UPSC MAINS 2019 : Assessment of the Civil Services

Assessment of the Civil Services

Topic : Assessment of the Civil Services

Topic in Syllabus: General Studies Paper 2: Indian Governance


What is the issue?

Assessment of the Civil Services

  • Senior civil servants assume leadership positions right after they join, but the testing criteria is far from assessing the skill required for the role.
  • In this context, here is an assessment of the priorities and challenges in the civil services at the selection and training phases.


What are the present drawbacks?

  • There has so far been no concerted or sustained effort to manage senior civil service in a comprehensive manner.
  • The steps have been only ad hoc in nature; the lateral recruitment is also one such effort.
  • What really needs to be done is to look at –
    1. the manner in which recruitment takes place
    2. the in-service training, transfers, assessment of officers
    3. incentives and disincentives


What should the selection priorities be?

  • Almost all the IAS officers occupy leadership positions right from the beginning of their careers.
  • Even in the Secretariat jobs, each officer has to lead a team.
  • Hence, the objective should be to select such persons who have leadership qualities or have the potential to become leaders.
  • A leader, in this context, has to be able to build a team and carry it along with her/him by motivating those working with him.
  • S/he has to excel in communication skills beyond the written one.
  • S/he has to be ethical in behaviour with a positive attitude.


How is the selection at present?

  • Most of the above requirements are not tested at the time of recruitment.
  • The entrance exams primarily select brilliant individuals by testing written communication skills, some analytical skills and general awareness.
  • It tests the examinees capability to “crack” the exam, and various coaching institutes assist them in doing so.
  • But a leader requires much more than that.


What is to be done?

  • Recruitment – The tools to assess the above discussed skills which are in use in the private sector and elsewhere in the world should be adopted.
  • Training – The officers have knowledge and they are capable of acquiring more of it.
  • What is required is the transformation of attitude as an officer, the necessity and utility of ethical behaviour.
  • Given the high maximum age of entry into the civil service, this process becomes difficult and challenging.
  • In this line, the training should be centered around inculcating leadership skills.
  • It has to be focused on imparting skills and attitude that would enable the officer to evolve as a leader.
  • Periodic upgradation of skills and learning from each other should be the focus of in-service training.
  • This is imperative in the context of a fast-changing world both in terms of technology and management.
  • Certainty – The inclination and aptitude of the officer needs to be monitored to determine his/her postings and assignments.
  • Once assigned a task, he/she should be left to deliver.
  • Frequent transfers interrupt the implementation process and leaves way for politicisation of bureaucracy.
  • An agency, like the UPSC, can be assigned to prepare a panel from which the government can select an officer.


Additional Information:

Generalists Vs Specialists – Who is better?

Generalists are associated with duties concerning the formulation of policy, coordination, general management, and improvement of government machinery and departments. Generalists can adopt a comprehensive yet integrative approach to a variety of problems, without being affected by too much knowledge about any one of them.

Specialists are those who have special knowledge or expertise in some particular field such as engineering, agriculture, medicine, economics, statistics, etc. Specialist knowledge and expertise are required in tackling the complex problems of modern administration which is becoming more and more technical.

Civil services need both generalists and specialists because with the growth of science and technology the administration has become very complex in nature which requires the services of both generalists and specialists. For example, the administrators of price-policy must know in-depth details of all the economic as well as social implications of that particular measure which can be provided only with the knowledge of both generalists and specialists. And also with the advent of computer and Internet, specialist expertise is very much required for information storage, dissemination and decision making. Therefore, both generalists and specialists are necessary for efficient administration.

Thus, the word ‘versus’ between generalists and specialists should be replaced by ‘and’, so that both team together in the nation-building process.

Recommendations for lateral entry efficiency:

  • Even though there are some drawbacks with the lateral entry, its benefits outweigh the shortcomings if the reform measure is handled with sensitivity as follows:
  • Good Remuneration: Remuneration of lateral entrants should be on par or only slightly lower than that of similarly situated executives in the private sector. This is to attract the best and brightest talent from the private sector and to avoid the consequences of demoralized bureaucracy and underpaid lateral entrants.
  • Mission-mode implementation: Lateral entry should be implemented in the mission mode projects on the lines of Aadhaar i.e., projects which are for a short duration (3-5 years) and are not hampered by red-tape and have a clear vision and expectations attached to them. DoPT notification for lateral entry is along these lines on a contract basis (3-5 years).
  • Encourage specialisation: To ensure that the career progression of existing civil servants is not affected by the entry of lateral entrants (specialists), the existing civil servants should be encouraged and allowed to choose a broad area of specialization in which they like to serve for the next 10-15 years after their 9-12 years of service. For example, a civil servant should be allowed to serve in the human resources (Education) departments at the state and Union level and he or she can be rotated between different postings within the broad field such as primary, secondary, higher education, etc.
  • Crossflow of ideas: Similar to lateral entry (specialists) in civil services, career-based civil servants (generalists) should be allowed to serve in the private sector on the deputation basis to get fresh insights and expertise which can be utilised in decision and policy-making. This will help them to compete with the lateral entrants on better terms.
  • Enabling environment: should be created for the lateral entrants to function who may find it difficult to work in a bureaucratic environment where the tension between generalists and specialists persists.

To summarize, lateral entry into civil services is not a new idea but it has not been followed as an institutionalized practice earlier. Even though there are some shortcomings with this approach that need to be resolved, there are several benefits associated with a lateral entry which should, hopefully, influence the rule-bound bureaucracy to become the agents of change; a role which the founding fathers, like Sardar Patel and Jawaharlal Nehru, had envisaged for the civil services.


Sample Question:

What measures would you suggest to make government offices efficient? (150 words)



Assessment of the Civil Services infograph