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The IAS Bias In Civil Servant’s Promotion

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Our civil servants head the various departments of the government and are seen as a badge of honour. They are the ‘permanent executives’ who keep things running long after the five years for our politicians are over. But, do we treat all of them equally?

A general piece of information that everyone is cognizant of are the three branches of civil services which are termed under the All India Services (AIS) – the Indian Administrative Services (IAS), the Indian Police Services (IPS) and the Indian Foreign Services (IFS). These are classified as Group A and governed by the All India Services Act of 1951.

There are also a majority of other services which are classified under Group A, also known as the Central Services, like your Indian Postal Service or Indian Revenue Service. Group B has the Central Excise Group and the Indian Meteorological Service. Finally, Group C possesses the Central Secretariat Service with a lot of junior administrative positions. Regarding promotion, however, there is a clear bias towards the AIS, and one AIS, in particular, the IAS.

Everyone knows how valued our society makes the Indian Administrative Services with people spending years trying to clear the exam in the hopes of a well-remunerated and perk-filled life.

The problem is that giving preference to a position socially is different than giving it a preference in terms of promotion. That opens the gate for inequality in our government’s process and for the people in the 99% of other civil services who worked hard to get to where they are.

This is where the bias is.

Empanelment is an important process in selecting civil servants for the highest posts. It is where you put all the officers from Group A, i.e. AIS and the other Central Services, on a list. From that list, a further process is undertaken, and officers are selected to serve as the Joint Secretary, Additional Secretary and Secretary to the Indian government.

This comes under the Central Staffing Scheme. Empanelment started in 1970, and the Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice in their 92nd report noticed that empanelment had become a tool to keep non-IAS services out of Joint Secretary level posts.

The committee observed that non-IAS empanelment was delayed. The clearest sign of IAS favouritism is the two years additional eligibility criteria between IAS and other services which needs to be done away with, the committee observed.

The government is yet to do away with the notification, dated 25.07.2001. This is clearly a bias. Is the IAS so unique that it has two years extra in the other Group A services getting empanelled to the highest post in our government?

Furthermore, the appraisal process itself has become tainted by disclosure. ACR’s or Annual Confidential Reports were not disclosed to the officer unless there was something adverse. Now, the APAR’s or Annual Performance Appraisal Report which have replaced them, are disclosed to the officer reported upon due to the Dev Dutt Judgement (2008).

In this judgement, a man claimed he was denied promotion due to being given low marks on his appraisal and filed a case. The court ruled that every employee must be communicated about their appraisal so that they have an opportunity of making a representation against it if they feel the marks given, are not justified. Can anyone maintain objectivity if results are shown to the appraisee themselves?

A partial disclosure was recommended by the standing committee, but still, all the officers get excellent marks because people do not like to write negative things about people to their face.

The IAS also has an over-representation on the Civil Services Board (CSB). The Civil Services Board takes the expert panel’s recommendations on which officer to promote to the Joint Secretary level and then it makes recommendations to the Appointment Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) who has the final say.

The presence of IAS officers in the CSB indicates a larger number of IAS officers would be appointed to the highest posts. Obviously, reforms are needed here, and an equal distribution of services need to form the CSB.

The Establishment Officer (EO) is also always an IAS, the standing committee noted. The EO is the secretary to the ACC and Member-Secretary of CSB and thus plays a major role in facilitating
these bodies in appointment and empanelment of officers. Again, even asking the question why seems too simple and the committee wanted this to be stopped.

All bodies involved with the empanelment process consist of an IAS hegemony.

Even inside the IAS officers that get empanelled, state-wise data shows that there is regional disparity among which state IAS officers get empanelled. Among the more successful states were Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh having 13% and 11% representation in empanelment respectively whereas Telangana and Uttrakhand have 2% and 3%.

Gujarat has 5%, and Madhya Pradesh has 9%. One of the major benefits of officers getting empanelled is the expertise gained at the Centre which is benefited by the states when the officers return to their state cadres. However, with under/over-representation, that is not being done at all.

Among the-the AIS services, with IAS at the forefront, there is a discriminatory eligibility criterion for empanelment in comparison to other central services. Basically, if an AIS has an appointment of even one officer of a batch in a service to any state cadre for the Senior Administrative Grade (SAG), that, entitles all the officers of that batch to be considered for empanelment.

This does not happen with other central services. Is every batch full of identical perfect robots? If one officer from a particular service gets empanelled, why in the world is everyone from that batch? I certainly do not remember receiving awards that other people got in my school or university batches.

This bias causes demoralisation which is a big problem. An obvious example of demoralisation is that in the last three years, in the National Academy of Customs, Excise and Narcotics (NACEN), every year more than 20 officers have quit during and after training, citing lack of career progression.

On a side note, the empanelment system is still governed by an order from 1996 without any statutory backing. The system gives clear preferences towards the IAS. Non-IAS people need to be given equal treatment under this scheme, and the committee recommended that the Government take suitable measures.

This bears repeating – the entire process of appraisal and the empanelment of our civil service officers is through a 21-year-old executive order. The whole process needs a revamp starting with a body that has a statutory backing and clearly defined rules to make sure one service does not dominate.

However important the IAS may be, it is one of three branches of the AIS and one of many services in Group A. The need for equality in promotion is much, much higher.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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