Prelims: Current events of national importance (Agnipath Scheme, All India Services)
Mains GS Paper II & III: Role of civil services in a democracy
Last month, the centre launched the Agnipath scheme for the armed forces of the country with a view to making armed forces leaner and without compromising their combat abilities. The article discusses the need for a similar scheme with regard to the All-India Services (AIS).
INSIGHTS ON THE ISSUE
Agnipath Scheme will henceforth guide all the recruitments of soldiers, sailors, and airmen between the ages of 17.5 and 21 to serve for four years.
- Agniveers: Youths joining the armed forces under the new scheme
- Enrolment: It will be based on an “All India, All Class”
- Departure from the previous scheme: Previously, recruits were required to serve at least 17 years before they could retire with a pension.
- Training period:6 months + deployment for three and a half years.
Advantages of Agnipath Scheme:
- Reduction in Manpower cost: The government has paid more than 3.3 lakh crore in defence pension since 2020.
- As per Army calculations, the savings for the government in this ‘Tour of Duty model’ of recruitment from just one sepoy would be around 11.5 cr (the army initially proposed a 3-year service model).
- Younger force: Over time, the average age of the armed forces personnel will be reduced to 26 years, a significant drop from the current average of 32 years.
- Disciplined Civilian: Defenders of the scheme claim that training younger people will “make these men returning to the civilian world more disciplined and employable.”
- High-skilled workforce: The scheme will also lead to the availability of a higher-skilled workforce to the economy which will be helpful in productivity gain and overall GDP growth.
- Create “future-ready” soldiers: A youthful armed forces will allow them to be easily trained for new technologies.
Similar schemes in other countries:
- Voluntary tour of duty: In the USA tours are 6-9 or even 12 months’ deployment depending upon the needs of the military and branch of service.
- Mandatory tour of duty (called conscription): Countries that follow the practice of conscription include Israel, Norway, North Korea, and Sweden.
Proposed structure of Agnipath in AIS
- Strict review of the performance of AIS officers:
- The objective of the reviews should be to weed out 25 per cent of officers at the first stage (after 15 years of service), 10 per cent of officers at the second stage (after 25 years of service) and 5 per cent of officers at the third stage (after 30 years of service)
- Reason for Weeding out: Weeding out should be for
- poor performance,
- charges of corruption,
- any other misconduct of a serious nature, or
- For being physically unfit.
- Impartial Screening: Screening at each stage will have to be very rigorous and the mechanism to do so must be impartial. It will have to be doubly ensured that the officers are not victimised for political reasons.
- The officers may be given copper/silver/golden handshakes at the three stages.
Benefits of such scheme for All India Services?
- To tackle increased responsibilities: Welfare schemes are now undertaken on a massive scale, and that law-and-order problems have become far more complex.
- Some bureaucrats have gone to the extent of suggesting that the IAS should be scrapped.
- Agnipath type of scheme would allow a huge influx of young talents.
- To reduce People’s dissatisfaction: There have been complaints about police brutality, and extra-judicial killings.
- Young officers with higher moral values and eagerness to solve people’s problems will help in building people-government trust.
- Not allow the building of smug attitude in officers: It has been noticed that once an officer is selected for the AIS, he/she develops a smug attitude that his/her career for the next 30/35 years is now secure and that, under normal circumstances, he/she would be able to reach the top level.
- No wonder, many of these officers become laid-back and are, most of the time, feathering their nests.
- An Agnipath scheme for the AIS will help to remove complacency and smugness in bureaucracy, prod officers to become performance-oriented, and acquire new skills and flair for innovation in administration.
- Non implementation of SCs directions:
- For instance, the SC ruling in the Prakash Singh case of 2006.
- Agnipath kind of scheme will give an incentive for the government to reform the system on go.
- Make the bureaucracy leaner and more efficient: UP has 29 officers in the rank of Chief Secretary/Additional Chief Secretary, 28 officers in the rank of Principal Secretary, and 61 Secretaries.
- Agnipath kind of scheme will allow the inefficient officers to get retired early.
- Reduce Nepotism and Red tape:
- As one senior official had said in jest, “horses and donkeys, all manage to reach the top under the present system”.
- Agnipath kind of scheme will help filter officers and reduce Nepotism as recruitment would be based on merit.
- It would also ensure that the structure of services becomes pyramid-shaped and not the trapezium it is now.
Amendment in AIS rules:
- Panel to review the performance: The weeding out at different stages can be done by a panel, which may comprise retired judges, officers of impeccable integrity drawn from different services, and distinguished members of the civil society.
- The panel should have representation from all the states of the country — it may have 40 to 50 persons.
- Every time the review is undertaken, three to five from the panel should be chosen by lottery, taking care that they are from states other than the one whose officers’ performance is going to be reviewed.
- If an officer feels aggrieved by the decision of the panel, he should be able to approach a tribunal.
What more needs to be done for making civil services future ready:
- The paper, titled “The Indian Administrative Service Meets Big Data” in 2016 recommended:
- Data: The DoPT should use data on civil servants’ abilities, education, and training when placing officers early in their careers. As officers gain experience, performance metrics can inform key decisions about promotion and allocation.
- Lateral Exit: officers deemed unfit for further service at certain career benchmarks are compulsorily retired through a transparent and uniform system of performance review.
- Sarkaria Commission recommended:
- Generalists should yield place to greater specialization in areas of public administration.
- The minimum period of deputation under union government should be laid down
- Set up Advisory council for Personnel Administration: for regular consultation between Union and state on AIS management.
- 2nd ARC recommendations:
- A system of two intensive reviews one at 14 years of service and the other at 20 years. And for a new appointment, the period of employment shall be for 20 years
- It has identified 12 domains for specializationg. general administration, urban development, etc.
- Establish National institutes of Public Administration and graduates from it and other selected universities will be eligible to appear for the Civil service examination.
- It can create a large pool of aspiring civil servants as well as enable serving bureaucrats to attain a deep knowledge of the country’s political economy, increased domain expertise, and improved managerial skills
- The age of entry for general candidates is 21-25years and a maximum of three
- Hota committee has recommended:
- fixed tenure of at least 3 years for an officer of higher civil service along with annual performance targets
- A civil service board for all decisions regarding transfer posting and promotions
- Hota committee has recommended:
- Supreme court in 2013(TSR Subramanian case): All actions must be taken on basis of written communication as oral directives undermine the credibility of the order
- A Parliamentary panel has recommended the deputation of IAS and IPS officers in the private sector to bring in domain expertise and competition.
- Recruitment process: Rather than a career-based system (with tenure security) of recruitment as it is currently, change should be made to the position-based system (like in Australia, New Zealand, and Britain).
Mahatma Gandhi likened public service to being a trustee of public resources. Civil servants are uniquely positioned to play a role in lifting more than 170 million out of poverty into prosperity. What is needed is professional bureaucracy i.e., bureaucratic in form and structure and non-bureaucratic in attitude and spirit.