Why do officers, particularly IAS officers not line up for a Delhi posting anymore?
Today, it has become rare to see a hot race to come to Delhi on a posting as a Joint Secretary, let alone as a Deputy Secretary or Director.
In the 70s and 80s, an officer was known by the merit they had earned as a Deputy Secretary or Director. Delhi taught you how to write good notes, improve your English, get used to discussing policy issues, learn the ropes of Parliamentary working, and most importantly to network with a wide cross section of officers from different cadres.
A posting in a ‘good’ Ministry – the ‘good’ ones being economic Ministries like Commerce, Economic Affairs, Petroleum etc was a dream come true. Rare would it be for an officer to be considered suitable for empanelment as a Joint Secretary until they had done a stint as a DS or Director in GOI. And to be a Joint Secretary was like being the captain of a ship – fully in command of the sections and areas of work assigned. A solid Joint Secretary in those days was as much of a demi-god as a strong Secretary today. I recall joining Commerce Ministry as a DS. Officers like Mr BP (Bobby Misra) who was JS East Europe and Russia and Mr Anwarul Hoda, JS Trade Policy/GATT were very high in blue-chip ranking both in government and in the eyes of the corporate world.
A head-down-serious stint as a DS/Director assured one of being picked up in a good Ministry later, as a JS – because of the networking and patronage that it helped one to develop, especially with one’s powerful JS boss who would by then have ascended to become an Additional Secretary or Secretary – and their recommendation was all that was needed to get you to a good posting.
Reasons why people are not opting for Delhi:
- Delhi’s clout in the entire scheme of national development has come down, what with higher allocations for the states under the various Finance Commissions – the 14th Finance Commission actually stamped out the concept of centrally sponsored schemes in which central financial participation required mandatory state participation as well in any scheme – now funds were made directly available to States
- Licensing, Forex regulations, FDI/Current account convertibility and various other central restrictions have been done away – making a central posting less consequential in the eyes of the officers in the states
- Officers in the 9-17 years’ seniority category command projects in the state which are flushed with national/international funding and so they have more amplitude to demonstrate innovations, competence amid an atmosphere of independence. This allows them to compete for new awards and grow in stature with the use of social media. Stints as DS/Director do not afford that freedom or opportunity for innovation
- Officers at that level in the states have huge resources in terms of manpower, consultants, vehicles, opportunity for travel. Gone are the days where only those on Central deputation could travel abroad for UN conferences or seminars or foreign trainings to prestigious institutions
- Senior officers and their patronage do not count for much anymore in postings. Earlier, a good word from an Additional Secretary or Secretary was enough to get you to a Ministry of interest, whether in the social sectors or the economic ones. PMO was meant only for policy issues or rare interventions
- The most controversial and even debatable reason that many of my colleagues ascribe, although in hushed tones, is that the younger lot today has got spoilt with the perks of power and the spoils of office and therefore do not want to waste their time in doing file-pushing in Delhi in the peak years when they are MDs of State PSUs or Municipal Commissioners of cities, or Project Administrators of internationally funded projects. They would much rather do their own thing their own way.
Clearly things have changed. The god of small things is no longer being worshipped.
- The IAS risks being reduced to a glorified state civil service, albeit with powerful local allegiances. This view is held by highest civil service functionaries
- Other services will fill and are indeed filling this vacuum left by the IAS