Civil Services Reforms

Apr, 13, 2019

9 professionals selected as joint secys in biggest lateral induction into govt service

News

  • The government has selected nine professionals, largely from the private sector, as joint secretaries in various departments, signalling a major shift in the entry of professionals in shaping policies.
  • This is perhaps the first time that a large of group of experts with domain knowledge will enter the government through the lateral-entry process.

Appointment as Joint Secys

  • So far, the joint secretary-level officers are largely drawn from the pool of people who clear the civil services examination conducted by the UPSC.
  • To ensure the same standards, the entire process of the selection of these experts was conducted by the UPSC.
  • They will join their respective departments on a “contract basis”.

Not for the first time

  • Earlier, some experts had joined the government through the lateral-entry route in ministries such as finance, power and sanitation.
  • The list of professionals included those like Manmohan Singh, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Bimal Jalan, Vijay Kelkar (former petroleum and finance secretary), R V Shahi (former power secretary), apart from Parameswaran Iyer, who is currently sanitation secretary, and Rajesh Kotecha, who heads the Ayush ministry.

Assist this newscard with:

Burning Issues- Lateral Entry into Civil Services

Mar, 08, 2019

Explained: India’s Official Secrets Act, its history and use

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Official Secrets Act, RTI

Mains level: Utility and misuse of the aforesaid Act


Context

  • The Attorney-General has asked for “criminal action” against those responsible for making “stolen documents” on the Rafale deal public, has brought the Official Secrets Act into focus.
  • The colonial-era law meant for ensuring secrecy and confidentiality in governance, mostly on national security and espionage issues.
  • Governments have also faced criticism for misusing the law against journalists and whistleblowers.

The Official Secrets Act

  • The Indian Official Secrets Act, 1904 was enacted during the time of Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India from 1899 to 1905.
  • It was an amended and more stringent version of The Indian Official Secrets Act (Act XIV) of 1889, brought in at a time when a large number of powerful newspapers had emerged in several languages across India.
  • Fearless editors opposed the Raj’s policies on a daily basis, building political consciousness among the people, and facing police crackdowns and prison terms to uphold their mission and convictions.
  • One of the main purposes of the Act was to muzzle the voice of nationalist publications.
  • In April 1923, a newer version of the Official Secrets Act was notified.
  • The Indian Official Secrets Act (Act No XIX of 1923) replaced the earlier Act, and was extended to all matters of secrecy and confidentiality in governance in the country.

Ambit of the Act

  • The secrecy law broadly deals with two aspects — spying or espionage, which is dealt with in Section 3 of the Act, and disclosure of other secret information of the government, which is dealt with in Section 5.
  • The secret information can be any official code, password, sketch, plan, model, article, note, document or information.
  • Since the classification of secret information is so broad, it is argued that the colonial law is in direct conflict with the Right to Information Act.
  • Under Section 5, both the person communicating the information, and the person receiving the information, can be punished by the prosecuting agency.

Did the law undergo any changes over the years?

  • No. However, the Second Administrative Reforms Commission (SARC) Report, 2006, suggested the Act should be substituted by a chapter in the National Security Act that incorporates the necessary provisions.
  • The reason: it had become a contentious issue after the implementation of the Right to Information Act.
  • The OSA does not define “secret” or “official secrets”. Public servants could deny any information terming it a “secret” when asked under the RTI Act.

Why it is problematic?

  • The SARC report stated that as the OSA’s background is the colonial climate of mistrust of people and the primacy of public officials in dealing with the citizens, it created a culture of secrecy.
  • However, confidentiality became the norm and disclosure the exception. This tendency was challenged when the Right to Information Act came into existence.

Is withholding information the only issue with the Act?

  • Another contentious issue with the law is that its Section 5, which deals with potential breaches of national security, is often misinterpreted.
  • The Section makes it a punishable offence to share information that may help an enemy state.
  • The Section comes in handy to book journalists when they publicise information that may cause embarrassment to the government or the armed forces.
  • The Delhi High Court in 2009 has ruled that publishing a document merely labelled as “secret” shall not render the journalist liable under the OSA.

Do other nations have similar laws?

  • Several countries including the United Kingdom, Malaysia, Singapore, and New Zealand continue to use the legislation to protect state secrets.
  • In 2001, Canada replaced its OSA with a Security of Information Act. The “official secrets” come under the Espionage Act in the U.S.

With inputs from:

The Hindu

Jan, 10, 2019

Government plans to rename Indian Forest Service

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Role of civil services in a democracy

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: IFS and its mandate

Mains level:  IFS and its role in tribal development


News

  • The Centre has proposed a pro-tribal measure – renaming of the Indian Forest Service as Indian Forest and Tribal Service.

Why such move?

  1. The move follows a directive from the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) to this effect.
  2. Forest Service officials have always been the first point of government contact for tribals.
  3. But there is no awareness among the service officials on the different problems.
  4. In fact, tribals often complain of harassment like not being allowed to carry out their headloads of minor forest produce.

About Indian Forest Service

  1. IFS is one of the three All India Services of the Government of India after IAS and IPS.
  2. It was constituted in the year 1966 under the All India Services Act, 1951.
  3. The main mandate of the service is the implementation of the National Forest Policyin order to ensure the ecological stability of the country through the protection and participatory sustainable management of natural resources.
  4. An IFS officer is wholly independent of the district administration and exercises administrative, judicial and financial powers in his own domain.
  5. Earlier, the colonial govt. had constituted the Imperial Forest Service in 1867 which functioned under the Federal Government until ‘Forestry’ was transferred to the Provincial List by the Government of India Act, 1935.
  6. Thereafter subsequent recruitment to the Imperial Forest Service was discontinued.
Dec, 21, 2018

[pib] Integrated Government Online Training Programme (iGOT)

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Role of civil services in a democracy

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: iGOT

Mains level: Certified training of Civil Servants


News

  • The iGOT (Integrated Government Online Training Programme) developed by Department of Personnel and Training, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions, was launched.

Why such move?

  • The National Training Policy-2012 mandates that all civil servants will be provided with training to equip them with the competencies for their current or future jobs.
  • The current structure of training for Government servants including domestic and foreign training is mostly available to very small section of the government servants.
  • The outreach of the existing training setup is very limited in view of the large workforce employed in various States/UT Governments.

IGOT Programme

  1. Aim: To provide a broad training eco-system creating synergies across various premier training institutes of the country and to cater the training needs which can encompass all the officials in the entire hierarchy of Central and State Governments.
  2. The IGOT will augment the existing training mechanism with online module-based training coupled with certification on flexitime basis.
  3. The training will be focussed and targeted to the requirement of the officials.

What is included in IGOT Programme?

  1. The e-Learning mode provides unparalleled opportunities for training to a large number of civil servants scattered all over the country.
  2. The latest technologies make available vast resources of learning material and online courses, providing the individuals enormous choices and flexibility in learning.
  3. It will provide a single point of access to the repository of training resources.
  4. The training courses under this programme will be accessible through DoPT’s web portal.
  5. The initiative aims at “Competent Civil Services for Good Governance”.
Aug, 09, 2018

[op-ed snap] Reforming the civil services

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Role of civil services in a democracy

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Debate surrounding the lateral entry scheme


Context

Lateral entry scheme

  1. A recent move by the Centre seeking applications from ‘outstanding individuals’ to fill in 10 posts of Joint Secretary has caused consternation
  2. The response from applicants, however, has been overwhelming

Need for Lateral Entry

  1. In our Cabinet system of government with collective responsibility, the Secretariat plays a crucial role
  2. The concept of a ‘generalist’ higher civil service can be contextualised against technical/specialised bodies on one side and the lay political executive on top
  3. Higher bureaucracy in the secretariat often has to examine proposals received from specialised departments/corporations
  4. They prepare a cohesive note in consultation with other ministries/departments like Finance, Personnel and Law to facilitate the Minister concerned or the Cabinet to take a final decision
  5. To steer a proposal through this labyrinth requires both expertise and experience
  6. The key officials in the secretariat, from the Joint Secretary to the Secretary, are the point persons guiding this consultative process and advising the political executive to take a final call
  7. A Joint Secretary to the government has this crucial “line” function to perform in policy formulation and its implementation
  8. The final decision rests with the Joint Secretary/Additional Secretary, the Secretary and finally the Minister/Cabinet

Apprehensions regarding IAS officers expertise

  1. Can an IAS officer, however brilliant and diligent she might be, based on her experience at the sub-district and district levels, handle diverse portfolios from civil aviation to power to defence
  2. Can a career civil servant, recruited through a tough competitive examination, cope with the increasingly complex matrix of decision-making at the senior levels of government
  3. Whether the higher bureaucracy is equipped to comprehend complex economic and technical issues in order to properly aid and advise the Minister

Lateral entry already exists

  1. Lateral entry at the level of Secretary has met with some success
  2. Secretaries to the Departments of Atomic Energy, Science & Technology, Scientific and Industrial Research, Health Research, and Agricultural Research have always been scientists of eminence
  3. In departments like the Railways, Posts, etc., all senior positions are manned by Indian Railway or Postal Service officers

What needs to be done?

  1. Concerted efforts should be made to help IAS officers, after their first decade of “immersion” in districts, acquire specialisation in broad sectors like social, infrastructure and financial, based on their qualification, aptitude and preference
  2. The government must ensure that only candidates, the likes of whom are not available in the existing system, are appointed
  3.  If they turn out to be truly outstanding, there should be provisions to induct them permanently in the government, with the approval of the UPSC, and consider them for higher postings
  4. IAS and other officers can be allowed to gain work experience, for a limited period, in the private sector

Way Forward

  1. The government should have the best people at the helm of affairs and if there is a need to supplement the existing stock of talent by attracting fresh blood into the system, the IAS should welcome such an inclusionary move
  2. The lateral entry scheme, if implemented properly, may foster more competitive spirit, break the complacency of the higher civil servants and eventually prove to be a pioneering initiative in public interest
Aug, 06, 2018

Lateral entry of officers: Search panel decides UPSC will choose

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Role of civil services in a democracy.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Selection of Personnel’s in Lateral entry scheme

Mains level: Lateral entry into civil services.


News

More faith in UPSC

  1. In order to limit scope for political intervention, the Search-cum-Selection Committee has decided that the appointment process to be handled by UPSC through the ongoing process.
  2. The panel headed by the Cabinet Secretary reposed more faith in the UPSC to make the appointments than take it upon the committee itself.

No affirmation yet over selection process

  1. No prior consultancy was done with any of the 10 ministries on how to go about the selection process.
  2. Therefore, the committee had no clue on how to select the bureaucrats.
  3. Also missing is the assessment criteria for screening individual applications, as these are likely to be varied as per demands of various ministries.
  4. The panel was therefore in two minds: either to hand over the shortlisting of candidates to the UPSC too or to let each ministry prune the applications for the UPSC’s selection procedure.

Screening through Experts

  1. In case if PM decides to hand over the shortlisting to the concerned ministry, one option would be to hand over the applications to a team of sectoral experts for screening.
  2. Those shortlisted would then be scrutinized by a panel of government representatives.
  3. Assessing a candidate’s domain knowledge and experience before assessing his motivation is a crucial task which can be effectively done by sectoral experts.

Lateral Entry to bypasses Reservations for Field Expertise

The ‘lateral entry’ route will also bypass the UPSC system under which 15 per cent seats are reserved for Scheduled Castes, 7.5 per cent for Scheduled Tribes and 27 per cent for OBCs in the IAS.

Jun, 11, 2018

Government opens doors to lateral entry

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Role of civil services in a democracy

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Read the attached story


News

Govt invites applicants at Joint Secretary-level posts

  1. In an apparent bid to bring in expertise from the private sector individuals and infuse talent into the country’s bureaucracy, the government has invited “outstanding individuals” to join the government at the joint secretary level at the Centre.
  2. For starters, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has invited applications for 10 senior level positions.
  3. The departments for which applicants are sought include Revenue, Financial Services, Economic Affairs, Commerce and Civil Aviation, Agriculture and Cooperation, Highways and Shipping and Environment and Climate Change.

Eligibility Criteria

  1. The notification specifies a minimum age of 40 years and minimum qualification of graduation from a recognized university or institute while higher qualification will be an added advantage.
  2. As per the notification, the eligibility criteria includes “Individuals working at comparable levels in Private Sector Companies, Consultancy Organisations, International/Multinational Organisations with a minimum of 15 years’ experience” other than those working in central public sector undertakings, autonomous bodies, statutory organizations, research bodies and universities.
  3. According to the DoPT, the recruitment will be on contract basis for three to five years
Jan, 15, 2018

IB background checks mandatory for regulatory body heads: Government

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Polity | Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions & responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Intelligence Bureau, Appointments Committee of the Cabinet

Mains level: Ensuring better deployment of officials at important posts


News

New norms notified by the personnel department

  1. According to a recent order from the government, background checks by the Intelligence Bureau has been made mandatory for candidates shortlisted to fill posts of heads of various regulatory bodies and tribunals
  2. Verification of character and antecedents of the shortlisted candidates shall be made by the administrative ministry/department through Intelligence Bureau

Selection process

  1. The selection of chairpersons and members of regulatory bodies and tribunals are done by respective selection committees or search-cum-selection committees
  2. These panels shall shortlist candidates (two or three times the number of vacancies) in the first round
  3. Based on the clearances from the IB, the selection committee shall recommend a panel of candidates, which shall be submitted for the consideration of the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC)
  4. This submission will be done by the administrative ministry after obtaining approval of the concerned minister in charge

Back2Basics

Appointments Committee of the Cabinet

  1. The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) decides appointments to several top posts under the Government of India
  2. The committee is composed of the Prime Minister of India (who is the Chairman), the Minister of Home Affairs
  3. Originally the Minister in-charge of the concerned Ministry was also the part of the committee but as per the new notification (as on 14.7.16) the minister of concerned ministry has been excluded from the committee
  4. The Establishment Officer’s Division (EO Division) processes all proposals for senior appointments in the Government of India that require approval of the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet under the Government of India Transactions of Business Rules, 1961
  5. The Establishment Officer (EO) is the ex-officio Member Secretary of the Civil Services Board that is chaired by the Cabinet Secretary

Other Cabinet Committees

The following are the other important cabinet committees:

  • The Political Affairs Committee deals with all policy matters pertaining to domestic and foreign affairs
  • The Economic Affairs Committee directs and coordinates the governmental activities in the economic sphere
  • Parliamentary Affairs Committee looks after the progress of government business in the Parliament

Except for the Cabinet Committee on Accommodation and Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs, all other committees are chaired by the Prime Minister

Nov, 17, 2017

Key changes likely in Civil Services exam

Image source

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Role of civil services in a democracy.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Baswan, Alagh, and Khanna Committee

Mains level: Civil services reforms


News

Civil Services examination likely to see major changes

  1. The Civil Services examination that selects the top bureaucrats in the country is likely to see major changes
  2. These may include reduction of upper age limit and removal of an optional paper in the mains
  3. This is to ensure level-playing field for all the aspirants

Recommendations forwarded to DoPT

  1. These recommendations were made by the Baswan Committee, which is yet to be made public
  2. It has been forwarded to the Department of Personnel for taking a final decision on the same and its consequent implementation (according to sources)
  3. It is widely believed in the official circles that the above two key recommendations may be accepted

Student views taken into consideration

  1. The suggestion to remove the optional paper is being considered a major reform for which the Baswan Committee depended on the feedback from aspirants
  2. Students overwhelmingly supported it when the committee sought their responses online
  3. Most aspirants feel it would be a game-changer as there is a huge difference in the award of marks in the optionals, while some subjects have innate advantages

Implications

  1. The trainers of Civil Services’ aspirants feel the removal of optionals may work to the advantage of urban youngsters since it would test their general knowledge and would be on other governance-related subjects like public administration and law
  2. The languages that are quite popular for scoring high, may lose relevance now.
  3. Literature and popular optional subjects would lose relevance too
  4. Positive: It would provide a level-playing field for all the aspirants since the cross-domain movement would reduce drastically

Other committees on Civil services reforms

  1. Alagh Committee
  • It recommended that the optional subject be removed from the mains while continuing the same in prelims
  • It also suggested that the Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) be introduced

2. Khanna Committee

  • The CSAT was introduced after the Khanna Committee report recommended the same in 2010
Sep, 25, 2017

[op-ed snap] Generalist vs specialist

Note4students

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!)


News

Context

  1. This article explains how the government can bring much needed external expertise into the civil services system.

Introduction:

  1. 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.
  2. The challenge of development in a large, populous and impoverished country was probably not on the radar screen when the IAS was designed.
  3. So to deliver in the changing dynamics the IAS adapted by retooling itself as ‘’development agent’’.
  4. 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

  1. They have a greater breadth of knowledge and understanding. Specialists tend to have a tunnel view.
  2. 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.

 

Second view:

  1. 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.
  2. 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-

  1. 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.
  2. 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?

  1. There remains many questions to be answered like how much specialisation should there be?
  2. How should officers be allocated among the specialisations?
  3. What should be the weightages for expressed preferences and revealed competencies? Once allocated a specialisation, how should an officer’s career be managed?

Solutions

  1. 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.
  1. 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
  1. 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.

 

Aug, 24, 2016

Issues with Central services

  1. Administrative Reforms Commission: For all services, advance projection should be made of the requirements of personnel for 5 years at a time and these should be followed by mid-term appraisals
  2. Why? Deficiencies in the management of the various cadres
  3. Parity: It is not clear if the task force would address the most contentious and sensitive issue related to parity between the IAS and other technical services, including that of doctors, engineers and scientists
Aug, 24, 2016

Centre's task force for cadre review of Group A Central Services

  1. Objective: Cadre Review exercise is meant to ensure the smooth functioning of the service and keeping up the morale of its members
  2. The decision of the Department of Personnel is on the directive of the Appointments Committee of Cabinet headed by Prime Minister
  3. Terms of Reference: To make a comprehensive study of the structures of organized Group A level
  4. Recommend ideal structure expected at the higher levels of the posts of Director General to Additional Secretary
  5. Suggest ways of ideal recruitment and the way forward to mitigate stagnation level
Mar, 10, 2016

Sankalp project

  1. Context: Department of Pension & Pensioners’ Welfare has initiated Sankalp scheme in Jan 2014
  2. About Sankalp: Aims at channelizing skill, experience and time available with retired govt servants into meaningful, voluntary contribution to society
  3. Importance: This would add to the social capital of country and at the same time restore dignity and purpose to life post-retirement
  4. For Awareness: Department has been conducting Pre-Retirement Counseling workshops regularly
Feb, 10, 2016

PFRDA eyes ‘soft compulsion’ to hike pension coverage

  1. PFRDA is considering a plan that will make it mandatory for employers to automatically enrol their employees into a pension scheme with an option to the subscriber to opt out
  2. Move has been proposed after a disappointing response to the govt’s ambitious Atal Pension Yojana
  3. Atal Pension Yojana, launched last year, failed to meet its ambitious 20 million enrolment target by December-end
  4. Soft compulsion is used in many countries to increase the coverage under private pension system
  5. Generally known as automatic enrolment in private pensions with an option to the subscriber to opt-out
Jan, 21, 2016

A just exemption

There is a moral and economic case not taxing NPS withdrawals.

  1. Currently, subscribers’ contributions to the NPS as well as interest earned during the accumulation phase are tax-exempt. But withdrawals from the scheme attract tax ie EET 2.
  2. Which is not the case with the Employees’ Provident Fund, Public Provident Fund, or even equity-linked savings scheme investments which are EEE.
  3. Differential tax treatment makes no sense, especially when the NPS is a social security scheme unlike the PPF, which is a pure interest-earning, tax-saving instrument.
  4. India has no real social security scheme, more so for the unorganised and informal sector that makes up about 88 per cent of its total workforce.
  5. It will make NPS more attractive and increase its subscriber base.
  6. More funds into NPS will help finance long gestation projects which offer no immediate return.
Jan, 08, 2016

‘Anubhav’ – showcasing outstanding work done during service

  1. The Department of Pension & Pensioner’s Welfare has launched an online software, ‘Anubhav’.
  2. For showcasing outstanding work by retiring employee and sharing experience of working with the Government.
  3. It is envisaged that over a period of time, this will create a wealth of institutional memory with replicable ideas and suggestions.
  4. This tool in addition, gives opportunity to the retiring employee to invest his experience, skill and time for growth of social capital of the country.
Dec, 31, 2015

Now DoPT approval must to suspend IAS officers

  1. IAS officers can now be suspended only on the recommendation of the Central Review Committee and with the approval of the minister in charge of the DoPT.
  2. States will now have to inform the Centre within 48 hours of suspending any all-India services officer (IAS, PS and IFS) working for them.
  3. The Central Review Committee will now have the secretary of the DoPT as chairperson and its members will be the DoPT’s establishment officer.
  4. These rules are aimed at checking any arbitrary suspension by the governments.
  5. These All India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Amendment Rules, 2015, replace the rules of 1969.
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