New Delhi: The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) has reduced the number of IAS, IPS and IFS officers to be recruited this year by 100, continuing the trend of picking fewer and fewer civil servants each year.
In a notification released earlier this month, the UPSC said: “The number of vacancies to be filled through the examination is expected to be approximately 796.”
Last year, the commission had notified 896 positions to be filled through the prestigious civil services examination.
Selected numbers lower than those notified
The number of candidates actually selected is often lower than the number of positions identified — for example, while 812 positions were notified by the UPSC in 2018, the number of selected candidates was 759.
The UPSC had notified 1,364 positions in 2014, 1,164 in 2015, 1,209 in 2016 and 1,058 in 2017. This gradual reduction in the number of positions comes at a time when the country is grappling with an acute shortage of officers.
As of 2018, there was a shortage of 1,449 IAS, 970 IPS and about 560 IFS officers.
Yet, even as the shortage is reported to have thrown up governance challenges — the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, and Law and Justice had in 2017 observed that vacancies of officers in the country had reached “alarming levels” — the UPSC has continued to recruit fewer officers.
‘Govt, not UPSC, decides numbers’
An official from the UPSC said the commission simply notifies the number of positions, and it is the government which decides the requirement.
“The commission has no say in the matter… All the cadre-controlling ministries carry out their cadre reviews, and on that basis, the government tells UPSC how many people to recruit,” the official said.
However, a senior official of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) said it is too simplistic to compare the number of vacancies with the recruitment numbers.
“Just because there are vacancies at present, the recruitment cannot be increased substantially, because that would just arrest the career progression of officers at mid- and higher levels,” the official said. “You will have a situation where people will have to work at the same posts for 10-15 years.”
Explaining the declining numbers, the official said that the DoPT has asked all cadre-controlling ministries to carry out reviews so that the number of redundant posts in the government can be done away with. “It falls in line with the government’s ‘minimum government, maximum governance’ agenda,” the official added.
Moreover, a high number of officers cannot be recruited at once because the government also has to factor in how much training capacity it has, the official said.
‘Lateral entry angle’
However, the decline in UPSC recruitment has led to murmurs of a “lateral entry angle” within the civil service.
A senior IAS officer working in the central government said there is a “clear pattern” in the way the Narendra Modi government is operating.
“On one hand, senior officers are being increasingly re-employed by the government even after they retire — thereby reducing positions at the top,” the officer said.
“And on the other hand, there is this push for lateral entry… It is evident that they want to rely less on the traditional ways of how the bureaucracy is recruited and operates,” the officer continued. “But the question to ask is, what about the states? It is in the states where governance gets hampered the most.”
As reported by ThePrint, six states — Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh — account for nearly 40 per cent, or 565, of the total IAS officers’ vacancies.
But it is not just the civil services whose recruitment has been declining. The government recently told Parliament that the number of jobs given by the UPSC in 2018-19 was the lowest in four years at 2,352. The number stood at 2,706 in 2017-18, 3,184 in 2016-17 and 3,750 in 2015-16.
This comes at a time when the unemployment rate in the country is at a four-decade high of 6.1 per cent.