NEW DELHI: It may have been renamed Niti Aayog, but the former Planning Commission has more or less turned into a hub for discussing the ‘niyati’ (intent) of officials of the esteemed Indian Economic Service (IES).
In all, 451 IES officials are in service and as many as 100 of them are posted in the now-disbanded Planning Commission, the most sought after place among the IES officials. The change in the structure of the panel has left most of them in the lurch.
As the new Niti Aayog has a trimmed structure, most of these IES officials will be repatriated to other ministries where they do not have much stake or may be sent to state services. The change from being part of the ‘prestigious Planning Commission’ to other ministries and states is seen as a ‘fall’ by many.
“We are facing a peculiar situation where we don’t know where we are heading to or what the future holds for us,” said a Joint Secretary-level official with the now Niti Aayog. According to him, the entire IES cadre is facing this uncertainty as the once-esteemed cadre is increasingly being seen as part of the ‘outdated Nehruvian legacy’. Also, the fact that the new head of the NitiAayog-- Columbia University professor and economist Arvind Panagariya-- is not a huge fan of the erstwhile plan model and prefers a trimmer set of economic hands to assist him, does not bode well for the IES officers. It seems that questions are being raised over the fate of the IES itself as this cadre was shaped up according to the Nehruvian model of development, which does not occupy a prominent space in Modi’s brand of economics. “It may be true that our cadre was created under Nehru’s initiative. But it is wrong to say that we all are votaries of the Nehruvian model of development,” said an IES officer, who had recently joined the Planning Commission, from a social sector ministry. “After Modi Government came to power, IES officials are rarely being invited to high-level meetings,” said an IES officer.
What is worse for them is the looming possibility of freezing IES recruitments for some time. “There is a strong rumour that there will be a freeze on new recruitments. If that happens we will not be surprised. But it will mean a slow death of the service,” said an IES officer, who also blamed the ‘IAS lobby’ for this. The officer also said that the erstwhile UPA Government was the best period for them, as the then PM Manmohan Singh himself was a economist of global stature. Now, there are five officers, who have the designation at par with union Secretaries--thanks to the special attention given to the IES by Manmohan Government. Similarly, the previous government had increased the posts for economic advisers in Central ministries from 52-92. “Our words carried much weight. But not any longer,’’ said an officer who holds a senior position in the Agriculture Ministry.
They are also staring at a possibility of delayed promotions, which had been a regular feature in the pre-UPA era. “IES officers rarely went beyond being directors in other ministries even at the end of their careers. All these had changed in the last few years but now, it seems, we are back to square one,” said another IES officer.