Pay commission recommends doing away with privileges to IAS, renewing an old debate among various administrative services
Shishir Tripathi | December 8, 2015
As many as 1003 of the total 1089 successful candidates in civil service exam (CSE), that is 92 percent of them, marked Indian administrative service (IAS) as their first choice among a host of services allocated to successful candidates – like Indian police service (IPS), Indian foreign service (IFS), Indian revenue service (IRS) and so on. In previous years too, there was an overwhelming preference for the IAS. Why? Because most ministries and departments get their top bureaucrats from the IAS. The highest ranking bureaucrat of the country too comes from IAS. Other services have challenged this apparent superiority of the IAS in recent years.
The seventh pay commission report is going to be another arena for this rivalry. In the run-up to its submission, officers took sides and fought on social media, with hashtags like #IASnoUsainBolt and #parity4allservices trending. The report has added fuel to fire. One of its recommendations, made by AK Mathur, chairman, and Rathin Roy, member, states, “All India Service officers and Central Services Group A officers who have completed 17 years of service should be eligible for empanelment under the Central Staffing Scheme and there should not be ‘two-year edge’ vis-à-vis the IAS.”
The two-year edge refers to the practice under which IAS officers are typically promoted two years earlier than their counterparts in other services, receive two additional increments, and are empanelled for positions in central ministries far earlier in their career.
Technically, the IAS officers get the two-year edge but the actual gap between a joint secretary from IAS and other Group A services is at least 7-10 years. It is very common to find an IAS officer getting appointed to joint secretary and above grade 10 years ahead of officers of non-IAS services.
The pay panel has also recommended that the financial edge held by IAS officers be extended to IPS and the third all-India service, the IFoS (forest service). IAS officers presently get paid more than their batch mates from other Group A services in the form of two additional increments – 3 percent of basic pay – at three promotion stages, ie, promotion to the senior time scale, junior administrative grade (JAG) and non-functional selection grade. This will continue in the proposed pay matrix but will be extended to IPS and IFoS also. The pay panel said as far as the Indian foreign service is concerned, the existing dispensation shall continue.
‘Why IAS is special to me’
“I have graduated from one of the premier management institutes in the country and worked in the private sector before joining IAS. I have always dreamt of working for the betterment of my country and serving the underprivileged, and that’s what made me quit my comfortable and high-paying corporate job and join the IAS ... Of late, it has been observed that there is a concerted effort by members of certain central services to malign the IAS by launching a vicious campaign in social media and other public platforms. It is clear that the main purpose of this malicious campaign is to gain mileage before the seventh pay commission and bring in the so-called parity in services. A cursory glance at some of their articles reveals that their entire argument is centred on the theory that IAS officers being generalists lack functional/domain knowledge and competence.
“In fact, it is apt to say that an IAS officer is a ‘super specialist’. Every officer gains enough subject/domain knowledge while working in a department. Every decision taken by the head of the department requires a thorough understanding of the subject and technical issues. Thus, the very nature of our job makes us a specialist in not one but many areas. It is this unique combination of filed experience coupled with functional knowledge in various subjects that gives the edge to an IAS officer. It is this very edge over other services that has made me opt for IAS and keeps motivating me to give my very best for this society.”
– Selection from the letters written by various IAS officers to the DoPT
This edge was once justified, according to the commission report, as before the implementation of the Kothari commission recommendations, the scheme of examination was so designed that an IAS or an Indian foreign service (IFS) aspirant had to appear for two additional papers with at least one paper from outside the field of their special study at the university unless the candidate held masters or honours degrees in two subjects. Thus, an IAS/IFS candidate had to appear in five papers as opposed to three papers in the case of other central service aspirants or two by the IPS aspirants. However, in 1979 the examination pattern became uniform for all services. That is why other all-India services have long been demanding parity with the IAS (and the IFS) in pay and promotions. The pay commission has noted that this demand has been put forth since the time of the second pay commission.
Soon after submitting the report to the finance minister, justice Mathur told Doordarshan, “There are three all-India services: IAS, IPS and Indian forest service (IFoS). They form one category that is all-India service category. You cannot make micro and mini classification in this. It is not logical that just because you get IAS you get more promotions and increments. In fact, police and forest services are more arduous jobs, given the deteriorating law and order situation.” He also added that the allocation of one or the other service boils down to a difference of a few marks – not a good enough reason for the discrimination.
Countering this logic, Krishna Mohan Uppu, an IAS officer who also served as secretary to Indian Civil and Administrative Service (Central) Association, says, “This is illogical. In the combined pre-medical test, people who top the exam and get good ranks get MBBS, while those who get lower ranks are allocated dentistry and physiotherapy. Will it be even logical if those who have done the BDS demand to be made the head of a medical college? Is it even remotely possible or even desirable? A few marks make a big difference in competitive exams, and we have to accept that fact.”
Also, Uppu points out, an IAS officer holds a variety of responsibilities and thus has richer experience compared to officers of other services who have specific domain knowledge, which may be insufficient for policy formulation and implementation at higher levels.
“Empanelment and pay parity are different issues. Empanelment is not the job of a pay commission,” Uppu contends.
IAS officers also point to the fact that in 1991 in the ‘Mohan Kumar Singhania and others vs Union of India’ case, the supreme court held the differentiation as valid. The judgment reads, “The selections for IAS, IFS, and IPS Group A and B services are made by a combined competitive examination and viva voce test. There cannot be any dispute that each service is a distinct and separate cadre, having its separate field of operation, with different status, prospects, pay scales, the nature of duties, the responsibilities to the post and conditions of service, etc. Each of the services is founded on intelligible differentia which on rational grounds distinguishes persons grouped together from those left out and that the differences are real and substantial having a rational and reasonable nexus to the objects sought to be achieved. Therefore, once a candidate is selected and appointed to a particular cadre he cannot be allowed to say that he is at par with the others on the ground that all of them appeared and were selected by a combined competitive examination and viva voce test and that the qualifications prescribed are comparable. The classification of services is not based on artificial in-equalities but is hedged within the salient features and truly founded on substantial differences. Judged from this point of view, it is not possible to hold that the classification rests on an unreal and unreasonable basis and that it is arbitrary or absurd.”
Commenting on the pay panel recommendation, Sanjay R Bhoosreddy, chairman, Indian Civil and Administrative service (Central) association, says, “We completely leave it to the wisdom of the government.”
Former cabinet secretary TSR Subramanian says, “It is not a fair argument to say that somebody suffers because someone else performed better. The fact remains that those who get top ranks in CSE get IAS. Like in cricket the 12th man cannot demand the same privileges as bestowed to the opening batsman. The demand of equal treatment by members of other services is illogical.”
Echoing Uppu, he adds, “IAS is a very different service. You do the real work and get the real experience in first 10 years, when you are in a village. As a district collector you interact with people from different fields. You work in different domains. This multifaceted exposure helps in policy formulation when you come to the centre. For example, the education policy looks at 50 different aspects, not just curriculum.”
Citing an example in defence of the benefit of the training that IAS get in comparison to the officers of other specialised departments, Subramanian adds, “I was chief secretary of UP and on the order of the then chief minister we appointed a chief engineer from the irrigation department as secretary to that department. In six months he was thoroughly out of scene as he could not handle the problems in running a department. He could not, for example, handle pay fixation and other disputes. It was not his fault because his training was very specialised, it was technical.”
Officers of other services too have some valid concerns and argue that an IAS officer with a generalist experience lacks domain expertise, which officers of other services have. BP Mathur, former deputy comptroller and auditor general and director of the national institute of financial management, supports the pay commission recommendation. He says, “There are requirements of the posts of financial advisors in all the ministers that should be filled with the officers from services like Indian audit and accounts service, Indian defence accounts service and Indian railway accounts service. But all these posts are usurped by IAS now as there is eagerness among all the officers to come to central ministries.”
Countering the view that IAS officers because of the nature of their work have experience from diverse field which helps in policy formulation, Mathur adds, “The first and second administrative reforms commissions (ARCs) had recommended that a domain should be assigned to all officers after 10 years of service to promote specialisation. Governance is so complicated today that specialisation is a must.”
Other non-IAS officers are reluctant to put forth their arguments, given the fact that they have to report to an IAS officer in most cases.
The cabinet will soon take a call on the pay commission recommendation. If it decides to do away with the edge given to IAS, it will be a new beginning in the administrative history. However, given the fact that most powerful babus influencing policy decisions come from IAS, snatching the privileges away from them would not be an easy task.
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