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Asked to bend, they crawl

Asked to bend, they crawl

Author: Joginder Singh
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: October 22, 2007

"With the politicians busy running fragile coalitions and more keen to stick to power at any cost, the bureaucracy, including its retired personnel, had never had it so good in India. Despite the claims that the Government service is not attracting the best talent, only eight officers from the IAS have quit in the last four years, that also after earning their pension for life. More than half a million try every year to enter this elite service.

A little known and scarcely used rule in the past is now extensively used to enable officials to have their cake and eat it too. Under Article 312, Rajya Sabha has the power to create an All India Service (AIS) like the IAS, IPS and Indian Forest Service. In its 93rd report, a House Committee on Subordinate Legislation noted that IAS officers should be sent to non-Government bodies only in "exceptional circumstances" for reasons to be "recorded in writing". The department of personnel and training (DoPT), which controls the IAS, notified this in July 1993.

This rule is in Section 6(2) of the IAS (Cadre) Rules 1954, which allows officers to take up non-Government assignments. A parliamentary committee had observed that the Section was to be used sparingly. It was meant to give officers the needed experience to make their contributions to Government more useful. This rule is being used by the officials with clout to enjoy the best of the two worlds - being in service while taking up lucrative assignments with up to hundred times their pay in the Government in the private sector, NGOs, and international organisations.

Approximately 115 members of the 5,000 plus IAS cadre are hanging on to non-Government assignments. At last count, 64 IAS officers were working with private firms or NGOs while 51 were on foreign assignments including those with India offices of international organisations. At the same time, the Government claims that there is a shortfall in the IAS and it needs more officers. So it has decided to enhance recruitment - 110, 120 and 130 IAS officers will be recruited respectively in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

If a private firm is paying you an average of five or six lakhs per month - in some cases, it's Rs 20,00,000 per month - as against the highest Government salary of Rs 26,000 per month plus other allowances, you would be beholden to it. You would naturally safeguard or even promote its interest when you are back in Government. When such people reach the level of policy making, it's human to slant policies to favour the organisations which have been extremely generous to you."

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