Mains Paper2: Governance| Role of civil services in democracy
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims: Not much
Mains level: If lateral entry is allowed in civil services, it could be a game changing decision. The government has sought recommendations in this regard. This issue can also be linked to GS Mains paper 2 topic i.e. role of Civil service in Democracy. UPSC has asked question on Similar type of issue in Mains 2014(Domain based Civil service!)
- This article explains how the government can bring much needed external expertise into the civil services system.
- The IAS was modeled on the colonial era Indian Civil Service as a generalist service to deliver the core functions of the state — collect taxes and maintain law and order thus specialization remaining the major lacuna of the system.
- The challenge of development in a large, populous and impoverished country was probably not on the radar screen when the IAS was designed.
- So to deliver in the changing dynamics the IAS adapted by retooling itself as ‘’development agent’’.
- But with economic reforms the nature of administration changed, demanding domain knowledge especially at the policy level. Role and relevance of IAS was again questioned. Two views emerged-
First view: Best leadership is provided by generalist
- They have a greater breadth of knowledge and understanding. Specialists tend to have a tunnel view.
- The domain knowledge input to the policy making can be accomplished by employing domain experts advising the generalist leader in decision making. According to this view, a good IAS officer can head the Department of Agriculture as competently as she would the Department of Shipping.
- The IAS, as generalists, tend to over-weigh their experience of the process and form over understanding of policy content. Only specialist can provide leadership in the functional area.
- There is no need to look for binary solutions. The Constitution Review Commission 2002 suggested the “need to specialise some of the generalists and generalize some of the specialists”.
Career progression of an IAS officer-
- The first decade of an IAS’ career is typically spent in field postings with responsibility for policy execution which hones her administrative and people management skills, apart from imparting invaluable understanding of ground realities.
- From there an IAS graduates to policy formulating positions, at the centre and state levels. This transition provides the ideal marker for beginning to specialise — combining the soft skills they have learnt with the hard skills of a specialised domain.
Why managing Specialisation can be a problem?
- There remains many questions to be answered like how much specialisation should there be?
- How should officers be allocated among the specialisations?
- What should be the weightages for expressed preferences and revealed competencies? Once allocated a specialisation, how should an officer’s career be managed?
- Categorise ministries broadly into three groups — welfare ministries, regulatory ministries and economic ministries since experience suggests that each of these categories demands broadly similar behavioural attributes and aptitudes. But in this, allocating officers across specialisations should not be reduced to a formula.This will facilitate officers in specialising as they move up the hierarchy based on their revealed aptitude and performance record.
- Specialisation need not be mandatory. One of the tasks of cadre management will indeed be to match the supply and demand across specialisations and generalists.Once they are allocated specialist positions, officers should be afforded opportunities to deepen their domain knowledge through study and training
- An IAS should be allowed to work outside the government, preferably in a non-governmental organisation for a few years, irrespective of their area of specialisation. This is bound to make them more useful and relevant civil servants.