New Delhi, April 3: Former governor of the Reserve Bank and a former finance Secretary Duvvuri Subbarao has said that the IAS has failed the nation, by adding that ‘it’s a firm opinion’ during an interview with ‘The Wire’.
He says this question ‘has been swirling in my mind for several years or even several decades’. He says he has been reflecting on it for 14 years ever since he left the IAS in 2008 when he became governor of the Reserve Bank of India. He says this is a “firm opinion” based on his years of experience in the IAS and his reflections on the question thereafter.
When Subbarao was asked if he is saying that the IAS is neither as competent as it should be nor as honest and incorruptible as it needs. In response, he said, “The short answer is yes.”
Dr. Subbarao said once upon a time the IAS had a “formidable reputation for competence, commitment and integrity”, but that’s “unravelled”. Today “the IAS has lost its ethos and its way. Ineptitude, indifference and corruption have crept in”.
He said there are two principal problems – corruption and competence. He said the IAS is “not as incorruptible and honest as it should be or it used to be”. He said “incidents of corruption are much higher than before”.
On the matter of competence, Dr. Subbarao said “it is not as competent as it should be or it used to be”. He said talent gets atrophied. He said people fail to perform.
Citing an unnamed chief minister, he said this gentleman had told him how deep the rot runs through the IAS. The CM claimed 25% are “callous, corrupt or incompetent”. Another 50% have turned their jobs into sinecures. Only 25% can be relied upon to get work done.
The problem, Dr. Subbarao said, is the culture within which the IAS operates. He called it “the biggest problem”. He described it as “a deeply flawed system of incentives and penalties”.
Explaining further, Dr. Subbarao said, “Almost everybody gets promoted… almost everybody gets outstanding grading in performance.” As a result, he said, “There is no encouragement of talent and no penalisation of laziness and corruption.”
He said, “Young recruits come in with sharp minds and full of enthusiasm…but soon they become cogs in the wheels of complacency and acquiescence, turn lazy and cynical, and worse, lose their moral compass.” As a result, “there is no motivation for officers to upgrade their knowledge and skills … (and we have) a system that promotes mediocrity.”
The cure, Dr. Subbarao said, is that “the IAS has to be reformed into a meritocracy”. He said that we need a proper system of lateral entry based on examinations and requiring every lateral entrant to spend five years of his first 10 years in field postings. Second, IAS officers, who spend their initial years as generalists, must acquire specialist domain knowledge. However, he added, “specialisation need not be mandatory”. What one needs is a mixture of specialists and generalists.
Dr. Subbarao also responds to potential criticism of his analysis – that he is exonerating politicians and instead blaming the IAS and that the present state of the IAS is a result of the performance and behaviour of earlier generations and they are, therefore, more to blame.
Courtesy: The Wire