The recent appointment of five IFS (B) category officers as ambassadors has triggered a controversy in the ministry of external affairs.
Many states are feeling the heat of shortage of IAS officers to run their own administration and are exerting pressure on the Centre to send their IAS officers back to the state. According to sources, two states, in particular, J&K and Himachal Pradesh, have aggressively taken up the issue with the Centre. Recently, Union commerce and industry minister Suresh Prabhu approved the proposal for extension of services of Manoj Dwivedi (joint secretary, commerce) but the department of personnel and training appears constrained to extend the Central deputation tenure due to pressure from the J&K government.
It may be recalled that in September 2017 the J&K chief secretary wrote to the PMO stating shortage of officers and reiterated that the Centre should prematurely repatriate its officers A.K. Mehta, Sudhanshu Pandey, Atal Dulloo and Manoj Dwivedi to the state. After this, CM Mehbooba Mufti too has been requesting for the return of these officers to the state.
However, sources say that Mr Pandey, may stay at the Centre till his deputation tenure ends in mid-August this year. Meanwhile, since he is empanelled as additional secretary in the GoI he would continue to serve at the Centre but for other officers, it has now become too tough to continue in New Delhi.
New promotion policy for PSUs
Central PSUs will introduce fast-track promotions for star performers and a customised sabbatical policy for long-serving employees. The move comes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave a 100-day deadline to the heads of central public sector enterprises to come up with a roadmap with measurable targets for strengthening state-owned companies and promoting development activities.
According to sources, the government has set up a committee to recommend a policy framework in this regard. The outcomes of the deliberations of the committee will be included in the roadmap to be prepared for presentation to the PM.
The committee, comprising human resources directors from top PSUs like BHEL, Oil India and NTPC, among others, will finalise its recommendations in the next three months on fast-track promotion for star performers, a customised sabbatical for employees and summer internship.
IFS unhappy with the archaic rule
The recent appointment of five IFS (B) category officers as ambassadors has triggered a controversy in the ministry of external affairs. The appointments are for embassies in Venezuela, South Sudan, Suriname, Cuba and Papua New Guinea. Reportedly, several young IFS officers are questioning the opaque process of appointment of heads of mission. Sources say that the move has brought to light a split between IFS rank officers directly selected through the UPSC examination and IFS (B) staff members who rise through ranks to become IFS officers in 12 years.
Sources say that three IFS officers have even threatened to move court against the manner in which IFS (B) rank officers who join service as assistants are being inducted into the foreign service by the ministry. They are unhappy with the existence of an archaic rule, which grants three-year antedating of seniority to IFS (B) staff members.
This is seen as an unhealthy practice and IFS rank officials want it to be addressed soon. However, in the present context what has triggered a rift between IFS and IFS (B) rank staff members is that one of five recently appointed ambassadors has not even reached the level of director; he is a deputy secretary-level official.
The larger problem, of course, is that the MEA faces an acute shortfall in the number of IFS officers. In fact, the average IFS intake per year was only 12 between 1999 and 2004 and this is what is said to have exacerbated the problem for the MEA in manning its diplomatic missions spread in more than 180 countries.