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Putting the 'babus' under the scanner

Feb 16, 2012

Amitabh Thakur, an IPS officer from the Uttar Pradesh Cadre, is the anti-thesis of the image that the Indian bureaucracy is - sluggish, laidback and opaque - in the minds of the people. Presently in the Rules and Manuals Department, he reacts to the news that a government job may no longer be the safe haven for Indian bureaucrats.

Of the various laws governing the All India Services, there is the All India Services (Death-cum-Retirement Benefits) Rules. As the names specifies, the Rules are primarily concerned with matters related to superannuation, including Removal, Dismissal or Resignation from Service, Compulsory Retirement as a Measure of Penalty, voluntary retirement and so on. On January 31 this year, the Government of India made a modification in these Rules. 

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While under Rule 16(3), initially the Central Government was empowered to retire from service a member of the All India Service in public interest on the date on which such member completed 30 years of qualifying service or attained 50 years of age after at least three months previous notice in writing, or three months’ pay and allowances, now Rule 16(3) changes this to 15 years of qualifying service or after the review when such member completes 25 years of qualifying service or attains the age of 50 years, whichever happens first. Thus, now a member of these services shall have to face some kind of screening at three stages, after completing 15 years of service, after 25 years of service and at the age of 50 years.

If we look at this from the managerial perspective and base ourselves purely on modern management principles, including those related with Human Resource management, there can be no denial that this is a welcome step. Yes, there could be people in the service who might resent to it as being intrusive in nature but their number would certainly be low and would mostly consist of the definite and deliberate non-performers.

To begin with, we need to understand that anyone who enters the higher echelons of the bureaucratic setup in India cannot be off-hand rejected as being incapable. There can be no disagreement on the fact that the Civil Services examination is one of the most sought after and difficult exams in India and it is a widely accepted fact that only the best among the candidates are able to finally make it to the select bracket. In such circumstances, if a senior Indian Administrative Service, Indian Police Service or Customs officer is not performing to the best of his abilities, then he alone cannot and shall not be blamed. The system and the organization also need to share responsibility. We will have to accept that this happened either because the person who joined the civil services as the first-rate material became a non-performer either because he found that he could survive even without giving in his best to the system. As the human nature goes, if there is a way to inertia, everyone tends to follow that path. The second fact could be that the person got disenchanted or demoralized due to the various conditions in the government.

Both these factors need to be taken seriously and only after a definite plan to counter these two situations shall we come to the point of actually forming an opinion and an action-plan about the non-performers. I specifically emphasize on this point because each of the top-level member of the bureaucracy has been made to go through a hugely rigorous training program and this involves substantial governmental expenditure. Similarly, a long tenure in governance gives the person tons of first-hand experience in actual functioning and thus throwing away the man before actually going into the crux of his non-performance might not yield the desired results.

Yes, I agree that such rules always need to be there and they also need to be implemented regularly, and fairly, but the Government also needs to keep in view the issues behind such non-performance, if any.

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