Latasinha's Weblog

Social and political Values and Systems in India.

Is superior status to IAS justified in 21st century?

“Rank does not confer privilege or give power. It imposes responsibilities.” Peter Drucker

“No creative, intelligent person seeks power. No intelligent person is interested in dominating others. His first interest is to know himself. Hence it is the mediocre who go after power.”  Osho


Majority opinion of Seventh Pay Commission has recommended parity in pay and promotion between IAS and other class I services in its report submitted to the government in November 2015.  The associations of  36 other Group A central services class I have protested against elite status given to Indian Administrative service (IAS). They argue that IAS is not justified in its constant bid to underline its “superiority”.

Administrative structure needs to evolve to meet the contemporary challenges. Governance is far more complex today than it was a few years back, when the existing rule of giving an edge to IAS was devised. At the level of joint secretaries and above in central government’s posts, officials need a lot more domain of knowledge in their respective areas. Therefore government should encourage specialization to improve  the quality of governance.

Their counterparts in other services are handling more “specialized jobs”. Therefore, they  desire to bring in pay parity, do away with the edge enjoyed by the IAS which has been successively upheld by every pay commission till date and give due preference to specialized services rather than generalists, in managing the key departments at the centre.

Premier IAS has always an edge in the top posts in central secretariat, (say joint secretaries and above). It has been possible because the empanelling and selecting authorities i.e. the department of personnel and the cabinet secretariat is completely dominated by IAS.  Its personnel claim that while in service, they have to perform multifarious tasks. They claim that to keep their morale high and confidently discharge their duties, an edge should be given to IAS.

The demand for parity started with the third Pay Commission’s times. At that time IAS’s dominance in top posts of central government gradually weakened. In 1972, out of 45 posts of secretaries, 30 were from IAS and 15 from other group A services. In 1984, this figure changed to 36 from IAS and 25 from other group A services. IAS  had recaptured 71 posts of secretaries out of 92 in 1995. It regained its lost glory from 1995 onwards. Currently 73 out of 91 secretaries in central government are from IAS, 11 are scientists and 7 from Group A services, and none  from IPS, IRS, IAAS, or IRAS. (Figures quoted from TOI, p. 10. dt. 16.11.15). According to petitions from Group A services submitted to 7th Pay Commission, about 75% of joint secretaries, 85% of Addl. secretaries and more than 90% secretaries at present are from IAS.

Civil services in India  – Civil services in India whether at Centre or in Provinces can, without doubt, be regarded as the most remarkable of all the institutions, which Britain has bequeathed to India. Fortunately India has inherited from the past, a unique administrative-system, which knows, what posts are strategic and who are the persons to hold them. Along with IAS/IPS or IFS, many other professional and technical all India Civil services, popularly known as Central Services play a very vital role in the administration of various activities in different spheres all over India.

Government of India selects through open competitive examinations conducted by Union Public Service commission (UPSC), candidates for its elite central services. Amongst all, civil services examination (CSE) is most popular. Quite often, public in general refer to this examination as ‘IAS exam’.

Combined All India Civil Services examination (CSE)

Every year UPSC conducts a common civil services examination (CSE) for to select personnel for many services under government of India like Indian Administrative Service (IAS), as well as for other non-IAS services like IFS, IPS and other central services for different departments like Revenue, Railways, Audit and accounts etc.   There are three stages of this examination – ‘preliminary’, ‘main’ and personality test (interview). UPSC conducts annually separate examinations for some technical/professional services.

Apart from selecting officers for Indian Administrative Service, Indian Police Service and Indian Foreign Service, there are some Group ‘A’ and ‘B’ Central services, officers of which are selected throughCombined All India Civil Services examination like Indian P & T Accounts & Finance Service, Indian Audit and Accounts Service, Indian Customs and Central Excise Service, Indian Defense Accounts Service, Indian Revenue Service, Indian Ordnance Factories Service (Assistant Works Manager, non-technical), Indian Postal Service, Indian Civil Accounts Service, Indian Railway Traffic Service, Indian Railway Accounts Service, Indian Railway Personnel Service, Posts of Assistant Security Officer in Railway Protection Force (RPF), Indian Defense Estates Service and Indian Information Service.

 B Services includes Railway Board Secretariat Service (Section Officer’s Grade), Armed Forces Headquarters Civil Service (Section Officer’s Grade), Customs Appraisers’ Service, Delhi, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli Civil Service and Police Service, Pondicherry Civil Service


Many non-IAS officers (officers of Central Services class I & II) like to call themselves as IAS officers, because earlier, ICS enjoyed the ‘elite status’ during British Raj. After Independence, its successor Indian Administrative Service has become the ‘elitist’, ‘glamorous’ and most sought after civil service amongst all other higher civil services under Government of India. IAS attracts the maximum attention of the government and has the smoothest carrer prospects. It has developed certain complexes amongst officers of both IAS and other higher civil services. Such a trend has adversely affected the co-ordinated working of the whole administrative machnery.


Officers of all higher civil services join the government after being successful in Common entrance examination (CSE ), which is supposed to be one of the toughest examination conducted by UPSC. Society regards success in it as a proof of high calibre of youth. It has been the dream of talented youth allover India to compete successfully in this examination. And it has always motivated the cream of all sections of society to appear in it and become a part of the elite services of India.

IAS propped up as the Elite service

However, it is only Indan Administrative Service (IAS) officers, who start enjoying very high status, authority, smooth career progression and prestige from day one, they join the service. Earlier ICS (officers in their early twenties would arrive fresh from his ICS training at Oxford to rule single-handedly a district half as big as Wales) and now IAS officers have wide-ranging authority in districts as collectors and at centre as policy-makers. They –

  • Have easy accesses to levers of power.
  • Are symbol of power – dealing directly with Ministers at centre and provinces.
  • Have smoothest career-progressions. And
  • Occupy almost all senior-most posts at centre and States.

During pre-independence days there were some 9 All India services + other Non ICS services of generalist nature, which were as popular as ICS was, like ICS (Judicial as there was not much pressure of Imperial Government on their working) or Indian Custom Service (as they always got postings in big towns). Even after Independence, for some time, there was not much difference in the social status, career progression, standard and behavior pattern of IAS and Non IAS class I services. However since 1960 onwards, slowly but steadily, IAS has become more and more powerful and the only ‘Elite service’ under Government of India.

Apart from politicians, many officers of other central services also give too much importance to IAS. They forget that IAS is only one of them. Theirs’ services are also the integral and important parts of the whole administrative system/bureaucracy working for Government of India in the area of their specialization.

What civil services are?

In short, it can be said that civil service is a “professional body of officials, permanent, paid and skilled.”2 According to Max Weber2, the main characteristics of a civil service are as following:

  • Well-structured set-up – For the performance of various, government both at centre or provinces needs into its administrative set-up, in all the spheres a team of mature, dynamic, visionary and responsible officers at all the levels of administration, from almost all vocations, occupations and professions. Civil service requires all its officials to have alert minds, high level of intelligence, broad vision and relevant knowledge about their respective subjects.
  • Division of labour – defined rights and duties prescribed in written regulations;
  • Hierarchy – (a) Systematically ordered authority relationship;
  • (b) Promotions regulated by merit and seniority;
  • Merit based selection and training – technical competence as a formal condition of employment;
  • Full time career-based service with fixed monetary salaries;
  • Impersonality – strict separation of office and incumbent in the sense that employee does not own the means of administration and cannot take the advantage of their position for promoting self-interest.
  • A system of rules and files – its operations are government by a consistent system of abstract rules.
  • Loyalty to impersonal authority like the State.

Organisational set-up of bureaucracy

For the performance of its manifold activities, government employs thousand of workers into its administrative set-up (civil services/bureaucracy) from almost all vocations, occupations and professions. It is government’s primary duty to make all feasible administrative, organisational and working arrangements for its employees.

Structure of civil services/bureaucracy set-up

Whole administrative system is vertically and horizontally divided in order to meet the differing requirements and emerging developmental tasks. The way administrative set-up is organized, plays an important role in performance of tasks and in harmony and cooperation of members inter-se.

Prof. Applebly says, “The structure determines where responsibility lies; how and to what extent responsible and controllable delegation takes place; what emphasis should be given to various objectives. It poses and conceals issues of policy. It provides or relatively fails to provide a structure of progressive responsibilities for decision making and thus at each level screens out some decisions and relieves those in higher positions, so that they may give attention to decisions really important to their functions”.

A proper job evaluation leads to position-classification and forms the basis of personnel management.

Position classification

Position classification is a systematic division of different posts in several classes in accordance with the functions to be performed, responsibilities to be shouldered and other conditions. It is “the systematic sorting and ranking of position in a hierarchical sequence according to comparative difficulty and responsibility”. Usually positions, supervision and authority to be exercised downward, other responsibilities, simple or complicated type of work, qualifications required for the post etc., are the factors, which operate in the determination of classification.

The manifold activities of a government can be put into the following categories –

  • Control functions;
  • Service functions; and
  • Development functions.

Different civil services in the Government engaged in the above tasks may be classified into three broad categories function-wise:

  • Generalist Services;
  • Functional Services; and
  • Technical Services.

Usually services responsible for control functions remain on the controlling/giving-end therefore become more important and personnel engaged in service function or development function at asking end, always looking up at them for getting their job done.

Working of civil administration in  India

The civil administration, whether in Centre or in State, can be divided into two groups –

Working in the Secretariats

Secretariats are at the Central level as well as at the state level. It is Policy making body;Usually IAS officers on deputation from different states occupy most of the senior posts in Central Secretariat. In the State Secretariats also, it is the IAS Officials, who are posted on the top posts in almost every department.

Working in the Secretariat exposes officers to policy perspective in diversified subjects like agriculture, horticulture, power, coal, transport etc. The work in Secretariat requires bright officers having experience and knowledge in relevant areas. Following are important functions of the Secretariat: –

  • Obtaining decisions on policy matters and enunciating policy decisions in clear language,
  • Overall planning and finance,
  • Legislative business,
  • Personnel management policies,
  • Legal advice,
  • Coordination and cross clearance among the administrative departments, in the Secretariat,
  • Communication with central institutions like the Planning Commission etc., and
  • Overall evaluation, supervision, control and coordination of the work being done by the field organizations.

Working in field organizations

For implementation of policies and plans, working in the field can be divided into:-

  • Working in field departments or head offices.
  • Working in the districts

District occupies a key position in civil administration. The Collector continues to play a pivotal role in the District Administration. District is the most convenient geographical unit, where all the regulatory as well as developmental tasks of civil administration are performed.

It is at this level, that administrative personnel come into direct contact with people. Bulk of people gets affected, favorably or adversely by the governmental policies, programs and its implementation. It is here, that people judge the quality and efficiency of the governmental administration.

Both kinds of work, work at Secretariat as well as in the field, have their distinctive challenges. For the efficient performance of work in both the areas, there is need for there is need for really bright and talented officers and flow of knowledge, experience and continuous consultation between the Secretariat and the field agencies.

Political set-up during pre and post Independence period

Pre-Independence period

In the nineteenth century and early 20th century, Laissez-faire was the basic principle of governance. Being so, the main concerns of the imperial Government was maintenance of law and order situation and collection of revenue. They were not much bothered about public welfare activities.

During Imperial rule, the bureaucracy under British government consisted of two parts:

• Government in London headed by the Secretary of State for India and curiously called the `Home Government’ of India.

• Government in New Delhi (in Calcutta before 1911), headed by Viceroy and Governor General of India, called the Government of India.

The two parts were closely related despite of the factor of long distance between England and India. Pylee has said “The whole system from top to bottom was well knit, highly centralized and behaved like an unbreakable steel frame with all the characters of a full fledged autocracy.”

Post-Independence Period

The political system adopted by India is that of a federal parliamentary democracy. The federal structure consists of Union and State Administration. The Prime Minister/Chief ministers and their colleagues are real political heads of different government departments. Their executive power, in practice, is exercised by permanent civil service. Civil services mean all the streams of functional, technical and specialist cadres as well as managerial and generalist cadres. Civil services serve as a link – so essential to maintain continuity of policy and consistency of administration between successive ministers. It includes both officials at Central and Provinces. Good governance depends on the mutual harmony and cooperation of both the wings.

Ranking of the services in pre and post independence periods

Pre–Independence period

British Rulers of 19th and early 20th century were not much interested uplift of downtrodden and neither they interfered unnecessarily in the interests of the privileged classes in India, who served as solid supporters of British Rule in India.

On the top – Services like Indian Civil Service, Imperial services and Indian Police (IP), engaged in the control functions were on the top. Their primary function was to maintain law and order and perpetuate British rule in India. Most of the officers were from the elite and rich families of Britain. Their oligarchic socio-economic background had its shadow on them and forced them to form a separate class – a close aristocracy of talent, race and even of colour. Besides they were ignorant of the values and culture of the Indian Society. These factors put together kept the British civil servants aloof from the Indian masses.

In the middle – In the middle were the specialised services, especially engaged in revenue work. Appointment in the managerial cadres of these services did not require any professional qualification or experience. Income tax Service, Indian Excise and Customs Service or Accounts Service etc. came under this category.

Least attention to technical services – Technical services were paid the least importance.  Technical services required knowledge and experience of a defined field, professional degree/ diploma and/or experience for entering into these services. They were engaged in national-building activities/building up the infra-structure of the nation. Engineering services, Health services etc come in this category.

Post Independence era

No alternativebut to leave the things on time

During the last days of British Rule many problems such as communal tension had come to a breaking point. Lawlessness existed everywhere. The armed forces had mutinied in several places. There had been railway and postal strikes. Goods were in short supply and there was a danger of another famine in near future. These problems forced the British Government to advance the date of Independence to India. (CP Ramachandran, Partition Legend, Hindustan Times, Sept. 1, 1980, P.9)

The above factors in combination with departure of British and Muslim officers from the civil services, partition of the country, Pakistan’s incursion into Kashmir and annexation of widely distributed conglomeration of provinces and princely states in the union of India made the situation worse at the dawn of independence. Events, inevitably unplanned, were moving so fast that there was no question of even attempting to supervise their course.

The country had no alternative but to leave the things to time, opportunity and initiative of local officers and organisations. It is for these reasons, save minor changes here and there, that the pre-independence political and administrative set up moved into the post-Independence era and continues even today, still having the mindset of Imperial rulers.

In the role of Development administration

 After Independence the basic task of the administrative machinery, i.e. civil services/bureaucracy has been changed from one of attending to routine regulatory function to that of promoting a rapid socio-economic development of the nation. Adoption of socialist and egalitarian society as ultimate national goal demanded a qualitative change in the attitude of administrative officers.

Independent India requires a radical change in the attitude of higher civil servants. Their new responsibilities demand that they should come closer to the masses and feel the agony of the millions of underfed, under-read and under-clothed citizens.

The earlier mind-set of the foreign ruler dominating the natives should have given way to the concept of a civil servant, `servant’ in the real sense – in the service of its masters, i.e. the people at large. Unfortunately, it is not so. The services engaged in implementing developmental plans and policies and welfare activities needs to be given more importance than been given in the past.

Structure of services

Both Government of India at central level and State Governments at provincial level have their own administrative set-up. They have their own generalist, functional, technical and specialist cadres.

Pre independence scenario under Imperial rule

Civil services in British India were classified as covenanted (higher) and uncovenanted (lower) services on the basis of the nature of work, pay-scales and appointing authority.

In 1887, Aitchinson Commission recommended the re-organization of the services on a new pattern. It divided the services into three groups – Imperial, Provincial and Subordinate.

Nature of work, quality of supervision by superior etc were the factors, which were considered for classification of the Imperial Services. The recruiting and controlling authority of Imperial services was the `Secretary of State’. Initially, mostly British were recruited for these services. The appointing and controlling authority for Provincial services was the respective provincial government, which framed rules for those services with the approval of the government of India. There were then, subordinate services for minor and ministerial jobs.

With the passing of the Indian Act 1919, the Imperial Services headed by the Secretary of State for India, were split into twoAll India Services and Central Services. On the eve of the Government of India Act 1919, nine services were there in All India Services list. Amongst important Central Services were Indian Railways Service, Indian Custom Service, Indian Accounts Service etc. There were Provincial Services as well. Diagrammatically the classification can be represented as under:

                                            Diagrammatic presentation of pre-Independence


 Covenanted  (Gazetted) I  and II Services             Uncovenanted Non-gazetted III & IV                                                                                                                                                          

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­                                            According to Aitchinson Commission 1887)



                Imperial                                                      Provincial  (I &II)


                                                                India Act 1919


                                     All India Services (9 in all)              Central Services

Vertical classification of services – From 1930 onwards, the classification of services came to be governed by Civil Service Classification, Control and Appeal Rules, 1930. According to it, the various services were divided into four categories: Class I, Class II, Subordinate and Inferior.

During British period, there was another classification of the Civil Services into gazetted and non-gazetted. All positions, the names of whose occupants were published in the Government Gazette in connection with their postings, transfers, promotions and privileges in respect of disciplinary action, right to appeal and retirement etc. were called `Gazetted’ posts. Class I and II Officers generally enjoyed the gazetted status. In contrast other positions, the names of whose occupant did not appear in government gazette were categorised as non-gazetted. This distinction continued to exist till 1974.

Post independence classification of the services

The framework of civil services in Independent India has remained almost the same, except that a few technical services which earlier were All India have been put in the category of Central Services.

Post independence classification of the services is governed by the Civil Services Classification, Control and Appeal Rules, 1930, as was amended from time to time. Now the different services are designated as All India Services, Central Services and State Services. These are classified into class I, II, III and IV. Varadachariar Commission substituted the terms `subordinate’ and `inferior’ by class III and class IV services after independence.

Since July, 1974, the classification of civil servants under class I,II,III & IV has been changed into groups `A’,`B’,`C’`D’. Civil services belonging to Group ‘A’ and ‘B’ are fabricated in the constitutional fabric of the nation for managerial work of the nation’s administration, whether in Secretariat or in field.

Categorisation of services under Government of India –The present categorisation is as under:

  • All India Services
  • Central Services –

All India service

Fine instrument to provide efficient administration – In the light of historical facts, development and achievements of last 150 years, it could be said without doubt that the All India Services were a fine instrument forged by the British Government to provide an efficient and effective planning in different areas, proper maintenance of law and order situation and governance of the country. It brought about not only stability and tranquillity, but also all round and varied development.

It is a well established fact that in every country, there are certain posts in its administrative set up which might be called strategic from the point of view of maintaining high standard of administration. Fortunately for India, it has inherited from the past a system of administration, which is common to whole of the country and it knows what these strategic posts are. All India Services are meant basically for providing personnel for those strategic posts in state administration as well as at policy making level at Centre and Provinces.

All India services just before independence – As the movement for Indianisation gained momentum, the Indian public opinion and the attitude of nationalist leaders became allergic to All India Services, not on the basis of their actual performance, but because they were controlled by the Secretary of State and were a living symbol of foreign rule.

B.B. Misra says that on the eve of the Government of India Act 1919, there were nine All India Services in existence like Indian service of Engineers,   etc.etc. After Independence though India was committed to rapid socio-economic development, of the nine All India Services, all the technical services were either abolished or provincialized. “It was the ICS and IP that remained unaffected and continued to act as an unifying force. Most of the other services were abolished. Considerations of national unity, the positive need of India’s all-round development and the attainment of a minimum uniform standard in administration were allowed to go by default.”2

All India services under the Constitution – The Constitution framers provided that, “without depriving the states of their right to form their own civil services, there shall be All India Services recruited on an All India basis with common qualifications, with uniform scale of pay and members of which alone could be appointed to those strategic posts throughout the Union”. (Constituent Assembly Debates P. 37) All India Services are governed by Article 312 of the Indian Constitution. At present, there are only three All India Services:

Indian Administrative Service;

Indian Police Service; and

Indian Forest Service

Indian Administrative Service and Indian Police Service are incorporated in Article 312(2) of the Constitution. Indian forest service, Indian Service of Engineers, Indian Medical Service and Indian Education Services etc were supposed to come into existence after 1965, but only Indian Forest Service could see the light of the day.

Central services

This category covers both technical as well as non-technical services meant for implementing the policies of the Union in areas which fall directly under Central Government’s list or in Concurrent List (for which Central control or guidance for uniformity becomes necessary in the national interest) such as Railways, Posts and Telegraphs, Excise and Customs etc.

There are some services dealing with those subjects mentioned in Concurrent List, for which it was considered expedient to have a Central control or guidance for uniformity in national interest. It includes both technical (including scientific) and non-technical services, such as water resources management, power generation. There are also some services, which are required for conducting the business of the Central Government such as Audit and Accounts Services. There are many other functional, specialized and technical services meant for implementing the policies of the Union and for performing various functions, for which Central Government is responsible, come in this category.

Recruitment into various services under Government of India

In order to provide the nation a well-equipped and intellectually brilliant administrative frame-work, the recruitment to all the higher services is done through open examinations conducted by Union Public Service Commission. The direct recruitment by competitive examination has been envisaged with an idea that very brilliant person can be shaped into efficient officials suitable for holding senior positions.

There are different competitive examinations conducted and interviewed annually by UPSC for combined civil services as well as technical and specialised services. No preliminary screening is considered necessary as technical graduates have already undergone a rigorous curriculum in their respective fields of study.

Lord Maculae initially shaped the recruitment policy for IAS, IPS and Allied services (most of the professional services) in 1854. The recruitment system for IAS/IPS and other professional Civil Services remained the same after Independence except for some marginal modifications, here and there, from time to time.

The basic ingredients of this system have been:

  •  Selection of really brilliant young people – the calibre of direct recruits was ensured by their success in an open competition.
  •  An intensive training either formal or informal for two years; and
  •  Actual field work for at least a few years (earlier the period was of five to seven years, during which ICS/IPS were moulded to suit the needs of their organisation properly.

In 1975, under Dr. D.S. Kothari, a Committee was set up to review the system of recruitment to IAS/IPS and allied services class I and II. It recommended unified competitive examination consisting of a preliminary screening examination to test skill, speed and accuracy for non-technical civil services. It is an objective type to facilitate quick identification of those, who have the requisite range of knowledge. The main examination consists of four compulsory and four optional papers to test the depth of knowledge. Finally there is an interview to examine communication skills, public speaking skills, leadership qualities, ability to exchange meaningful ideas and attitude. This scheme came into practice from 1979.

After graduation, between 21 to 28 years of age maximum age keeps on differing from time to time for different category of candidates i.e. General category, SC/ST and OBC. All candidates have to appear in the entrance competitive examination, which consists of three components:

  •  Compulsory papers – to test the general mental culture and interests of the candidates;
  •  Optional papers – to judge intellectual ability and scholastic attainment, and
  •  Personality test – to see personal qualities including some intellectual qualities, which a written examination cannot discover

Immediately after their selection into various services, the successful candidates are sent to various training Institutions for their foundation training so that they may get the picture of the political, social and economic aspect of the administrative set-up and they may get acquainted with the basic concepts and requirements of their jobs.

Stress on a graduate degree – A simple graduate degree is still the master-key for appearing into combined civil services examination recruiting the candidates for managerial cadre various civil-services. It makes them eligible for getting a nice and respectable career in the government, giving final reprieve from manual work.

The system worked well at initially, when objectives and duties of governance were plain and simple. And people were ignorant, subservient and undemanding. Now in 21st century, it is practically impossible for a simple graduate having only common sense and intelligence with classical knowledge and literary ability to fit-in for any post in its most elite service, giving status, authority and lots of privileges. Larger the range of responsibilities, more is the requirement for the government to have well-educated, well-selected and well trained personnel.

Status of Various services

Elite status to services doing control functions before Independence – During British Rule,

  • ICS and IP were conceived and propped up as the elite services. The superior status accorded to this service was perfectly in accordance with the aims of foreign rulers. These services were engaged in ‘Control Functions’, i.e. maintenance of law and order or revenue collection. They were supposed to perpetuate British rule in India as long as possible. These services were predominantly meant for ‘White-people’.
  • Services dealing with ‘Service Functions’ like Education, Finance, Medicines, Telegraph and Communications, Railways and Survey of India etc occupied in order of priority a place next to paramount functions of law and order and revenue collection. An admixture of European and native officers was considered suitable. And
  • Scientific and technical services which would not pose any serious danger to the Empire were allowed to be managed by the Natives, because sufficient British personnel were not available to man these services.

The superior status of ICS was recognised by giving them important and top-level posts and attaching substantially higher emoluments to ICS & IP than any other Central Service. Few Indians, who were selected into these services, were also given the same emoluments, so that they could be loyal to the rulers, and though Indians by birth, they could develop the mentality of a foreign ruler.

Reasons for the prominence of ICS – Lloyd George, the British Prime Minister said in the House of Commons in his historic `steel-frame speech’’ on August 2, 1922, that the British Civil Servants were the very basis of the Empire in India and he could not imagine of any period when `they can dispense with the guidance and assistance of a small nucleus of the British Civil Servants’. He said, “I do not care what you build on to it. If you take that steel-frame out of the fabric, it will collapse. There is one institution we will not cripple, there is one institution we will not deprive of its functions or of its privileges; and that is hat institution, which built up the British Raj – the British Civil Service in India”1. The higher civil services were the `steel-frame of the whole structure’’ of governance of Imperial rule in India and were exclusively trained to suit to the special needs of the British Imperial Power. Sir Edmund Blunt had said, “the superior Indian Civil Servants were the practical owners of India, irresponsible and amenable to no authority, but that of their fellow members.” Dr. Fisher also confirmed “it is the government”.

It was a very influential institution during British rule, because it administered the entire Indian Empire with such apparent zeal, efficiency, high-mindedness and impartiality. Reasons were simple for this perception as Gilmour (‘The Ruling Caste, David Gilmour’, a biographer of both Kipling and Curzon) pointed out-

  1. ICS was manifestly neither venal nor corrupt in the way in which, for example, some officials and officers of the old East India Company had been. It had its own weaknesses like assumptions of racial superiority and the conviction that the ICS always knew best.
  2. ICS displayed a mixture of motives, skills and temperaments.
  3. They had sense of responsibility while working from the District Officers to the Magistrates, Residents, Political Agents, Deputy Collectors, Lieutenant Governors, and so on.
  4. ICS officers as District Officers had wide-ranging responsibilities for the overall governance of a district. though he “did not run the railways or the telegraph or the Army… to call out troops in an emergency – but he was responsible for almost everything else”.
  5. Some of them were reactionaries, reformers and thinkers.
  6. ICS worked as District Officers in their early twenties, arrive fresh from training at Oxford.
  7. They had the confidence to rule single-handedly a district half as big as Wales.
  8. British Government was anxious to demonstrate to Indians that British rule was even-handed, several times intervened to ensure that culprits were properly punished for outrages.

ICS was popular not only in India, but allover the world,. “It always puzzled many bigwigs like Stalin, von Ribbentrop and many other foreign observers, namely how barely a thousand British ICS (Indian Civil Service) personnel managed to rule both British India and the princely states with a combined population of well over 300 million during the first part of the twentieth century. Very few statesmen, from Bismarck to Theodore Roosevelt, doubted the quality of British rule.

After Independence

Maximum attention of Government on IAS In Independent India also, the system of generalist supremacy has been inherited from the Raj and has been retained as so up-to-date. IAS, (the successor of ICS of the reputed, efficient and powerful service) has been propped up as an elite service. For an educated youth, it is a matter of pride to be a part of IAS, as it was with the ICS in pre-independence days. The officers of IAS get importance, authority, favours, concessions and privileges right from the day, they join the service. IAS has always remained the most sought after of all the services for the youth, as it provides the highest entry point in bureaucracy. It has always remained the most sought after of all the services for the youth, as it provides the highest entry point in bureaucracy.

IAS occupies a place of pride in socio-political circle. Right from its inception, IAS attracts the maximum attention of the government and the politicians. The officers of this service start enjoying supremacy over other services, immense power, prestige and privileges right at the beginning of their career both at the centre as well as in provinces and continue to enjoy it till retirement. Along with the council of Ministers, they control, virtually, all the levers of the governance of the country.

Like its predecessor ICS, IAS occupies the same elite status or the place of pride. The Government offers to IAS best career prospects, immense power, better perquisites, prestige, higher responsibilities, fatter salaries, and superior status than any other service at the center or in the states.

IAS is predominantly engaged in control functions of its provinces as well as in centre. IAS plays a significant role in administrative and developmental work of the Government. They deliberate directly at the highest level of policy formulation, decision making and policy implementation.

It is a matter of pride and honour for anyone to belong to Indian Administrative service. So much and so, that people belonging to other class I central government services proudly call themselves IAS officers.

The system of recruitment

There was a time when government services attracted the best talents of the nation. Now it no more attracts the best brains. Now the cream of the nation prefers to seek jobs in foreign land or join private sector, where getting better emoluments and work atmosphere.

The Recruitment System for Higher Civil Services remained, more or less, the same even after Independence, in as much as it is based on academic performance judged through an open competitive written examination followed by personality test conducted by the Union Public Service Commission instead of British Civil Service Commission.

In Short

 Till 1960s, there was very little difference in the social status, standard and behaviour between IAS officers and class 1 officers belonging to other services of Government of India.

Now-a-days entry into IAS is the surest and quickest means to get control over others, to improve one’s status in the society, to command instant admiration and respect of the people, thus in reaching quickly to the commanding position in the society. It is supposed to be the manifest symbol of power. It makes an easy access to levers of authority. It enables them to occupy positions having immense power and privileges at the highest level in the Government. Once in service, a person could lead an easy life, is a general conception.

·    To reach quickly to commanding position – To aspirants, entry into IAS is the surest and quickest means to get control over others, to improve one’s status in the society, to command instant admiration and respect of the people, thus in reaching quickly to the commanding position in the society.

·    Symbol of power – It is supposed to be the manifest symbol of power. Its officers deal directly with politicians, plan bigger things, moves all over the world frequently. It has added glamour to the service. The result of this development has been that the IAS has attracted the attention of politicians, especially of those pursuing the sectional interest.

·    Direct dealing with politicians – Today, IAS officers deal directly with politicians, plan bigger things, moves all over the world frequently. It has added glamour to the service. The result of this development has been that the IAS has attracted the attention of politicians, especially of those pursuing the sectional interest.

·    Easy access to levers of authority – It makes an easy access to levers of authority. It enables them to occupy positions having immense power and privileges at the highest level in the Government. Once in service, a person could lead an easy life, is a general conception.

Criticism of giving ‘elite’ status to IAS

This has bred in its officials a character of high-browism and haughtiness and The technical people feel curbed and constrained by the authoritarian habits, attitudes and behaviour of IAS personnel. Leave aside the officials, the prevalent practice at present, even allows a clerk in the administrative and accounts offices to hinder the progress of a technical project, whose execution might be urgently called for by the government and the people. Such an attitude is harmful to the progress of nation, more specially at a time of its history, when it is vigorously engaged in transforming its backward primitive agricultural economy to an advanced industrial order. The Estimate Committee (3rd Lok Sabha) in its 93rd Report hoped that members of ICS and IAS would avoid such attitudes towards the other services, and would, instead by their conduct set high example of dedicated service, which may inspire other services.

Most of the new recruits are mainly interested in exercising the State authority over powerless people and making as much money as possible by misusing their authority. They are now not bothered about the high ideals, intellectual competence and high standards of administration, commitment to public service, Constitutional values, or concern for justice.

Hampering technological advancement – It is often alleged that IAS officials are mainly responsible for hampering the technological advancement of the country. In this age of technology, there are many ministries and departments, having technical character, such as power, heavy industries, steel and mines or petroleum and chemicals, which require technical personnel at policy making levels, to meet the challenges of modern India properly.

But as the situation is, in order to provide smooth career prospects to IAS, mostly IAS officers are appointed to the higher posts even in the departments/ministries of technical nature, because technical personnel, according to the present personnel policies, are not eligible to hold such senior posts. Serious doubts are expressed about the capacity of the IAS to act as an instrument of modernisation and technological advancement.

Disparity between different services

There should be no disparity between different services Free India laid emphasis on national reconstruction and development, a shift from the traditional task of maintenance of Law & Order and revenue collection. The administration is now supposed to play an important role in the developmental process launched by the Government. This fundamental shift in the role of administration called for a variety of skills, equally important in themselves in the higher echelons of administration. But Government of India, like British Rulers, accords higher status to IAS Cadre, which still enjoys exclusive monopoly of crucial positions at the Union and State levels and has a direct access to ministers.

As early as in 1959, Shri C.L. Handa had said, “whereas they has always been room for these wings ever since the dawn of modern economy, the subordination of the technocrat to mere administrator in the higher rungs of the service is an anomaly. These wings must remain at part. They should work hand in hand as a single purpose team and the tendency for establishing rulers and ruled relations must be put down firmly, as this will weaken the very foundation on which the progress of the country is based. (Presidential Address, 15th Annual General Meeting of the Institute of engineers, Dec 18, 1959)

Administrative Reforms Commission had suggested that “preference for the generalist should give place to a preference to those two have acquired competence in the concerned field”, because, “change in the role of government and the great diversification of its functions called for variety of skills in the higher administration. The new tasks call at higher level for competence, which cannot be acquired overnight, but can only be imbibed through special training grafted on the basic functional skills or academic qualification. Each new area of administration – be it economic, social, industrial, technological, scientific or agriculture has its own body of academic requirements, knowledge and techniques. The effective administration of each demands an intimate knowledge of its underlying principles and awareness of its problems. This knowledge can only come through the study and practice of administration of the relevant area over a long period of time, in some cases at least, long enough in fact to amount to a commitment – a professional commitment”.

Prof. A.K. Dasgupta and Prof. Nihar Ranjan Ray, Members of the Third Pay Commission, in their note of dissent expressed their opinion in the following words – “We are strongly of the view that maintenance of disparities in the services has done harm to our society. Whatever urgency the system might have had in the past, in the present state of affairs, it is anarchism. The precedence that a general administrator enjoys today over other services is a historical relic of the colonial regime. The purpose of administration under that regime was limited…The country was to be governed and officers, mostly British, were to be commissioned to do the job. Specialised services, in so far as they existed, were thus treated as subordinate to general administration. Conditions have changed, and it is time we recognised that they have changed. It is absurd in our view that a government which has embarked on a comprehensive programme of economic development and has accepted technical progress in its widest sense as the major aim of policy, should still continue to accord a lower value to a scientist, an engineer or a doctor than it does to an administrator”1. (Report of Third Central Pay Commission, Chairman of Justice Raghubar Dayal, 1973)

The harmful effects of this old and outdated system (according to Memorandum to the Fourth Pay Commission All India Confederation of the Central Government Officers Association, Dec., 1983, PP5-6.) can be listed as below:

  • This discarded value system has failed to infuse adequately a sense of participation in the management cadre of all disciplines.
  • The individual’s special talent and inclination is not directed to achieve that skill for which that talent is best suited, merely because one feels that a better remuneration is available for a different course.
  • A developing economy is constantly in need of ever-increasing resources. Under the system even what is available is not being fully exploited. Because elitist character is given to generalist services, even scientists, doctors and engineering graduates have been offering themselves for All India Administrative Service and other Central Services;
  • This has contributed in no small measure to plight of scientific and technical talent outside the country;
  • Dearth of talent in specialist fields because the remuneration and status attached to them is comparatively less attractive.

Recruitment system – The system of recruitment and selection adopted in 1858 might perhaps not be fit to meet the requirements of Modern India after Independence. It appears rather odd that a simple graduation is required to enter into the most prestigious service i.e. the IAS. While in other services like Indian Economic Service and Indian Statistical Service, the requirement is a postgraduate degree. In Engineering or technical services a degree in Engineering, which takes four years of rigorous graduation course.

In the present age of specialization one cannot depend on the assumption that academic performance, classical knowledge and literary ability would fit a candidate for any administrative post. A welfare development administration need not only the quality of minds of its prospective civil servants, but also needs the subject-matter contents of their minds. The qualities and knowledge needed for different disciplines in the government differ from each other to a great extent and the officers of a particular discipline should have that knowledge and qualities, otherwise the work will suffer.

An officer working in a particular branch of administration should have full knowledge of that subject e.g. an officer working in industrial plant should know what is production, planning and control, PERT chart techniques, the behaviour of supply and demand curves under perfect competition, Monopoly etc. and not one who can only remember and tell the date of birth of Louis XIV. If he is to be told about the fundamental concepts of his work, by his subordinates or colleagues, how will he justify his presence?

The policy of reservations in civil services is unfriendly to efficiency. The problems of administration are now so complex that they require the services of most talented, sincere and honest officers. A preference to a person with inferior talent over a person with superior talent is not only unjust but against the national interest. For efficient and effective governance right persons are required for right posts at right time.

Unlimited Authority without ResponsibilityIt is said, Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The concept of Welfare state and Development administration has bestowed immense authority in the hands of Government, which is mainly exercised by the executive, meaning the ministers and the IAS. But this authority is without responsibility. Whatever may go wrong, either at the field level or at the secretariat level, an IAS officer is never held responsible.

If law and order situation deteriorates in a district, IPS officer is held responsible. If a policy decision goes wrong, it is said that the IAS officers were wrongly advised by the specialists or specialized organizations dealing with that particular subject. Also swift changes, from one functional area to another, make it difficult to hold an officer responsible for any wrong policy. By the time, the results of a policy or the implementation of a program is evaluated, the concerned officer would have been shifted to another department or gone back to his parent state. The IAS officers, by and large, have failed in their chosen fields like Collectorate or Secretariat. These offices affect the lives of crores of people. At present, these offices have become dens of corruption, mismanagement and mal-administration. Despite this, the IAS has never been held responsible for the apathetic state of affairs. The incompetent officials, unable to shoulder the responsibility entrusted upon them, get total immunity from responsibility and irregularity, so far.


Mr. Bapat, an administrator, has said, “For a country like India, with a tradition of thousands years of authoritative paternal administration, the transition to parliamentary democracy has evolved a revolutionary change in the physiology of the body politic. It calls for a radical adjustment of attitude on the part of its operative organs, viz., the higher administrative personnel.”1

  • Feeling of superior or inferior or `Ruling class and Ruled’ relationship amongst IAS and Non-IAS services must be put down firmly. It will weaken the very foundation, on which the progress of the country is based. Young IAS officers should be trained as how to deal with the officials belonging to other non IAS services of technical, professional or specialist departments.
  • They should be trained to work cooperatively with non IAS higher services.
  • Unified civil service – Government of India should merge all its civil services – administrative, professional, technical as well as non-technical – into one unified service with an integrated pay structure and same time-frame for career-progression.
  • Modern India of 21st century needs more than in the past, qualified administrators. Either IAS personnel should be selected earlier, say after higher secondary and then trained properly for the job as is done for Defense Services or MBA degree be made compulsory for appearing in competitive entrance examination.
  • Lateral entries could also be made to get bright persons already employed like: –

Ø Technocrats having sufficient experience in management,

Ø Professionals from other civil services,

Ø Entrepreneurs, willing to switch over to government.

  • Promotions in the service should be strictly based on good performance.
  • Civil servants should be encouraged to upgrade, sharpen, and focus their knowledge towards analysis and problem solving.
  • As Rajaji had suggested, right person should be appointed on right post at right time.

November 4, 2015 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. […] Source: Is superior status to IAS justified in 21st century? […]

    Pingback by Is superior status to IAS justified in 21st century? « Latasinha’s Weblog | November 4, 2015 | Reply

  2. nice post.

    Comment by Anthony Tornambe | November 7, 2016 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: