Civil service needs reform not pay hike

 Civil service needs reform not pay hike

 

          THE recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission received a heady welcome when they were announced. But a look at the fine- print has revealed several serious anomalies, several deliberately designed so as to ensure the supremacy of the Indian Administrative Service.

        The armed forces are livid at the way the recommendations have been structured, and the other specialist services like the police and the railways, have their own complaints. This is what makes the Union Cabinet’s Friday decision to refer the problem to the Committee of Secretaries, almost all of whom belong to the IAS, a bit of a joke.

 

        The committee which is meant to be an informal body has long exercised extra- constitutional authority in the government by vetting all proposals that go to the Cabinet. In many ways, the problem of governance in India is the consequence of the outdated system of administration based on the IAS. Despite the fact that they get quality intake, which includes engineering and medicine graduates, the service has failed to be an effective delivery mechanism for good governance.

 

       It has degenerated into a kind of nomenklatura system, favoured by the Communist party in the erstwhile Soviet Union, through which key jobs in government are reserved for the service. Over the years, scientists and doctors have resented having to kowtow to generalist IAS officers who run the ministries.

 

       This system has expanded to ensure that even specialised jobs such as the head of the Prasar Bharti and Air India, have been kept as a preserve of the service. Rules of business have been written to ensure that non- IAS people are kept away from certain jobs, as UP Cabinet Secretary Shashank Shekhar Singh learnt last month.

 

        It is to maintain this pre- eminence that the IAS has systematically manipulated the recommendations of successive pay commissions. They have ensured that no one, be he a top scientist, engineer or academic, is paid more than an IAS officer.

 

      This is the huge anomaly that prevents government from attracting talent, or for that matter ensuring that the government is professionally run. Instead of proceeding, the Cabinet will be well advised to look at the Pay Commission recommendations holistically.

 

       It should constitute a Group of Ministers to look into the issues of parity among services, that of pay scales for talented specialists and ways of boosting the efficiency of government managers. Twenty first century India cannot function with a nineteenth century civil service.

 

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