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Service & cadre: Not just UPSC exam, score in foundation course may also matter

The government is assessing if the 15-week foundation course for new recruits at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA) can be turned into a scoring exercise and if the service and cadre can be allocated based on their “performance” there.

The Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration

In a move that will significantly alter the way civil servants are inducted, marks secured by candidates in the UPSC civil services examination may not be the sole criterion for allotting them the all-India service of their choice.

The government is assessing if the 15-week foundation course for new recruits at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA) can be turned into a scoring exercise and if the service and cadre can be allocated based on their “performance” there.

As is the norm, those who clear the civil services examination conducted by the Union Public Service Commission are allotted the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS), Indian Foreign Service (IFS) and other central services based on their UPSC exam ranks. After that, they are sent to LBSNAA for training, which starts with a 15-week foundation course before the recruits branch out to service-specific training programmes.

As per documents reviewed by The Indian Express, the Prime Minister’s Office now wants to alter that process and allot services and cadres to candidates only after taking into account how they fare in the Foundation Course.

Letters have gone out from the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) to various cadre-controlling ministries, seeking their views on the proposed move.

“Examine the feasibility of giving due weightage to the performance in the Foundation Course and making service allocation as well as cadre allocation to All India Service Officers based on the combined score obtained in the Civil Services Examination as well as in the Foundation Course,” reads the May 17 letter from Vijoy Kumar Singh, Joint Secretary, DoPT, to various departments.

The Foundation Course, a combination of activities carried out at the academy, consists of academic components such as public administration, law and political science, besides a number of extra-curricular activities such as trekking, village visits and interaction with fellow probationers. At present, the Foundation Course counts for 400 marks, but, along with the other phases of the probation period, only goes towards establishing seniority within the batch.

The latest move to give weightage to the Foundation Course in determining the services and cadres has divided groups of serving and retired civil servants. While some said the move could give rise to a trend where high-ranking candidates will no longer get services of their choice, others welcomed the idea.

Padam Vir Singh, who served as director at LBSNAA and was at the Academy for 13 years before his retirement in 2014, said “it was not a bad idea at all”. According to him, the short interview that candidates give, after clearing the UPSC-conducted civil services exam, isn’t enough to “judge them properly”.

“The idea of including the Foundation Course as part of the overall assessment of the candidate will help in getting the right people for the right service. The probationers themselves will be able to make a better choice after the Foundation Course by matching their ambition with their aptitude,” Singh said.

Upma Choudhary, current Director of the academy, did not respond to emailed queries, SMS and calls for a comment.

“It is a very bad idea,” said a senior UP-cadre bureaucrat, adding that it “will destroy the purpose for which officers go through the Foundation Course”. “If this idea goes through, there will be maara-maari (tussle). Probationers will compete for every mark so that they get the service of their choice. Sycophancy will reign supreme at the academy,” he said.

The idea itself is not new. In 1989, a committee headed by historian Satish Chandra had recommended that the examination for recruitment be divided into three stages – the preliminary examination, the main examination as well as a Foundation Course – before the service and cadre is allotted to the successful candidate. The Committee had in turn cited the report of the Kothari Committee (1974-76), headed by scientist and educationist DS Kothari, which had a similar opinion.

“The FC is officially a time to relax after having cleared the gruelling civil services examination. There, we are prepared to be officers, mix with people from other services. There is no element of competition there,” said another central government officer.

A DoPT officer said the matter had come up at a meeting with the PMO, following which comments were sought from all cadre-controlling ministries. “After the comments come, we will compile and put them up for discussion in our department and that is how the matter will process,” he said.

An officer who is preparing to reply to the DoPT letter said service recruitment rules will have to be amended to accommodate the new idea. “Induction to every service is as per laid down recruitment rules. We are going to reply that recruitment rules will have to be amended if this move is to be formalised,” he said, seeking anonymity.

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