The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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No shunting, babus may stay put

New Delhi, March 27: The Centre is considering a minimum two-year term for all Class I officers.

Worried at the trend of officials being shunted out on the whims and fancies of their political masters or their own bosses, the Congress-led government has asked the cabinet secretary to hold a meeting of top secretaries and work out a strategy on the matter.

The department of personnel and training, within the home ministry, has already circulated a letter (No K-11013/1/2003-RC (vol IV)) to secretaries concerned who are part of the core group on administrative reforms. The letter incorporates the views of the National Advisory Council and pushes for a fixed two-year term for Class I officers.

The policy paper says that in case an officer has to be shunted out for some reason, his next posting should be extended suitably so that on an average he spends two years in each posting.

The government has already hinted that it will have fixed tenures for the posts like that of the Union home secretary and defence secretary. The move to fix tenures for Class I officers seems to be a extension of this principle.

Class I officers working for the central government include IAS and allied service officers who man the government ministries and departments.

Earlier, the NDA government had tried to fix a two-year tenure for the cabinet secretary, but this was given the go by after the Congress government took over.

Sources said the idea really originated from the armed forces, where for some time the chiefs of the three services have had fixed terms.

Officials said the logic for fixed tenures is that there is need for “sustained continuity” of policy making and that short tenures not only upset officers but also the system.

“People take time to understand a new job and to remove them before they have started applying their learning curve is to create a vacuum in the system,” one of the officials said.

Ideally, the Centre would like to extend the norm to the states. It has been seen in the past that as chief ministers change, district magistrates and police superintendents are also shunted out.

But pushing such a policy down on the states seems impossible given the political sensitivity of the move.

Instead, officials said, the policy would be held up as a model just as fiscal responsibility and budget management is.

Officials say there is a more pressing need for this norm in states as 70 per cent of the 11 million bureaucrats work for state governments.

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