Steel Frame to Plastic Frame

A recent proposal from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to modify the existing recruitment process of civil servants has sent shivers across the Civil Service aspirants community. In the existing recruitment process, the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), a constitutional body under Article 316, conducts the 3-stage Civil Services Examination and recruits candidates for allocation into services like the IAS, IPS, etc., based on one’s rank and preference. The candidates selected by UPSC, are then trained at the Lal Bahadhur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA) for their Foundation Course.

The recent proposal suggests that, allocation to the services is to be done not solely on the basis of UPSC ranking but also the performance of candidates during the Foundation Course training at LBSNAA.

Sardar Vallabhai Patel once called the IAS and IPS as the Steel Frame of India. The recent proposal will risk changing the Steel Frame into a Plastic Frame.

The training at LBSNAA even today includes horse riding, trekking etc., which were methods used in the colonial era to train ICS Officers who had to sometimes go on horses or treks to reach inaccessible villages. Gone are those days, but such antiquated training methods still continue. If the recent proposal is implemented, marks will be awarded for horse riding, trekking, etc., which do not have any relevance to the contemporary problems of our country. A top-ranking candidate from a poor socio-economic background, having no aptitude for horse-riding may lose marks and not qualify for the IAS or IPS, if the proposal to give weightage for training in the selection process is implemented.

I learnt Hindi during my training at LBSNAA as a compulsory paper. However, if my marks in Hindi had decided whether I will get into IAS or not, I definitely would not have not qualified for the IAS, hailing from a Tamil speaking background. Such a process may allow for strong regional biases in recruitment for the services.

“Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” said Lord Acton. The trainers at LBSNAA are not angels from heaven free of human biases. Corruption and nepotism may find their way into the recruitment process, considering the power and discretion available to the trainers in awarding marks, thereby deciding a candidate’s civil services career.

As the training academy is run by IAS and IPS officers, children of bureaucrats may also be shown favour, thereby compromising merit and leading to nepotism in the recruitment process.

Unlike the UPSC, which is a constitutional body enjoying independence and autonomy, LBSNAA comes under the direct control of the political executive as even the Director and Deputy Director of training are appointed by them. It is therefore possible that candidates who can use the influence of political masters, can get more marks in the training process. This can make the concept of a “Spoils system” an imminent reality.

Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) has never in the past come under criticism for lack of merit in the recruitment process. Today, any Indian, despite of his or her religion, region, caste or economic background can dream to enter the civil services and serve the nation, credit to the UPSC. The new proposal to change the recruitment process may not only shatter the dreams of candidates selected from varied socio-economic backgrounds but can also severely endanger our steel frame of India.

Finally, a similar recommendation was made by the Kothari Committee in 1978 but was rejected by the then Central Government. The present Government may be served well by remembering the American saying – ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’


Published by
Officers IAS Academy
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