perform personal tasks for the officials they are attached to.
The service has its roots in the administrative reforms brought in by the British empire in 1919, and continued till the 1990s. Though computers replaced typewriters around then, they were still recruited through a competitive examination conducted by the Staff Selection Commission.
These stenos or personal assistants are upgraded to the post of private secretary either through a limited departmental examination or a departmental promotion. After PS, they are promoted to the posts of PPS, senior PPS and, finally, the PSO.
However, they just continue doing the same job at different pay grades. For instance, a PSO takes home Rs 1.5 lakh per month for doing the same job as a steno — who earns Rs 30,000.
The problem was taken into account by the Sixth Pay Commission in 2006. “There is no justification for maintaining a distinct stenographer’s cadre in any government office,” the report said. It also recommended that the Central Secretariat Services (CSS) and the CSSS cadres be merged, and begin recruiting multi-skilled personnel at the assistant or steno level to “act as designated executive assistants who will discharge the functions of present-day assistants, besides performing all stenographic functions”.
Ten years have passed, but the government is yet to arrive at a decision on the matter. The Seventh Pay Commission has also made no recommendation in this regard. “A PSO of CSSS cadre is equivalent to a director in the CSS cadre in terms of remuneration, but the (PSO) does the same job as that of a stenographer or a PA. This is because the work profile does not change with the upgradation of posts,” said a PPS on the condition of anonymity.
“While many experienced government officials in the middle and lower bureaucracy are sitting idle, officials in other departments – such as Income Tax – are facing a severe staff crunch,” a senior PPS said.
Sanjay Kothari, who has just retired as the secretary of DoPT, refused to comment on the issue. “The Seventh Pay Commission’s recommendations for 2006 are yet to be implemented because it takes time to lay down rules and procedures,” said KS Datawalia, DoPT spokesperson.
“The prime minister is always talking about minimum government, maximum governance. The government has also constituted a task force for the optimisation of human recourse in various ministries, as stated by the finance minister in his budget speech. It is hoped that the DoPT will implement the decision at least now,” says a senior officer.