Friday, 31 July 2015

Short term lateral exit for civil service

It is really intriguing to know that despite the falling standards of governance in India, more and more young men and women aspire to become civil servants  by joining IAS and other  civil services.In 2014,9.45  lacs candidates applied for the examination,6.80 lacs downloaded their admit cards for appearing in the test,4.51 lac candidates took the preliminary  examination in 2137 centres in 59 cities of India.(This was 1.27 lacs more than 2013 when 3.24 had appeared in the civil services preliminary examination)(Indian Express, New Delhi , August 24,2014).Only 0.15% got finally selected.This  makes India's Civil services Examination as  the most competitive in the world.
                                           After serving my  full term in  the IAS , I have  the opportunity to work outside the civil service.It has struck me  more than once that the civil servants  need to  be  given incentive to  move out and work for different sectors, outside the civil service , on a short term basis.Why?
           Civil servants at policy making levels  do  not have exposure to the ground realities of all the  sectors of governance.For example,  if a law  or a rule is proposed to be drafted for education, it is helpful if the education secretary and education director have a first hand experience of running a big educational  institution  in private sector for at least  two to three years.Such a lateral exposure  is likely to  give them an insight into the real life difficulties which an entrepreneur  running a private enterprise  may face.Similar is the situation for a secretary or director in the industrial development department .Different regulatory departments of the government frame rules or issue government orders , which are difficult to implement , and discourage entrepreneurs from making investments.Such a lateral tenure in the private sector can  train or prepare such civil servants for  a better understanding of the ground realities  and develop a positive attitude before formulating or proposing a policy related to  a particular sector.This can even renew their spirit  and make them aware of the inherent efficiencies of the private sector.
                          This is however not a panacea for all the ills of governance .The whole idea of lateral exit into the private sector has the risk of shifting loyalties of civil servants to the employer in the private sector , who may use the civil servants  to create policies suiting him, once the civil servants complete the period of lateral exit and return to the government .
                           The security offered to civil servants  by the constitution of India,along withe fact that promotions and postings  are not  linked to  competence and merit, except  in a very limited way.This makes them complacent and unwilling to go out of their comfort zone.That is why it is important to  encourage them to go out on lateral exit  for  a short tenure.If sufficient incentives are not given , this  valuable idea will remain only on paper.
                In 2007,guidelines were issued permitting civil servants to take up assignments for up to seven years with permitted organisations. The organisations included constitutional bodies, statutory bodies,international agencies  such as the United Nations and the World bank,NGOs,societies and autonomous bodies not controlled by the government. Further,  before 2007, an officer who went on deputation with an Indian body was not allowed to draw more than what the government paid him.But the 2007 guidelines say,"While serving in  constitutional , statutory,multilateral,or bilateral organisations,or international financial organisations,the officer shall be eligible to draw pay and allowances as per the scheme of the borrowing organisation"But such  a policy has only resulted in civil servants trying   for posts only in international bodies like the UNO,the World Bank,etc.The civil servants do not get experience of the ground realities faced by the private sector, especially the difficulties being faced by the small or middle level entrepreneurs.There is a need to introduce some qualifying service in such enterprises for promotions at different levels.