Friday, March 6, 2009

Civil Services

Will lesser government mean lower quality of governance? Even as policy makers mull over this question, the government is bracing up for a future where its role could change from running industries and controlling economic activity to managing delivery of public services.

This would need, as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pointed out, a new paradigm of public-private partnership that will enable government to work with others in society. A paradigm that would be be underpinned by an efficient and capable civil service, filled with experienced administrators, domain experts and talent from academia and private sector.

The Sixth Central Pay Commission (SCPC) was expected to address these issues and also bring about parity in services. Instead, its recommendations have opened new fault lines among bureaucracy. Many have flayed the recommendations as being "IAS-biased and that too for the senior ones." The non-IAS civil services fear that some of the proposals have the potential to deeply divide the civil services.

Take for instance, the January 20 notification by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT). By reducing the number of years of service required for an IAS officer to become a joint secretary from 17 years to 14 years, it puts the IAS stream on the fast track of growth. For other services, it takes about two-and-half decades to reach that grade. This notification grossly puts them far behind in terms of growth, remuneration and facilities.

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