Years after most other states woke up to the need for a state administrative service, Kerala has felt emboldened to forge its own civil service this week, with the cabinet issuing orders. This will make entry into the state civil service more broad-based and attract better talent as it will allow state government servants from streams other than the revenue department getting a shot at being conferred the coveted IAS rank. Youth who never looked beyond the tech spectrum can now consider taking up government jobs, without fearing peer group ridicule.
Till 1977, Kerala boasted a tradition where many officers came up from the lowest rung of the civil service through the deputy collector promotee route. Many of them proved more than a match for the direct IAS recruitees and played a stellar role while enacting the revolutionary Land Reforms Bill or in establishing industries like the Kerala Minerals and Metals Ltd. Many who started off as lowly clerks retired as deputy collectors. In recent times, there has been a waning of interest in direct recruitment as deputy collectors/DySPs, perhaps with the tests themselves not being held regularly. The past six decades saw only four such tests.
The creation of the Kerala Administrative Service will see competent officers make the deputy collector grade in less than 10 years, thus opening up the gates of IAS in a like period. At another level, it will relieve the pressure faced by the government on account of severe shortage of bureaucrats from the central cadre. Clearly a major factor as of the 211 IAS posts sanctioned for the state, 60 are reserved for those promoted from the deputy collector category. However, most of them have been lying vacant for many years now. If a fresh crop of KAS officers were to be groomed, they could well vie for some of the key posts, given the perennial shortage of the IAS cadre.