CHENNAI: There is simmering discontent in the junior rungs of the bureaucracy in Tamil Nadu, with young officers recruited through Union Public Service Commission’s (UPSC) civil services examination grumbling that promotee officials from the State cadre, who were conferred IAS, are being favoured over them for appointment as Collectors.
The clash between the regular recruits (RR) and promotees is an old story, but there seems to be substance to it: of the 32 districts in Tamil Nadu, 25 are manned by promotee officials, including three who were conferred IAS only last year. The regular recruits constitute less than a quarter of the collectors in the State, which went up from an abysmal five to a meagre seven after the recent reshuffle.
“The average career of an RR is about 35 years, during which a rare few become cabinet secretaries, some chief secretaries in the State, and almost all of them can become secretary-level officers. By the time they reach these positions, they should have a clear perspective on the issues, challenges and realities in the field to have a proper perspective while framing policy,” said a regular recruit.
The discontent, in this case, is specifically about collectorships, a much-coveted post that remained prestigious since the days of the Raj and a crucial cog in the State administrative machinery.
The regular recruits provided a variety of reasons why they were better than the promotees, most common one being the perception that RR officers are sincere and honest in conduct and efficient in administration. They are grilled by a rigorous programme — from a tough national competitive examination and intensive two-year training, which is said to prepare them to deal better with the complexities of Indian administration.
Another aspect, perhaps a more important one for a babu, is parity. Almost all other States have given opportunities to young IAS officers in districts, while their classmates in Tamil Nadu still wait in the wings.
More disturbing for them is parity among RR and promotees. Promotees include those from the State Civil Service (SCS) where the officials who cleared Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission examination and are posted in the revenue department are considered. Also admitted are those from the selection grade, the non-SCS from other services like municipal and rural department.
When an official in the State service is conferred IAS, it is done with backdated seniority. That is, the official’s number of years of experience is taken into consideration. Thus a few who were promoted and conferred IAS in the last few years were considered as 2010 batch — nearly half a dozen of them are collectors now.
In fact, three officials who were conferred IAS in 2016 became collectors, even while some RRs are waiting nearly a decade with some even from the 2008 and 2009 batches who are yet to get collectorship, said sources.
“In effect, at least a dozen young regular recruits were bypassed by promotees,” asserted an officer, alleging that these posts were awarded not on the basis of seniority or ability but as part of a patronage package that demands reciprocation.
Another matter that has upset juniors is the stoppage of additional collectorship since 2011. Offered to regular recruits after the initial stint as sub-collectors, this post hones a young officer in rural governance through the DRDA, while the municipal commissionership does the same in the case of urban governance.
“These are both major areas of governance. An officer without experience in these fields is a liability to the government,” an officer explained.
“These early years are the best years of an officer’s career. It is also important for the effective administration of the State in the long term,” he added wistfully. However, not all are convinced by the generalisation that everyone from a certain class of babus shares values, sincerity and conscientiousness that is somehow better than another class.
“Not all the regular recruits do their duties with honour. There are some who thrive on corruption,” said a senior bureaucrat. In some cases, he added, promotees with loads of field experience outsmart the regular recruits.
25 Of 32 districts in Tamil Nadu, 25 are manned by promotee officials, including three who were conferred IAS only last year
According to sources, some regular recruits have been waiting nearly 10 years (2008 and 2009 batches) to receive collectorship
5 to 7 Regular recruits form only one-fourth of the collectors, going up from an abysmal five to a meagre seven after the reshuffle