De-colonisation of India’s Civil Services

By: Niraj Kumar

The civil services including the All India services like IAS, IPS and other Central Services IRS,IFS etc along with the state services have been the backbone of Indian administration since the past two centuries. However, given the kind of changes needed in our governance these services seem to have outlived their utilities at least in their present form. Drastic changes are needed in all aspects of the civil services, be it their objectives, structures and the personnel who man them. This very brief article/presentation is meant to highlight the issues pertaining to the personnel management which need to be addressed urgently.
The problems with personnel management:
1) It starts with the recruitment exam itself. Firstly the recruiting agency i.e. the UPSC for centre and other PSC’s for the state are full of people who are not in sync with the task at hand. While most are not professionally qualified for such roles entrusted upon them, many others are too radically leftwards of the political spectrum to be given such roles. This has continued in the current government too.
2) The syllabus for the exams especially the humanities subjects are totally out of context as far as the needs of modern civil servants are concerned. The syllabus is such that most aspirants undergo some form of brainwashing and thus become aliens in their own social milieu by the time they get selected.
3) Taking a simple example, the syllabus of Philosophy optional paper is overwhelmed by Western philosophers like Marx, Hegel ,Kant etc who are hardly of any use to our society and administrators.
4) The brainwashing with one particular leftist ideology intended through the syllabus is further reinforced by the text books and study materials prescribed by the coaching institutions. However, the coaching institutions cannot be blamed much as they only follow the trends set by UPSC through its question papers based on the syllabus.
To appreciate this point one can peruse the questions in General Studies. Most of the questions in the current affairs are based from the articles of one particular newspaper “The Hindu” and magazines like Frontline, EPW etc. This forces students to read them diligently for at least 2-3 or in many cases 4-5 years given the long duration of the exams. Thus most aspirants inadvertently get brainwashed by the time they enter the services. Such people then go on to man sensitive tasks, even having implications for our national security. Here is a sample of an ideologically motivated question from CSE mains exam, 2018, GS paper 1:

‘Communalism arises either due to power struggle or relative deprivation.’ Argue by giving suitable illustrations.(250 words)

5) There is an inherent language bias in the entire process favouring the English medium candidates. The success rate of candidates qualifying with Hindi and other regional languages as medium is declining alarmingly.
6) Apart from these serious lacunae, the examination process is too long and tedious in today’s world. There is also a lack of transparency in manner in which examinations are conducted. The multiple optional subjects being the most controversial point. Several aspirants have been critical of the interview process and the overall conduct of these recruitment bodies.
7) After recruitment the training of selected officers is also a huge problem area. Training should be meant to equip the officers in problem solving, quick decision making, inter personal skills. However, the focus is mostly on academics and extracurricular activities to the extent that it apparently becomes a paid holiday at the cost of public money. The values imbibed in the training academies are cherished by the officers for their lives. The British legacy of officers enjoying at the cost of their subjects still continues to a great extent if one has a closer look.
8) There are several other issues pertaining to the exams, training, service allocations, promotions etc which can be deliberated upon in details when required.

The possible steps which may be considered for rectifying these anomalies are:

1) Reforming the UPSC and other state PSC’s to ensure that they are manned by the right set of people and are held accountable for the responsibilities entrusted upon them. Proper screening of the prospective members with special focus on their professional qualifications and ideological leanings is required.
2) Immediate change in the syllabi of the coveted Civil Services exams so that they are helpful in selecting the best possible officers. The syllabi should be able to test the students on their knowledge, understanding and respect for this great nation and its history and culture. This should be of utmost importance while selecting a future civil servant.
3) Ways to shorten the examination cycle should be explored. It could be changed to 2 exams every year like the NDA, CDS etc with a cycle of 6 months each. Number of attempts and age limit should be 4 and 25 respectively for the general category, along with appropriate relaxations for the reserved categories. This will save the previous time of lakhs of youths who waste their precious time, even after graduating from elite institutes like IITs, AIIMS, IIMs etc.
4) The examinations should be as objective as possible. The optional papers in the mains examination should be removed and a common paper should be there for all aspirants.
5) Interview process should be objectified, either by averaging out 2 or 3 interviews given to different boards, or by video recording of interviews to make the Boards accountable. The parameters used to assess candidates and marks allotted for these parameters should be made available.
6) Service allocation may be done only after training is complete with at least 10% weight being given to performance in training. This will automatically increase the importance of training for the candidates. In the performance assessment 360 degree analysis may be adopted if feasible. Respect for common citizens, behaviour in public, respect for national values etc should be judged carefully.
7) Appropriate changes in other personnel management policies conduct rules etc may be made to achieve our desired goals. These may be deliberated upon in details when required.

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