Now (Babu) ache for UPA!

Updated: Jun 24, 2012, 16:58 PM IST

Pankaj Sharma/ZRG

The UPA government’s general election campaign may get severely hampered in view of an unprecedented number of bureaucrats manning crucial posts set to retire by the end of 2014. This comes in the wake of recurring shortage in the bureaucracy pegged at the start of the year at about 30 per cent.

A Zee Research Group (ZRG) study shows that as many as 843 IAS officers are due for retirement by end 2014. Of these a maximum of 309 babus are retiring this year (this includes some high profile exits witnessed already during the year). The number of bureaucrats due for retirement in 2013 is 282 and 252 in 2014. In 2011, the number stood at 240.

The ‘babu’ exit truth is staring the alliance in its face at a time when it is making bold announcements to put the economy back on the growth path. The timing of the exits is important for it might have a strong bearing on government’s efforts to put its best foot forward during the last two years of its rule ahead of the elections. The exit numbers would also likely buttress the policy paralysis tag the UPA government earned post the 2G scam hammering.

But is the challenge for real? “Drop in both quality and quantity of IAS officers is a serious challenge and affects governance adversely. IAS, is at the viscera of India’s governance, and needs to be incentivized the right way to perform better,” asserted, Srivats Krishna, IAS officer on study leave.

His senior in service and someone who quit the government in year 2000 over differences regarding policy issues with the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, EAS Sarma, is keen to insulate the bureaucracy from politics. The former finance secretary said, “I do not think that these (bureaucratic) retirements will hurt governance in any significant measure. The way the civil services in India are designed and managed will provide the much needed continuity that takes care of it all.”

Union home secretary RK Singh, director general of Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) Sharad Gupta, Enforcement Directorate (ED) director Arun Mathur, defence secretary S K Sharma, secretary department of consumer affairs Rajiv Aggarwal, secretary department of economic affairs R Gopalan and secretary department of personnel Alka Sirhoi are among key babus to retire this year. Among top bureaucrats former chairman of TRAI J S Sharma, coal secretary Alok Perti and secretary department of food and public distribution, Bhushan Chander Gupta retired earlier this year.

A cadre profiling shows that the maximum bureaucrats retiring this year would belong to Uttar Pradesh (UP) cadre followed by the West Bengal (WB) cadre: 25 officers from UP cadre will end their official carrier this year and 22 from WB cadre. Also, 19 officers from Bihar cadre will end their term this year followed by 18 each from Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh cadre.
It may add up to the tally of growing shortage of IAS officers. As per government’s latest data updated till January 1, 2012, a shortage of 1,777 officers (IAS) was recorded. Data from the department of personnel and training shows that as against the total strength of 6154 IAS officers only 4377 were in service then.

While the government has not made its mind clear on the issue, former bureaucrat Sarma did not favour a change in the recruitment pattern for IAS officers. “There is no need to increase recruitment beyond the present level as it will only dilute the quality of the service. Of course, the existing method of recruitment is inadequate and it is imperative to introduce recruitment methods that will test the aptitude of the candidates for the kind of role expected from them” Sarma added.