The class war in Foreign Service

A group of 6 officers from the higher pedigree IFS have taken the lesser, supporting cadre for clogging their seniority ladder.

Published: 03rd November 2013 09:10 AM  |   Last Updated: 03rd November 2013 09:52 AM   |  A+A-

It is an all-out war in South Block. In an unprecedented move, a group of six officers from the higher pedigree Indian Foreign Service have taken the lesser, supporting cadre and the Ministry of External Affairs to the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) for clogging their seniority ladder—which they claimed had led to “large scale demotivation” in the ranks.

The incident sums up the current mood among MEA officers, at a time India has to step up its diplomatic engagement with the neighbourhood and the world.

The application was filed by six IFS officers from batches 2004 to 2008 in September, with the first hearing taking place on October 22, and the next one scheduled in December. The ministry, which is made a respondent through the Foreign Secretary, has been asked to file a reply by the next hearing.

The applicants include 2005 batch’s S Satish Kumar, under secretary in the external affairs minister’s office; Esha Srivastava (2004), deputy secretary in Europe west division; under secretary China Ninad Desphande (2005); under secretary east and Southern Africa S Raghuram (2006); under secretary Bangladesh Amit A Shukla (2007); and R Anitha Nandhini (2008), the under secretary (external affairs minister’s office).

While the central IFS service is the basic cadre of the MEA, it also has the feeder cadre of IFS (B) officers, who are recruited through a separate exam of the Union Public Service Commission. They are eventually absorbed into the IFS, based on certain criteria and allotted a batch based on the IFS (RCSP) rules, which is in place since 1961.

Now the “common grievance” of the IFS (A) officers is on the practice of giving year of allotment to IFS (B) officers, which is ante-dated eight years from their date of actual promotion.

The six IFS pointed out that an IFS (B) officer, who is junior to them when they enter the service, will, however, get a senior year of allotment, superseding them in promotions.

For example, a IFS (B) who gets promoted to IFS in April 2013, will be allotted the 2005 batch—putting him or her ahead of the IFS direct recruits of 2005.

“This has resulted in IFS officers being pushed downwards behind IFS (B) officers in terms of promotional prospects and has led to large scale demotivation and demoralisation among direct recruit officers in the senior scale/junior administrative grade,” said the application.

Further, they claimed despite “best efforts”, they have not got any rationale for the provision of ante-dating seniority. “Though the problem has existed ever since 1961 and has affected the batches of IFS officers including those of the present Foreign Secretary, it was not apparent because of the huge stagnation in the feeder cadre”.

The ‘stagnation’, they claimed, ended only after the earlier rules of absorbing stenographers cadre into IFS (B) ended. It is learnt that the stenographer cadre has also mounted a legal challenge to this move, which has been norm for several years now.

 In 18 months of 2010 to 2012, the application says that 149 IFS (B) officers were promoted to senior scale of IFS.

 The respondents included the foreign secretary, who is the cadre controlling authority, as well as department of personnel and training and UPSC.

Interestingly, it also makes eight IFS (B) officers—S N V Ramana Rao who is first secretary in the Buenos Aires embassy, Sandip Mitra first secretary in Zagreb, Sri Kumar Menon the deputy secretary in the Europe (west) division, Anil Kumar first secretary in Prague, G R Meena in Warsaw, I P Lakra in Edinburgh, T G Suresh in Accra and Arun Kumar Sharma in Bucharest—who were promoted between 2010 and 2012, as respondents in their “representative capacity”.

They have also questioned the 2008 MEA expansion plan, which tried to address the issue of acute manpower shortage in the foreign ministry. The expansion plan gave promoted IFS (B) officers an additional 120 posts over 10 years.

One of the ‘triggers’ for the application is also the rising average age of IFS officers, who now enter the services at around 26-27 years, while IFS (B) candidates are much younger.

“In the IFS, the emerging scenario is such that assistants in the MEA will end up having an almost identical career profile as a direct recruit IFS officer,” said the applicants.

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