The performance of the senior staff of the IAS, IPS and Indian Forest Service no longer depends on their confidential annual reports. Instead, panels of experts formed under the Union Home Office and the Department of Training and Personnel (DoPT) have developed a system to assess senior officers who will serve at the Center through of a 360 degree secret check.
“It’s called 360 degree vetting because independent assessments are made for each officer based on seven parameters scored on a scale of 1 to 5,” said an official familiar with the process.
For Indian Police Service (IPS) officers, the panel is made up of five retired officers under the Ministry of Home Affairs, while IAS and Indian Forest Service officers are selected by a group of experts under the DoPT.
Below the lens are IPS officers in the rank of DIG and above, and IAS officers in the position of Joint Constitutional Secretary at the Centre.
Sources explained that once a list of officers eligible for constitution is placed before the panel of experts, each member of the panel conducts a general investigation by reaching out to various sources, senior officers, juniors, comrades class and other public figures to assess the candidate.
This investigation is covert in nature and largely focuses on seven attributes of an officer: attitude towards work, ability to take on additional responsibilities, knowledge of the field, relationship with peers and the public, competence or set skills, integrity and overall suitability for the position.
Sources said each member speaks to at least one or two of these sources, which represents approximately 10 independent assessments submitted to the panel which recommends a final group of officers to be placed on the select committee. The Select Committee is made up of the Cabinet Secretary, the Union Interior Secretary, the Director of the Intelligence Bureau and others in case IPS agents take a final call.
The attributes and parameters are the same when it comes to selecting IAS and IFoS agents.
According to sources, 30-35% of officers are recruited each year from each group. However, this selection process may be subject to review. If an officer feels they have been denied a chance, they can go to a review board, which again consists of five retired officers, who go through a similar process of doing a 360 degree check. . The final names are then again submitted to the select committee for decision. However, the review process is only available once.
Government officials said the new system has made the selection process multi-tiered and robust, leaving little room for talented officers to be left out in the cold and undeserving candidates filling crucial posts.
The Centre’s litmus test for agents also serves a larger purpose of bringing together a mixed group of agents from different departments who can serve as subject matter experts, breaking the IAS agents’ monopoly on key government positions. central.
Shekhar Singh, a former adviser to the Planning Commission, said there was an urgent need to end the dominance of any service and focus on the vast talents and expertise available in all areas of public administration across the country. country.
This attempt also goes hand in hand with another effort by the government to attract young officers to the Center to fill junior positions to give them exposure to the central ministries, departments and agencies in New Delhi in addition to filling vacancies.
“The traditional practice of young officers preferring to serve in their cadres is being broken after MHA and DoPT tightened mandatory Central Delegation guidelines to make them eligible to hold leadership positions at the Center at a stage later,” a government official said. .
“There was a time when politicians needed to be briefed by officers who were generalists,” the official said. Shekar explained that as new challenges emerge, there is an increased demand for experts who can take on specialized roles in government, whether in telecommunications, energy, information technology, cybersecurity, health, etc.
Singh, who has been a professor at the Indian Institute of Public Administration, said the new changes brought by the government are also keeping serving officers in the states as well as the Center on their toes.
But there are anomalies that continue to exist. A senior Forest Service officer pointed out that the constitution of IAS officers always precedes all other services and sometimes there is a gap of two years before an IPS officer from the same batch is formed. This discrepancy must be removed, he said. Second, even though ACR reports are no longer the final factor in deciding an officer’s suitability to serve at the Center, these reports are no longer confidential as they are shared with the officer after the final stage of the evaluation.
This led to ACR reports being written in a way that didn’t ruffle too many feathers.
“When senior officers are aware that their assessment will be shared, normally the tone is softer and the assessment becomes the same for all officers, making the process less efficient,” a senior official said.
Despite the pros and cons of the new rating system, a race has begun among all Indian service officers to either seize a chance to serve at the Center or hone their skills to qualify the seven-point criteria.