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Is there a reason for the IAS to worry?

The IAS really does not have much reason to be disappointed by the remarks of the Prime Minister. Due to the breadth and depth of experience in the states and their long association with politicians, the IAS will continue to enjoy preferences in discretionary appointments

February 15, 2021 / 02:23 PM IST
Representative Image

Representative Image

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech in Lok Sabha on February 10 is being interpreted as critical of bureaucracy’s backbone, the Indian Administrative Service (IAS). While the thrust of the speech was on the role of the private vs the public sector, Modi pointedly referred to the IAS and said, ‘Will babus do everything? If one becomes IAS, will they do everything like running fertiliser industries, chemical industries or flying a plane...what are we going to achieve by handing over our country to babus.’ [independent translation].

For some time, there has been a rich and informed debate about the necessity of inducting experts into central ministries. The recent move to appoint 10 joint secretaries in various ministries was generally welcomed as it was acknowledged that there are specific areas within each ministry which requires specialised knowledge, which is not necessarily available within the IAS, or other central services.

The need was to identify such positions and then find suitable candidates from outside the government. However, even while selecting candidates for lateral entry, the detailed exercise of identifying positions which required outside expertise was apparently not done. It is also not known if the persons appointed through lateral entry are being deployed to work in their areas of specialisation.

There is however, a broader point here. Like in previous governments, and even during the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government since 2014, IAS officers have been appointed to and excelled in posts which are highly technical in nature, and which were previously occupied by professionals.