The Civil Services refer to the career bureaucrats who are the permanent executive branch of the Republic of India. The civil service system is the backbone of the administrative machinery of the country.
In India's parliamentary democracy, the ultimate responsibility for running the administration rests with the people's elected representatives—cabinet ministers. But a handful of ministers cannot be expected to deal personally with the manifold problems of modern administration. Thus, the ministers lay down the policy and it is for the civil servants, who serve at the pleasure of the President of India, to carry it out. However, Article 311 of the constitution protects them from politically motivated or vindictive action.
Civil servants are employees of the Government of India or of the states, but not all employees of the Government are civil servants. As of 2010, there were 6.4 million government employees in India but fewer than 50,000 civil servants to administer them.
Civil servants in a personal capacity are paid from the Civil List. Senior civil servants may be called to account by the Parliament. The civil service system in India is rank-based and does not follow the tenets of the position-based civil services.
British Colonial era
If a responsible government is to be established in India, there will be a far greater need than is even dreamt of at present for persons to take part in public affairs in the legislative assemblies and elsewhere and for this reason the more Indians we can employ in the public service the better. Moreover, it would lessen the burden of Imperial responsibilities if a body of capable Indian administrators could be produced.
During the British raj, Warren Hastings laid the foundation of civil service and Charles Cornwallis reformed, modernised, and rationalised it. Hence, Charles Cornwallis is known as 'the Father of civil service in India'.
Cornwallis introduced two divisions of the Indian Civil service—covenanted and uncovenanted. The covenanted civil service consisted of only Europeans (i.e., British personnel) occupying the higher posts in the government. The uncovenanted civil service was solely introduced to facilitate the entry of Indians at the lower rung of the administration.
The All India and Central Services (Group A) were designated as Central Superior Services as early as 1924. From 1924 to 1934, the administration of India consisted of 10 All India Services and 5 central departments, all under the control of the Secretary of State for India, and 3 central departments under joint Provincial and Imperial Control.
The present modern civil service was formed after the partition of India in 1947. It was Sardar Patel's vision that the civil service should strengthen cohesion and national unity. The values of integrity, impartiality, and merit remain the guiding principles of the Indian civil services.
By the early 21st century, especially in Indian media, Indian civil servants were regularly colloquially called 'babus' (as in 'the rule of babus'), while Indian bureaucracy is called 'babudom'.
The Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, located in New Delhi, is unofficially the 'Ministry of Civil Services'. The Ministry is responsible for training, reforms and pensions for the civil service system in India.
The Constitution, under Article 312 gives authority to the Rajya Sabha (the upper house of Parliament) to set up new branches of the All India Services with a two-thirds majority vote. The Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS), and Indian Forest Service (IFoS) have been established under this constitutional provision.
A member of the civil service in discharge of his/her functions is to be guided by maintaining absolute integrity, allegiance to the constitution and the law of the nation, patriotism, national pride, devotion to duty, honesty, impartiality and transparency.
Code of ethics
The Government of India promotes values and a certain standard of ethics of requiring and facilitating every civil servant:
- To discharge official duty with responsibility, honesty, accountability and without discrimination.
- To ensure effective management, leadership development and personal growth.
- To avoid misuse of official position or information.
- To serve as instruments of good governance and foster social and economic development.
The responsibility of the civil services is to run the administration of India. The country is managed through a number of central government agencies in accordance with policy directions from the ministries. Civil servants are the actual makers of Indian law and policy. They work on behalf of the elected government and cannot publicly show their disinterest or disapproval for it. It is mandatory for them to form certain rules and policies according to the government's views and interests. However, they cannot be removed by any state or central government, but can only be retired.
Among the members of the civil services are administrators in the central government and state government; emissaries in the foreign missions/embassies; tax collectors and revenue commissioners; civil service commissioned police officers; permanent representative(s) and employees in the United Nations and its agencies; and chairmen, managing directors, and full-time functional directors and members of the board of various public-sector undertakings, enterprises, corporations, banks, and financial institutions. Civil servants are employed to various agencies of India and can also be appointed as advisors, special duty officers, or private secretaries to ministers of the Union and the State Government.
Head of the Civil Services
The highest ranking civil servant is the Cabinet Secretary. He is ex-officio Chairman of the Civil Services Board; the chief of the Indian Administrative Service and head of all civil services under the rules of business of the Government of India. He also holds the 11th position in the Order of Precedence of India.
The position holder is accountable for ensuring that the Civil Service is equipped with the skills and capability to meet the everyday challenges it faces and that civil servants work in a fair and decent environment.
Entry level recruitment
Civil Services Board is responsible for the entry level recruitment and subsequent job promotions below the rank of Joint Secretary to Government of India. The recruits are university graduates or above selected through the following rigorous system of specialisation-based examinations for recruitment into respective specialised departments:
- Indian Economic Service/Indian Statistical Service Examination (I.E.S./I.S.S. Exam)
- Central Armed Police Forces - Assistant Commandants Examination (CAPF - AC Exam) of Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) for Group A posts
Promotions and appointments to higher ranks
All appointments in the rank of Joint Secretary to Government of India and above, other major appointments, empanelment, and extension of tenure are done by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet. Lower appointments are handled by the Civil Services Board.
Central Administrative Tribunal
For settling various administrative disputes the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) can be approached. For instance, citizens can approach CAT to obtain the permission to sue corrupt or inept civil servants, and civil servants can approach CAT for unfair dismissal.
Civil Services Day
The Civil Service Day is celebrated on 21 April every year. The purpose for this day is to rededicate and recommit themselves to the cause of the people. It is observed by all Civil Services. This day gives civil servants the opportunity for introspection and thinking about future strategies to deal with the challenges being posed by the changing times.
On this occasion, all officers of Central and State Governments are honoured for excellence in public administration by the Prime Minister of India. The 'Prime Minister Award for Excellence in Public Administration' is presented in three categories. Under this scheme of awards instituted in 2006, all the officers individually or as group or as organisation are eligible. The award includes a medal, scroll and a cash amount of ₹100,000 (US$1,400). In case of a group, the total award money is ₹500,000 (US$7,000) subject to a maximum of ₹100,000 (US$1,400) per person. For an organisation the cash amount is limited to ₹500,000 (US$7,000).
Types of Higher Civil Services
The Higher Civil Services of India can be classified into two types - the All India Services and the Central Civil Services (Group A). Additionally, the officers from the State Civil Services cadre can seek deployment with the Central Services cadre for the Higher Civil Services jobs.
All India Services
For Group B posts, the Combined Graduate Level Examination (CGLE) is conducted by the Staff Selection Commission (SSC).[a]All appointments to Group B are made by the authorities specified by a general or special order of the President.
- Armed Forces Headquarters Civil Services
- Botanical Survey of India, Group 'B'
- Central Electrical Engineering Service, Group 'B'
- Central Engineering Service, Group 'B'
- Central Excise Service, Group ‘B’
- Central Health Service, Group ‘B’
- Central Power Engineering Service, Group ‘B’
- Central Secretariat Official Language Service, Group ‘B’
- Central Secretariat Service, Group 'B' (Section and Assistant Section Grade officers only)
- Central Secretariat Stenographers’ Service, (Grade I, Grade II and Selection Grade officers only)
- Customs Appraisers Service, Group ‘B’- (Principal Appraisers and Head Appraisers)
- Customs Preventive Service, Group ‘B’ – (Chief Inspectors)
- Defence Secretariat Service
- DANICS, Grade II
- DANIPS, Grade II
- Geological Survey of India, Group 'B'
- Indian Foreign Service, Group ‘B’ - (General Cadre, Grade I and General Cadre, Grade II only)
- Indian Posts and Telegraphs Accounts and Finance Service, Group ‘B’ Telecommunication Wing.
- Indian Posts & Telegraphs Accounts & Finance Service, Postal Wing, Group ‘B’
- Income Tax Service, Group ‘B’
- Indian Salt Service, Group ‘B’
- India Meteorological Service, Group ‘B'
- Survey of India, Group 'B'
- Postal Superintendents’ Service, Group ‘B’
- Postmasters’ Service, Group ‘B’
- Railway Board Secretariat Service, Group ‘B’
- Telecommunication Engineering Service, Group ‘B’
- Telegraphs Traffic Service, Group ‘B
- Zoological Survey of India, Group 'B'
The State Civil Services examinations and recruitment are conducted by the individual states' public service commissions in India. These services are feeder services of All India Services. All appointments to State Services (Group A) are made by the Governors of States.
All State Civil and Administrative Services in India above the rank of Deputy Collector are group A service. The officers of following services are later promoted to IAS.
All State Judicial Services are completely group A service & as par with All India Services i.e., IAS. Their appointment made by Governor of respective states after the consultation / approval of the respective states High Courts.
- Higher Judicial Service (HJS)
- Provincial Civil Service-Judicial Branch (PCS-J)
State Forest Service
All ‘ State Forest Services’ above the rank of Assistant Conservator of Forest(ACF) are group A service. The officers of the service are later promoted to IFS.
All State Police Services above the rank of Deputy SP are group A service. The officers of following services are later promoted to IPS.
The state civil services (Group B) deal with subjects such as land revenue, agriculture, forests, education etc. The officers are recruited by different States through the respective State Public Service Commissions, and appointed by the Governor of that state.
- Sub Divisional Officer (S.D.O.) of various departments
- Assistant Registrar Cooperative Societies
- Block Development Officer
- District Employment Officer (D.E.O.)
- District Food and Supplies Controller/Officer (D.F.S.O.)
- District Treasury Officer (S.T.O.)
- District Welfare Officer (D.W.O.)
- Excise and Taxation Officer (E.T.O.)
- Tehsildar/Talukadar/Assistant Collector
- Forest Range Officer (F.R.O.)
- Any other Class-I/Class-II service notified as per rules by the concerned State, i.e. officers, lecturers, assistants, associate professors, or principals of Government Degree Colleges, Class I
Poor performance on international ratings
"We estimate that if India were to pursue civil service reforms and reach the Asian average on government effectiveness, it could add 0.9 percentage points annually to per capita GDP... Institutional quality is a crucial driver of economic performance."— Goldman Sachs report
Professor Bibek Debroy and Laveesh Bhandari asserted in their book "Corruption in India: The DNA and RNA" that public officials in India are misappropriating as much as 5 per cent of the GDP or ₹921 billion (US$13 billion) through corruption.
A 2009 survey of the leading economies of Asia, revealed Indian bureaucracy to be not only the least efficient among Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam, China, Philippines and Indonesia, but also that working with India's civil servants was a "slow and painful" process.
A 2012 study by the Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy ranked and rated Indian bureaucracy as the worst in Asia with a 9.21 rating out of 10. According to the study, India's inefficient and corrupt bureaucracy was responsible for most of the complaints that business executive have about the country.
Inefficiency and misalignment with strategic national goals
"The IAS is hamstrung by political interference, outdated personnel procedures, and a mixed record on policy implementation, and it is in need of urgent reform. The Indian government should reshape recruitment and promotion processes, improve performance-based assessment of individual officers, and adopt safeguards that promote accountability while protecting bureaucrats from political meddling."
The Indian bureaucracy is a self-serving elite clique of babus (public servants) which works in silos and does not serve the national interest. It focuses more on the process rather than the positive outcome. It resists change and reforms. Due to babu's attitude of impunity "elected politicians will be replaced after 5 years but we will continue to hold power for next 35 years", the bureaucracy has become corrupt and inefficient. There is some deterrence against the deliberate acts of corruption, but there is no mechanism to punish the omission or deliberate inaptness.
A paper prepared in 2012 by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions states that corruption is prevalent at all levels in civil services and it is institutionalised.
A 2005 study done by the Transparency International in India found that more than 92% of the people had firsthand experience of paying bribes or peddling influence to get services performed in a public office. Taxes and bribes are common between state borders; Transparency International estimates that truckers annually pay ₹222 crore (US$31 million) in bribes. There have been several cases of collusion involving officials of the Income Tax Department of India for preferential tax treatment and relaxed prosecutions in exchange for bribes.
In 2011, over a period of preceding three years more than 450 chargesheets for criminal cases of corruption were filed and a total of 943 corruption cases were at different stages of investigation by CBI against civil servants.
Misappropriation of funds
₹1 lakh crore (US$14 billion) losses through corruption, waste and fraud occurred from the government's National Rural Health Mission healthcare programme, several of arrested high-level public servants died under mysterious circumstances including one in prison.
Tendering processes and awarding contracts
World Bank report stated that the aid programmes are beset by corruption, bad administration and under-payments. As an example, the report cites that only 40% of grain handed out for the poor reaches its intended target. The World Bank study finds that the public distribution programmes and social spending contracts have proven to be a waste due to corruption.
A 2006 report stated that the state-funded construction activities, such as road building were dominated by construction mafias, consisting of cabals of corrupt public works officials, materials suppliers, politicians and construction contractors.
Theft of state property
Corrupt officials steal the state property. In cities and villages throughout India, groups of municipal and other government officials, elected politicians, judicial officers, real estate developers and law enforcement officials, acquire, develop and sell land in illegal ways.
"Much of the deterioration in the functioning of bureaucracy is due to political interference."
Interference by politicians and politicians-babus nexus in corruption is an ongoing concern. In October 2013, the Supreme Court of India, in the case of TSR Subramanian & Ors vs Union of India & Ors  ordered both Government of India and State governments to ensure fixed tenure to civil servants. The court asked senior bureaucrats to write down the oral instructions from politicians so that a record would be kept of all the decisions. This judgement was seen on the similar lines of the Supreme Court's 2006 judgement in Prakash Singh case on police reforms. The judgement was welcomed by various bureaucrats and the media who hoped that it will help in giving freedom and independence to the functioning of bureaucracy.
Alignment with strategic national goals
Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's principle of "minimum government and maximum governance", government undertook several reforms to align country’s civil service with the strategic national goals, including lateral entry, forcibly retiring inept and corrupt officers, etc. Previously, newly hired IAS officers were deployed directly in the state cadres. From 2014, to align civil servants to the government’s agenda, they are first deployed within the central government ministries as assistant secretaries for a few years. From 2020–21, government will conduct common foundation course for all Group A services to counter the attitude of elite clique operating in silos. Doing away with the earlier discriminatory practice of appointing only IAS officers in the central government, officers from other services with domain experience also are empanelled and appointed; this is said to have widened the pool for selection of competent domain experts.
360 degree appraisal
In 2014, to align the country’s civil service systems with the strategic national goals, government implemented a new 360 degree appraisal system which entails "Annual Confidential Report" (ACR), review of work-related attitude and behavior based on confidential feedback from peers, subordinates, and outsiders stakeholders who have dealt with the officer. This new system replaced the earlier archaic annual performance appraisal based solely on the ACR written by an officer's boss.
Lateral entry of domain experts
From 2018, to attract the best domain expert candidates from across the world for the senior civil servants job, vacancies which were earlier available only through promotion of officers were opened for direct hire or lateral entry as well. This was said to "boost the ministry or department’s capabilities and proficiency... [and] provide synergies to policy and implementation". Initially, domain experts lateral entry candidates were appointed to 10 posts out of total 450 posts of joint secretary in the central government, and a further 40 lateral entrants at the director and deputy secretary level were also inducted.
Removal and punishment of corrupt officers
Empowerment of citizens to sue corrupt officers
In 2016, the government decided to empower citizens to seek prosecution of corrupt IAS officers. The Department Personnel and Training (DoPT), Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, has accepted to receive requests from private persons seeking sanction for prosecution in respect of IAS officers without any proper proposal and supporting documents. In 2019, Government of India dismissed 12 (IRS IT) and 15 (IRS Customs and Central Excise) officers for corruption and bribery charges.
Forced retirement of corrupt and inept officers
In 2011, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, created a proposal to retire and remove incompetent, inefficient and unproductive All India Service officers after 15 years of service, which was accepted and rule 16(3) of the All India Services (death-cum-retirement benefits) Rules of 1958 was amended on 31 January 2012.
In 2016, the Ministry of Finance dismissed 72 and prematurely retired another 33 Indian Revenue Service officers for the first time for non-performance and on disciplinary grounds.
In 2019, to send a message that the job posting with government bureaucracy is no longer "permanent for the dishonest, corrupt and inefficient" officers, the government fired 22 corrupt officers from the Indian Revenue Service (IRS) and another 284 Central Secretariat Service officers were under performance audit by a review panel headed by the Cabinet Secretary.
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All India Civil Services
Central Civil Services
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