The Indian Administrative Service (IAS), which mans nearly 90% of the top secretary-level posts, had managed to block a Sixth Pay Commission recommendation to introduce fresh blood into the government from outside the civil services.
But it may have to gear up again for another battle.
This time, the 4,800-strong IAS not only faces the prospect of the Modi government reviving the plan to induct expertise from the industry, academia and society but also counter stinging attacks from other non-IAS central service associations before the seventh pay commission.
At their presentations before the panel, many central services pleaded with the commission to fix the selection procedure for senior ranks at the Centre that had been rigged to give the IAS a clear edge.
This is done through the process of empanelment by a group of secretary-rank officers.
In principle, the empanelment process seeks to create a shortlist of eligible officers evaluated on the basis of their “merit” and “suitability” for serving at the Centre. In practice, it is an opaque glass ceiling.
How else can IAS officers, who account for barely 15% of officers at the director level, end up getting appointed to nearly 75% of the joint secretary posts at the Centre, asked a revenue service officer.
It is a sentiment shared by others as well, right from the two other All India Services, Indian Police Service and the Indian Forest Service as well as Central Group ‘A’ services including the civil accounts service, central secretariat service and the numerous railway services.
For instance, 1997 batch IAS officers have been empanelled to hold JS-level posts but forest or revenue service officers who are senior to them by seven years are not.
So it wasn’t surprising that 91% of non-IAS officers surveyed in the government-commissioned civil services survey in 2010 stressed on the need to make this selection process objective. “This is a matter of serious concern to the officers from central services,” the report said.
The same survey also pointed out that a majority of non-IAS officers were not against the plan to induct expertise from the private sector into the government.
“Why should we worry about losing something that we don’t have,” a police officer said, suggesting that the government should first use the expertise within the system before going on a fishing expedition outside.