The need to reorganize our civil services

| July 18, 2015 | 0 Comments

The need to reorganize our civil services. P M Bhargava, The Hindu, Sept. 23, 2003.

The need to reorganise our civil service

SOME TWO decades ago, the Education Secretary of a State government woke me up to tell me that from that morning she was Industries Secretary of the government. Education, she knew; she had a PhD in it. And she was interested and excited about it. But industry? I asked her, “How much do you know about it?” And she said truthfully, “Nothing.” Unfortunately, few in her shoes would have been so truthful, for they are trained that way. But how long can we ignore the fact that, unlike 50 to 60 years ago, we are now living in an era of specialisation — with even cleaning having become highly technical.

It is for this reason that our health care and education (to give examples) are in a shambles, in spite of the solutions to our problems in these areas staring at us. After more than 50 years of Independence, we have the largest number of the uneducated in the world, the largest number of cases of malaria and AIDS, and of polio and gastrointestinal tract infection.

We may have been better off without the National AIDS Control Organisation which has never had a top class professional as its head. And our bureaucrats make grandiose schemes such as the linking of rivers, when far simpler and quicker solutions to the problem are at hand.

Just imagine, what the state of affairs of our space and nuclear energy programmes would have been if we had civil servants, who were transferred every few months, as Secretaries of these departments. The Department of Space of the Government of India has been, perhaps, its most successful department and it is widely believed that the major reason for this success has been the fact that the department has had four outstanding professionals as its Secretaries: Vikram Sarabhai, Satish Dhawan, U.R. Rao and K. Kasturirangan. And our foreign service, accounts and audit service, and the railway services have done reasonably well because of having lifetime specialists to run these services.

There is, therefore, need to reorganise our civil service on the following principles:

(1) All civil service jobs must be given only to those who are specialists in the area concerned. The specialisation could be done after recruitment into the service.

(2) All appointments to a particular position in an organisation must be for at least five years with provision for extension, as is the case with Secretaries of the science departments, who do not belong to the IAS or any other central service.

(3) A promotion during the five-year period should ensure that the person stays in the same organisation and the same place unless there are truly compelling reasons (such as non-performance) to shift the person.

(4) All transfers must be to a position which is in consonance with the chosen area of expertise of the individual officer.

To make the above possible, the following steps may be taken:

(i) All areas where a particular kind of expertise would be needed by the government at any given time must be identified, and then reviewed for alteration, addition, subtraction or merging, every three years or so on account of the rapidly changing structure of knowledge. Some of these areas may be economics and finance, commerce, industry, education, culture, health care, space, atomic energy, food and agriculture, science and technology, marine and ocean sciences, parliamentary affairs, foreign affairs, personnel and manpower, information technology, communication, railways, roads, biotechnology, power, environment, forestry, electronics and automation, renewable sources of energy, tourism, civil aviation, defence, internal security, rural development, intelligence services, law, electoral process and human rights. (This list is by no means exhaustive, or likely to be valid for all time to come.)

(ii) Applicants desirous of appearing for the IAS examination must be required to choose two or three of the areas such as those mentioned above, in order of priority. They should be tested in these areas, in addition to general knowledge and awareness, and personal and leadership qualities.

(iii) The number to be recruited in each area must be assessed every year.

(iv) The successful candidates must be posted according to the vacancies in their chosen area of first or second priority.

(v) A new incumbent in a senior position must overlap with the older one for a period of at least one month (if possible, six months) so that there is continuity. The briefing of the new person must be done over a reasonable period by the older incumbent himself or herself and not by the staff down the line after the older incumbent has left.

(vi) There must be provision of lateral recruitment of top-class and experienced professionals into the service — say up to 25 per cent of the positions, depending on the need and availability of such persons.

Already, an increasing number of professionally trained individuals are joining our civil service. The above steps would ensure the optimal utilisation of the immense talent we continue to have in our civil service — particularly in view of the continuously decreasing breadth and depth of knowledge amongst our politicians to whom our bureaucrats report.

P.M. BHARGAVA

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The need to reorganize our civil services. P M Bhargava, The Hindu, Sept. 23, 2003.

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