Two of the country’s premier Intelligence agencies are struggling to break free of bureaucratic red tape that is not allowing them to hire or retain highly-skilled professionals, who are in short supply anyway.
The RAW and IB have requested the government to empower them to hire professionals in specific areas by offering competitive packages as the number of such experts is dwindling in the outfits.
According to sources, a proposal to extend a Flexible Complementing Scheme (FCS) to both IB and RAW was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security in 2001, but has not been implemented thanks to the bureaucracy. The FCS allows promotion or upgrade of scientists after evaluation of their knowledge. The agencies’ struggles to retain talents has not found sympathy in the Ministry of Personnel which is treating it like any other government employment exercise, and the line is that the proposal is under review.
“The ministry says the agencies do not figure in the list of scientific departments like DRDO, AERB or ISRO, hence a thorough review is required to decide on such a request. They are also reluctant to offer it to the Aviation Research Centre of RAW which requires specific talents for air reconnaissance. If accepted, this will help at least a certain section of cadre in the agencies,” a source said.
In December, the agencies asked the government for special incentives for personnel to boost their morale. Highlighting the difficult nature of work of spies and their restricted fundamental rights under Intelligence Organisations (Restricted Rights) Act 1985, the proposal said the nature of work takes a toll on health. Moreover, the sacrifices of spies go “unwept and unsung”. Hence, the agencies suggested increasing the deputation allowance to 30 per cent of basic pay.
The IB alone faces a shortage of over 8000 skilled professionals to generate and disseminate crucial information. Against the sanctioned strength of 26,867 personnel, only 18,795 are available with the agency. Sources said despite several proposals and letters seeking more operational and financial powers, the government has been reluctant to grant the wish. It is learnt that the agency has conveyed that existing procedures delay fulfilment of urgent requirements, thus hampering operational activities. “The function of a spy agency is different from other departments and it cannot be made to work in fixed bureaucratic format,” sources argued.
Meanwhile, RAW has a strength of around 9000 officers, including talents on deputation. Sources said RAW is losing its lure as a glamorous employer because of the present work culture. “A three-year fixed foreign posting is the only charm for employees working with the agency. Nobody wants to come on deputation from outside unless he or she feels that it will boost their career. Instead of raising the number of organisations, the government should focus on strengthening the old and promising departments,” a source said.
In a bid to strengthen the Intelligence apparatus in the country, the government has created layers of agencies including NTRO, NATGRID and the under-construction NCTC. An official said the hundreds of crores spent on unrealistic projects could have been utilised to revive the two premier agencies instead.
The Sunday Standard