IAS: Emperor among the kings?

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.

The bittersweet pill

The seventh pay commission has come up with its recommendations and has suggested a 23.55% hike in pay and allowances of government employees. The recommendations have brought cheer to many and irked some. Here’s all you wanted to know about the major recommendations, financial implications, and past pay commissions

7th Pay Commission

  • Since 1946, every 10 years, the government has been appointing a central pay commission (CPC) to revise the pay scales of its employees. Since these pay scales are largely adopted by state governments as well, they influence the income of millions of households.
  • Constituted: September 25, 2013, a week before the election-related code of conduct became effective, the UPA government set up the seventh central pay commission. On February 28, 2014, the cabinet approved its terms of reference.
  • Chairman: Justice Ashok Kumar Mathur, former judge, SC, & retired chairman, armed forces tribunal.
  • Expected date of implementation of recommendations is January 1, 2016.
  • Beneficiaries: Around 47 lakh serving government employees, 52 lakh pensioners, including defence personnel.

Major recommendations

  • 23.55 percent increase in pay and allowances
  • 24 percent hike in pensions
  • The rate of annual increment retained at 3 percent
  • Minimum pay of '18,000 per month; maximum pay at '2.25 lakh
  • ‘One rank one pension’ (OROP) proposed for civilian government employees on line of OROP for armed forces. However, CPC has not used the term OROP
  • Enhance the ceiling of gratuity from '10 lakh to '20 lakh. Ceiling on gratuity to be raised by 25 percent whenever DA rises by 50 percent
  • The highest pay packet for the cabinet secretary: '2.5 lakh a month, up from '90,000 currently
  • Introduce a health insurance scheme for central government employees and pensioners
  • Abolish 52 allowances; another 36 allowances subsumed in existing allowances or in newly proposed allowances
  • Abolish the pay band and the grade pay, but retain the annual increment of 3 percent. It has also recommended a fitment factor of 2.57 which will be applied uniformly to all employees
  • Introduction of the performance related pay (PRP) for all categories of central government employees, based on quality results framework documents, reformed annual performance appraisal reports and some other broad guidelines. The PRP should subsume the existing bonus schemes
  • Military service pay (MSP), which is a compensation for the various aspects of military service, will be admissible to the defence forces personnel only
  • MSP for service officers more than doubled to '15,500 per month from '6,000 currently; for nursing officers to '10,800 from '4,200; for JCO/ORs to '5,200 from '2,000 and for non-combatants to '3,600 from '1,000
  • Short service commissioned officers to be allowed to exit the armed forces at any point in time between 7 to 10 years of service
  • The chairman along with member Rathin Roy recommended the age of superannuation for all central armed forces personnel to be raised to 60 years from current 58 years. Member Vivek Rae did not agree with it and endorsed the stand of the home ministry
  • The chairman along with member Rathin Roy recommend that 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 a ‘two-year edge’ vis-à-vis the IAS

Financial implications

  • Based on the current trend, the total expenditure on pay (including DA but excluding other allowances) during 2016-17, without factoring in the pay commission recommendations is expected to be  '2,44,300 crore. After implementation  of  the recommendations, it is likely to rise to  '2,83,400 crore, an increase of '39,100 crore (16 percent)
  • Expenditure on house rent allowance (HRA) is likely to go up from '12,400 crore to '29,600 crore, an increase of '17,200 (138.71 percent)
  • As transport allowance (TPTA) is already fully indexed to DA, there will be no financial impact of the commission recommendation regarding this allowance
  • Expenditure on ‘other allowances’ is likely to go up from '24,300 crore to '36,400 crore, an increase of '12,100 crore (49.79 percent)
  • Expenditure on pension during 2016-17, without factoring in the commission recommendations, was expected to be '1,42,600 crore. If recommendations are implemented, this is likely to rise to '1,76,300 crore, an increase of '33,700 crore(23.63 percent)

Did you know?

  • To study the global best practices, the commission members visited Australia and New Zealand and interacted with government representatives there
  • The commission attempted a pay structure which has as its basis the Aykroyd formula (named after Dr Wallace Ruddell Aykroyd, a nutrition specialist who did his research in India in the 1940 before becoming the first chief of the nutrition division at the Food and Agriculture Organisation – FAO). The formula reflects the basic average cost of living in the country. The attempt has been to arrive at a proper pay package so that the essentials of life can be availed comfortably



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