A parliamentary panel has expressed concern over “deterioration” in the quality of recruits to the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) and said it is “imperative” that only the best are selected.
“The committee is concerned at the deterioration in quality of recruits to the IFS. This is happening at a time when the lure and appeal of the civil service examination has increased tremendously,” the Standing Committee on External Affairs headed by Shashi Tharoor (Congress) said in its report tabled in parliament on Tuesday.
The panel said that unlike in the past when only those obtaining the highest ranks in civil services exam were taken into IFS, “it has come as a matter of surprise” that even low-ranked candidates are able to enter the service.
“This development is both a symptom and a reason for the erosion of prestige in the IFS,” said the committee, whose members include Sugata Bose (Trinamool Congress), Karan Singh and Rahul Gandhi (Congress), Mohammad Salim (CPI-M), Supriya Sule (NCP) and Swapan Dasgupta (Nominated).
While the “relative charm” of the IFS has waned with more opportunities of foreign travel in recent years, the External Affairs Ministry “has acknowledged that people in the top 10 may not necessarily opt for the Indian Foreign Service”, said the panel.
The 31-member committee observed that the IFS toppers in 2014 and 2015 were ranked “24th and 14th” respectively in the overall Civil Service Examination merit list.
The panel said “urgent steps” ought to be initiated to make the IFS “more attractive and remunerative as a career choice for civil service aspirants”. The ministry must take urgent notice of the low strength of IFS cadre as well as that of total diplomatic corps and “initiate remedial measures at the earliest”, said the panel.
The sanctioned strength of 912 IFS officers is one of the smallest among all-India and central services, it said.
Since diplomacy is expanding into emerging areas like economic, commercial, political and environmental diplomacy, the officers should receive mid-career training to develop expertise in specific fields based on their educational background, the panel said.
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