Need for recruitment reforms
In a democratic country like India, bureaucracy is the engine of democracy; when it runs smoothly, the country also runs smoothly and vice versa.
So, for proper governance and management of the state resources, Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), the body responsible for the employment and selection of the civil servants, must adopt a holistic system of selection to judge intellectual, administrative, and as well as behavioural characteristics of an individual.
The present bureaucracy: It is indeed miraculous that Indian Economy has grown despite bureaucracy, because, bureaucracy has managed the aviation sector.
Indian exports have picked up because of the least intervention of the bureaucracy, but HEC, Ranchi and other public sector units have fallen from the grace under the leadership of bureaucrats.
And, despite every road-block created by the Bureaucracy the road and transport sector has witnessed growth — qualitative as well as quantitative. Many sectors have shown an improvement in spite of obstacles put by bureaucracy.
One of the reasons for lagging behind in our dreams is the wrong selection criterion. Bureaucrats are a product of a faulty selection and training process.
They are labelled as the best talents we have, but, does talent alone is enough for the right attitude and right governance?
The present recruitment process of Civil Services: The already selected candidates out of the present procedure need to think that they are the most talented as they do not supplement it with their ability and attitude to administer.
In contrast, civil servants need to be learners not judgmental but must have a sense of judgment based on their capability of logical and emotional differentiation.
Anomaly between what is required and what is tested: There are two aspects to consider here, first, despite the prevalence of talent, why do we lag behind in taking the best administrators in bureaucracy, and why even the best, become unfit for the country, unresponsive to the people, unfortunate for trade and commerce.
To a large extent, the selection process has to be blamed. There are grave anomalies between traits required and received in the selected personnel.
A feature required for selection is attitude for administration but what is tested is the examination technique, what is required for selection into bureaucracy is administration ability, and what is tested is information base; if the requirement is empathy for the people, the chosen candidates are trained to be arrogant, if the requirement is honesty, there are minimal ways of evaluating their ethical dimension, where the trait required is objectivity.
The selection has no means to prevent students who have taken all their decisions on the basis of perception and rumours, when the selected people require having an understanding for their country.
Why does this happen: The selection and the training procedure are still very colonial. The Bureaucracy is protected by article 311 and 312, meaning that even for their deadliest mistakes, they will not be punished and will not be accountable for.
In a situation where the country is, where the PM is accountable the MPs are accountable, the teacher is accountable, the technocrat is accountable, and even the artists are, why the Civil Services, in particular, the IAS cannot be accountable?
Ironically, we take talent, but forget whether that has character and values or not.
What can be suggested: It is in this light that the government’s decision to accord with merit list, services, and cadre after their training in foundation course that holds some meaning and credence.
It is a prudent idea, provided, the training at foundation course gets modified and is reformed to an extent as not to allow the trainees to have a paid holiday and does not become subjective.
Everything is fine at the prelims stage except for the fact that it has been so unpredictable that no one is sure that even a single mistake can cost their attempt to help the poor souls to restart an arduous journey of insipid preparation for one more year.
The quality of intake also leaves a lot to be desired and becomes a gamble of sorts to prevent even the best of administrative talents to sit out. A good idea then will be the reintroduction of options to make three tests, instead of two, one for optional and two papers of CSAT.
Optional will help some really good students who lack in test techniques, but with observational analytical skills to find their way.
The significance of knowledge will be reinforced, and whichever way the student has academically lived until his graduation. Of course, the chance factor will be minimised and UPSC’s job also made easy. This suits easy identification of talent as well.
At the Mains level, there has been a good number of innovations in the type of questions asked that are good and relevant, but the test of language, flow, and coherence of thoughts, analysis, and one’s ability to go deep is not tested.
Precisely, this must not be the hallmark of a candidates ability, indeed, what is tested very well is the students’ ability to pick facts in their answers like jute sacks.
The structure of the question paper needs to be changed to include not only 150-word answers but also one 600 words, two 400 words, three 300 words, and many 150 and 100 and 50 words.
The answers has to be checked in a manner that the students can’t be doctored in a coaching institute and masquerade themselves as knowledgeable students.
At the interview level, a major reform is required. The interview at present by one single board doesn’t do justice to the selection procedure. Half an hour is not enough to test the personality of the candidate.
There are two options — one is to make it in the form of CDS and NDA. Here a candidate is kept for five days and observed intricately, the other is making the personality test of two different stages conducted by two different boards with a greater allocation of marks with as much weightage as mains marks.
Finally, in the training stage for the foundation, it is imperative that the training procedure should be completely revamped, extended and restructured.
Three-month training may not be sufficient to assign services to candidates and to understand their administrative abilities, policing capabilities, diplomatic understandings and underpinning negotiation abilities or accounting abilities.
The best suggestion perhaps will be to recruit the potential Civil Servants at the grass root level after senior secondary examination, keeping them in field training for three years, and giving them a degree in administration.
This way, the chosen candidates can be trained and guided in a manner that the country requires them to be. They will be less arrogant, more flexible, more empathetic and will understand the problems and the country better.
Any argument against this has to take into account whether the 35 years of service to the country is more important than the three years of difficulty in making them.
The writer is educationist, earth scientist, author, mentor, and advisor to various government departments.