New Delhi: The central government on Thursday appointed 28 officers to joint secretary-level posts, with more than 50% of them coming from non-Indian Administrative Services (IAS) background.
This is not the first time that such a thing has happened. According to people familiar with the way the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi is functioning, this is a silent trend that has emerged over the past two years.
According to an Economic Times report in February, a total of 260 joint secretary-level appointments have been made by the Modi government since May 2014 and 100 of these are of non-IAS officers.
“The government is not shouting about the change from the rooftops. This government is definitely giving more chance to non-IAS officers,” said a senior Indian Revenue Services (IRS) official, who did not wish to be named.
Explaining the disadvantage that officers from non-IAS backgrounds usually face, he said an IAS officer becomes a joint secretary after around 16 years of service, while everyone else waits 20-28 years to reach that level.
Besides the IAS, India has at least 20 other services, including the Indian Police Service (IPS), Indian Forest Service (IFoS), Indian Revenue Service (IRS), Indian Railway Accounts Service (IRAS), Indian Economic Service, and Indian Defence Accounts Service.
A second official, from the forest service, welcomed the change and said it was long overdue.
“There is definitely a trend now. We are keeping our fingers crossed. There is opposition and unhappiness in the IAS lobby but this can’t be denied,” he said.
The forest service official explained that this is also probably an effort by the NDA government to break the IAS’s stranglehold on Indian bureaucracy and cited instances of the NDA government recently clearing the empanelment of several batches of non-IAS cadres for joint secretary-level positions in quick succession.
“This was never a case earlier,” he added.
Former cabinet secretary TSR Subramanian, an IAS officer himself, denied any such trend.
“There is no such trend as far as I know. Fifty percent of secretary-level posts have been given to non-IAS cadre officers including experts. And don’t forget, every cadre has a 25% deputation reserve which means that they can move to expand their horizons,” Subramanian said.
There is yet another explanation for the growing trend of non-IAS officers being appointed to joint secretary-level positions — that not enough IAS officers want postings in New Delhi. Many, this theory suggests, are preferring to stay back in the states.