[Yojana Archive] Reforms in the civil Services

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  • Civil Service is vital for the government to function.
  • It’s regarded as the ‘steel frame’ of administration in India from colonial days.
  • The colonial legacy of civil service continues amidst the fast-changing era of globalization.
  • It is therefore, indispensible that civil service reforms are carried out as a part of good governance.
  • A reboot and re-orientation of it is needed to ensure effective service delivery.

Civil Services in India: A backgrounder

  • Civil Services refer to the career civil servants who are the permanent executive branch of the Republic of India. It is the backbone of the administrative machinery of the country.
  • As India is a parliamentary democracy, the ultimate responsibility for running the administration rests with the people’s elected representatives.
  • The elected executive decides the policy and it is civil servants, who serve at the pleasure of the President of India, implement it.
  • However, Article 311 of the constitution protects Civil Servants from politically motivated vindictive action.

Evolution of Civil Services

Ancient India: Kautilya’s Arthasastra gives seven basic elements of the administrative apparatus- Swamin (the ruler), Amatya (the bureaucracy), Janapada (territory), Durga (the fortified capital), Kosa (the treasury), Danda (the army), and Mitra (the ally). The higher bureaucracy consisted of the mantrins and the amatyas. While the mantrins were the highest advisors to the King, the Amatyas were the civil servants.

Medieval India: During the Mughal era, the bureaucracy was based on the mansabdari system. The mansabdari system was essentially a pool of civil servants available for civil or military deployment.

Colonial India: The big changes in the civil services in British-India came with the implementation of Macaulay’s Report 1835. The report recommended that only the best and brightest would do for the Indian Civil Service to serve the interest of the British Empire.

Post-Independence: Indian civil services system retained the elements of the British structure like a unified administrative system such as an open-entry system based on academic achievements, permanency of tenure.

Post partition: When India was partitioned following the departure of the British in 1941, the Indian Civil Service was divided between the new dominions of India and Pakistan. The Indian remnant of the ICS was named the Indian Administrative Service, while the Pakistani remnant was named the Pakistan Administrative Service.

Classification of Services

  • The modern Indian Administrative Service was created under Article 312(2) in part XIV of the Constitution of India, and the All-India Services Act, 1951.
  • Constitution has not elaborated the types and categories of services. As per the Constitution, the services are categorized into the followings categories:
  1. All India Services (AlS)
  2. State Services
  3. Local and Municipal Services.
  4. There are four groups of central, services Central Services Group A(Indian Foreign Service, Indian Audit and Accounts Service, Indian Statistical Service etc.), B (Central Secretariat Service, Geographical Survey of India, Zoological Survey of India etc.), C & D.
  5. The highest personnel strength among the entire civil services system in India is with Central Secretariat Service and Indian Revenue Service (IT and C&CE).

Latest Developments

  • The Govt. of India approved the formation of the Indian Skill Development Service in 2015, Indian Enterprise Development Service in 2016.
  • Further, the Cabinet of India approved merging all civil services under Indian Railways into a single Indian Railways Management Service as part of structural reform in the sector in 2019.
  • Also the lateral entry of professionals in Civil Services has begun.

Our discussion: Civil Service Reform

  • Civil Service Reform is a deliberate change effort by the government to improve its capacity to effectively and efficiently execute policies.
  • The purpose of ‘reform’ is to reorient the Civil Services into a dynamic, efficient, and accountable apparatus for public service delivery built on the ethos and values of integrity, impartiality, and neutrality.
  • The reform is to raise the quality of public services delivered to the citizens and enhance the capacity to carry out core government functions, thereby, leading to sustainable development.

Why need CS reforms?

  • Accelerated change globally
  • Globalization
  • Technological advances
  • greater decentralization
  • social activism
  • Economic Reforms

What are the various bottlenecks of Indian Civil Services?

  • Poor capacity building
  • Inefficient incentive systems that do not appreciate upright and outstanding civil servants but reward the corrupt and the incompetent
  • Outdated rules and procedures that restrict the civil servant from performing effectively
  • Systemic inconsistencies empanelment in promotion
  • Lack of adequate transparency and accountability procedures
  • no safety for whistleblowers
  • Arbitrary and whimsical transfers: insecurity in tenures impedes institutionalization
  • Political interference and administrative acquiescence
  • Dominance of few elite services in promotions, work allocations, and assignments

Structural Issues

Generalist Vs Specialist: Civil Services was designed to deliver certain core functions: Law and Order; Government programs and realizing Governments’ orders. However, changes/Causes/Reasons mentioned above led to change in the role of the state. 

New Challenges: Cyber security, complex business, trade, legal aspects are some of the major emerging threats.

Recent Reforms

(1) Mission Karmayogi

  • It is aimed at better services delivery to the public.- “governance, performance, and accountability”. lt promises a shift from rules to roles, silos to coordination, interdisciplinary movements, and a continuous capacity building exercise.
  • The focus of the reform is the creation of a ‘citizen-centric civil service’ capable of creating and delivering services conducive to economic growth and public welfare.
  • Accordingly, Mission Karmayogi shifts the focus from “Rule-based training to Role-based training”. Greater thrust has been laid on behavioral change.

(2) National Programme for Civil Service Capacity Building:  

  • It aims for learning resources from the best institutions and practices from across the world while retaining Indian sensibilities and culture.
  • The mid-career training will now be available to all government staff instead of the top officers alone, and their profile and assessment will be continuous.
  • If there is a need for some special appointment, then authorities can do so by looking at the profile of the officers with the help of technology instead of depending on perceptions.

Key features of the new Reforms

  • ‘Rules based’ to ‘Roles based’ HR Management
  •  Aligning work allocation of civil servants by matching their competencies to the requirements of the post.
  • To emphasize on ‘on-site learning’ to complement the ‘off-site’ learning.
  • To create an ecosystem of shared training infrastructure including that of learning materials, institutions and personnel.
  • To calibrate all Civil Service positions to a Framework of Roles, Activities and Competencies (FRACs) approach and to create and deliver learning content relevant to the identified FRACs in every Government entity.
  • To make available to all civil servants, an opportunity to continuously build and strengthen their Behavioural, Functional, and Domain Competencies in their self-driven and mandated learning paths.
  • To enable all the Central Ministries and Departments and their Organizations to directly invest their resources towards co-creation and sharing the collaborative and common ecosystem of learning through an annual financial subscription for every employee.
  • To encourage and partner with the best-in-class learning content creators including public training institutions, universities, start-ups, and individual experts.

Way forward

  • Civil Service Reforms should realign the outdated structure and culture of the services and forgo its colonial hangover aiming to raise the quality and sensitivity of services to the citizens that are essential for sustainable economic and social development.
  • Rationalization and harmonization of service is the need of the hour.


  • Capacity augmentation of Civil Servants plays a vital role in rendering a wide variety of services, implementing welfare programs, and performing core governance functions.
  • A transformational change in Civil Service Capacity is proposed to be affected by organically linking the transformation of work culture, strengthening public institutions, and adopting modern technology to build civil service capacity with the overall aim of ensuring efficient delivery of services to citizens.
  • The future of the country cannot be progressive without a reformed bureaucracy.
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