ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Grappling with Foxes and Hedgehogs of India’s Senior Civil Services

One of the neglected areas of reforms of India’s organised senior civil services relates to the rationalisation of its branching structure and the related debate of generalist vs specialist services. The present structure is a confusing hotchpotch of specialist and generalist branches, at different layers of government, and has largely resulted in inter-branch rivalries,dissatisfaction, and a dysfunctional organisational structure, affecting the efficiency of the senior management and governance. In light of this, a rationalised redesign, effected through a mix of mergers, abolitions, and reinvention and with specialised–generalist branches responsible for broad domains of functions, appears to be the most suitable strategy for reform.

Has the IAS Failed the Nation?

The decision to recruit experts from the open market in certain departments at the level of joint secretaries is not enough to radically professionalise the civil service. Internal specialisation must be promoted by insisting on stable tenure in the states so that there is incentive for the Indian Administrative Service officers to acquire expertise in their chosen sectors. Also, the IAS officers should take the entry of the outsiders as a challenge, because if they do not improve their performance, there could be repetition of such recruitment every year.

A House of Cards

The Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1964, which apply to all public servants in the country, date from colonial times and are reflective of a colonial mindset. Civil servants no longer want to be treated as unruly kids ignorant of their roles and responsibilities. These dated rules must be consigned to the dustbin of history and replaced by a new code of ethics based on self-regulation, accountability, and transparency.
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