'Civil Services need substantial reforms, not trivial, knee-jerk reactions'
A proposal from the prime minister's office to allocate cadre of civil servants after taking into account their performances in the Foundation Course has raised several eyebrows.
 
Experts believe that the ill-conceived decision-in-the-making will have an adverse impact on the overall morale of the civil servants.
 
There is a consensus among scholars and public administration professionals that the Indian Civil Services in the state and union governments need an urgent overhaul. Hundreds of committees and commissions have addressed the issues in the past and made considered recommendations, which have generally been overlooked by successive governments. 
 
The feeling is that politicians, and even bureaucrats, are not interested in such administrative reforms.
 
On May 17, various ministries and departments were asked by Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) to examine "if service allocation or cadre allocation to probationers selected on the basis of Civil Services examination be made after the Foundation Course. Examine the feasibility of giving due weightage to the performance in the Foundation Course and making service allocation as well as cadre allocation based on the combines (sic) score."
 
Instead of getting it examined by domain experts, the matter has been referred to all the departments. The rationale is difficult to fathom. And to make it even more intriguing, it has been done in a very cryptic manner, without even mentioning the context, as if it was a routine matter of little significance. 
 
In my view, at least a short explanatory note on the subject should have been provided elucidating the present position with possible ramifications.
 
I believe that Civil Service reforms are not synonymous with sprucing up civil servants. That's the least part of it. Civil Service reforms should be seen as an integral component of administrative reforms and not isolated from them.
 
It should also not be forgotten that good politics is essential for good governance. Now, let us assume that the present political executive unreservedly wants to initiate steps for good governance. The first priority then for effective reforms should be to ensure that the institutions deliver public goods to the citizens, rather than to tinker with the recruitment process of the primary delivery agents of public goods.
 
Another hypothesis of administrative reforms, according to us, is the emphasis on reforms on the demand side. It has been the practice of most political leaders to decide on reforms with a notion of being a guardian. It pre-supposes that the people in government are the best judge of the needs of the people. The concerns and aspirations of the people are of no consequence, because it is presumed that the people do not know what is good for them. 
 
Ideally, good administrative decisions should evolve through a process of negotiation between the state and the recipients of reforms. The wishes of the people could be ascertained through organised groups in the society. 
 
Most reforms in government fail. They fail not because once implemented, they yield unsatisfactory outcomes, but because, they never get past the implementation stage. Sometimes they fail because the wishes of the people have not been taken into consideration.
 
What should be the approach to reforms often is more important than the content of the reform. Successful reforms require a combination of political commitment, technical capacity and gradual implementation, aided by high dedication of the civil servants. For introducing any change in civil servants, their commitment is essential. 
 
The proposal to change the rules for allocating services and cadres appears to be too trivial and a knee-jerk response. 
 
Curiously, the reaction of the main opposition party came in great haste, accusing the government of tampering with the UPSC structure in order to appoint officers of choice from the RSS in central services. There couldn't have been a more absurd criticism of a plain legitimate statement. Others too joined the chorus. They called it a "dangerous move by the PMO" which "must be nipped in the bud". 
 
As it is, the relative ranking, and therefore inter-se seniority, of those selected through UPSC examination for a particular all India service (say IAS) undergoes minor changes on account of the assessment in the Foundation Course. Even the first position in the IAS has occasionally altered. Extending the argument further, to determine the cadre within a particular service on the basis of final grading seems feasible, if not desirable.
 
However, the service allotment in an analogous manner appears completely untenable. Different training institutions with diverse methods of assessment, risk of favouritism and eclectic groups of probationers are likely to generate avoidable antagonism among them when we need intellectually intense and effective civil servants in every service. 
 
Besides, just think about the persons who having qualified through the most rigorous examination system is demoted to a lower position after the Foundation Course. Some see this proposal as another measure for demoralising civil servants. They ask whether enough had not already been done in successive governments. 
 
Finally, we should ask the DoPT to answers the following questions: A. Why is their an urgency to tinker with an established system without considering numerous recommendations of hundreds of committees and commissions? B. Is it likely to result in better selection for services? C. Is it part of a larger reform package or an isolated idea? D. Did any research paper produced by a think-tank associated with the ruling party form the basis of the present idea? and E. Has the idea been considered in the past and rejected? 
 
The difficulty with a proposal of reforms is that people do not appreciate that the problem is not to demonstrate whether it's possible or not but whether it's going to work.
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    Planning to pursue MBA? Think again…
    The bags are not completely unpacked and I am yet to recover from jetlag. Venkat, my better-half, shows a couple of messages on WhatsApp that I am yet to check. Then, as if on cue, he shows me a news article that says that admissions to MBA this year are expected to plunge to an all-time low. Vasu, my cousin’s son calls me from Chennai to inform me (albeit a bit sullenly) about how he has been given the pink slip by a famous business school in Chennai. Reason? Poor student enrolments are causing nightmares to educational institutions and faculty members alike. Luckily for Vasu, he has been moonlighting as a soft-skills trainer and so he need not worry about securing a full time job immediately. Vasu had joined a business school in his early 40s after leading a peripatetic life as a sales manager in HP. It was not difficult for Vasu to segue from a busy career in sales to a somewhat dull career in education.
     
    Do not get me wrong, dear reader. Teaching has become extremely mundane. Every institution, in the process of collecting (not selecting) students, has internalized a philosophy of treating students as customers. Pleasing students is the main agenda. Business schools do not flinch to appoint teachers to teach management subjects at a paltry sum of Rs15,000 – Rs20,000. If you pay peanuts, you will only get monkeys – so goes an old adage. But in an era where job security is fast becoming a mirage and job losses are becoming the order of the day, unemployed people are accepting any job offer that comes their way. It does not make sense to sit at home, twiddle your thumbs and wait for that “ideal” job which may never materialise.
     
    Business school owners will think thrice about improving the basic infrastructure in their institutions; however, they are prompt to collect feedback from students. This is actually a decoy or a red herring to divert the attention of students from pressing issues. In one of the middle rung business schools in Bangalore (that launched a private university amidst much fanfare by encroaching on half of the farmland by buying them at dirt cheap prices) the placements are pathetic; 80% of their students have not been placed despite the fact that they have completed Semester-IV (the final semester) and of the 20% who have been placed, the jobs are in real estate firms.
     
    The promoters are intelligent enough to collect feedback about teachers but never once do they talk to their students about the infrastructure/ library facilities / placement opportunities. Some of them hire retired and out-of-work HR professionals who call themselves self-styled educational consultants. These consultants have a rather enviable job of going around the institution and randomly noting down feedback from students – mostly about their teachers. Then they document every silly observation that the students make and prepare an excel file. After submitting such a fatuous report, they also submit a bill for Rs50,000. 
     
    In one business school in Mumbai, the educational consultant (who is in his 80s and knows the promoter for almost three decades) visits the campus annually and even though he is short of hearing, he listens to the students and adds his own masala to the students’ carping so that only the negative aspects of the teaching faculty are documented. The promoter uses this to pare down the annual increments to the teaching staff.
     
    I hear from my colleagues in other cities that the situation has turned from bad to worse. One director in a business school in Pune, apparently, addresses MBA students as “children”. No prizes for guessing that she was the principal of a school owned by the promoter for almost 15 years and then her closeness to the promoter’s wife got her the job as the director of the business school. Saccharine oozes when she addresses the students as “my dear children” and her valedictory addresses are speeches copied from “The Speaking Tree”. Ludicrous as these may appear, it won’t be a surprise if this lady is promoted as a Chancellor in the near future.
     
    Private universities are mushrooming in cities like Pune, Bangalore and Chennai. Availability of vast tracts of land, easier hassle-free procedures in securing accreditation and a truckload of marketing promotions are ensuring that gullible students fall into the trap. Otherwise, how do you explain engineering students opting for “Aeronautical Engineering” and “Petroleum Engineering” when the college does not have a decent lab facility?
     
    Critics have been trenchant about Prakash Javadekar’s ill-defined and ill-timed regulatory reforms that are in no way in sync with the realities on the ground. No college pays 4th, 5th, 6th, or 7th commission and this man talks about 8th pay commission. The situation is pretty much morbid. None can deny it. All the so-called reforms in higher education are not only skewed but there has been lots of demurring about the arbitrariness with which such announcements are made.
     
    One of my bright students has now entered teaching after completing his PhD from IIT-Chennai. We had a chat after a long time on Skype. He is based in Bangalore and told me the glum scenario there.
     
    Apparently, Bangalore University is controlled by academicians with political clout. Two years back there was a scandal in which students were asked to pay Rs 8000 for a software programme that was poorly conceived and implemented. All students were declared passed to appease them. Now the University has got trifurcated but chaos still prevails. Uncouth academicians rule the roost.
     
    At the post graduate level, the question papers are set with straightforward questions like the question papers at the degree level. There is no accountability. There is no one to question these stalwarts. Some of the question papers are full of glaring spelling errors. Apparently the process of correcting these papers is worse. Faculty members appointed to correct answer papers (they are literally forced to comply by their respective educational institutions) consider this akin to cleaning the Augean stables. Students who join such a course scoff at the question papers and fill the answer papers with rubbish – confident that no one is going to read the answers anyway. 
     
    What exacerbates these issues is the attitude of students who gain entry in a business school either by paying astronomical amounts or securing admission under the “reserved” category. Most of the students who are either from rural areas of Karnataka, Kerala and North-East are lured by the job market in Bangalore. Earlier the demand outstripped the supply. But now the situation is fast changing. MBAs are only getting call centre jobs or bank jobs where they are assigned to do data entry. Even accounting firms need MBAs to file tax returns for their customers – a job that does not need an MBA degree in the first place.
     
    I would like to make it clear that the situation is not unique to only the garden city. It is equally depressing elsewhere. Eligibility norms are so diluted that a student who gets 50% marks is assured of admission in a business school. These students behave like customers and their focus is on anything but learning. So when they pass out of business school, they do not even have the bookish knowledge. To compound matters, they are also extra-sensitive, unwilling to listen to any sort of advice. So, when they go for interviews, they are in for a rude shock. Some of the MBA post graduates do not have the competence to even write a simple email. This results in poor employability of these students and placements drop. When placements drop, it leads to a negative word-of-mouth publicity and this adversely impacts fresh admissions. When admission numbers whittle down, faculty members are shown the door. 
     
    Companies are now preferring B Com (Honours) students for finance/ accounting jobs. Earlier MBA (Finance) students were getting jobs as equity research analysts but even that opportunity is lost now thanks to the poor ability of the students who lack the knowledge of even basic accounting principles. Ask them what do they mean by “leveraging” or “Net worth” and most of them will draw a blank. It is also a sorry state of affairs that many students are forced by their parents to pursue an MBA course. Unless drastic changes are made in the higher education system, the MBA course will find its popularity dwindling gradually. Who wants to pay a king’s ransom as fees and end up sitting at home?
     
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    COMMENTS

    Mohit Poddar

    5 months ago

    Here are some important soft skills you must have:
    1.Positive attitude.
    2.Honesty and integrity.
    3.Hard work and consistency.
    4.Courtesy.
    For more information check my blog here:
    https://blog.unisquareconcepts.com/work-life/important-soft-skills-required-by-an-indian-student-for-a-successful-career/

    Karan Suvarna

    1 year ago

    That's really good advice
    You have opened my eyes
    I wanted to persue MBA from Mumbai
    But now I shall step back

    Ramesh Jaradhara

    1 year ago

    A really good news wrap in bitter coating. Name is nothing but a nomenclature, an ornament. Capable students are still found at large. Value is shine everywhere.

    Tk

    1 year ago

    What is your point of writing this point?
    Delete my comment if you will but I dont find anything of value except the fact that one can use thesaurus to make anything look good.

    Coming to the post, MBAs are not getting call center jobs. Even if they are, it is not the problem of the MBA. Degree is always valuable. What is the meaning of a degree? Good laboratory? Good professor? Or students who are hard working enough to excel in life? Most of the post is focused on placements. Are we doing mba just for the sake of placements. Greatest stalwarts of India like Raghuram Rajan, Arvind Subramanian, Harsha Bhogle, Amish Tripathi etc. are working in non conventional profiles. A degree doesn't guarantee a job. Student’s capacity does. Just for the sake, even corporate companies encourage students who know stuff. A B. Com grad is not superior to MBA grad from companies' perspective. A company will rarelg hire a person based on degree. Compare apples with apples. A failure in MBA should not be compared with an excellent student in B. Com.
    Students are getting placed in real estate profiles and call centers because they did not work hard enough. Not because of doing an MBA. And how can one assume that a person doing Investment Banking role is happy in his life. Maybe the real estate guy is much happy. If you think the fee of an average MBA college is very high, take loan and clear off when you can. Indian govt has supported enough for students. MBA is not to get good placements. MBA makes people think like managers, business people. MBA teaches people to network more. A person who has good network and good academic knowledge will be getting a better job outside placements. A person who depends on campus placements will be doomed to fail in life. Sorry if hurt any sentiments.

    A post on a public platform should be valid, credible, statistically proven as people who are unaware of reality will choose their decision on the post. An opinion is an opinion. But at least put a disclaimer that it's an opinion and the fact that it doesn't apply to all. This comment is not applicable to MBA, but every degree. Degree is just a piece of paper. A programme like MBA or engineering is a platform. You will get a degree no matter what, but your life will change only if you utilize the platform

    REPLY

    aun ahmed

    In Reply to Tk 1 year ago

    Dear Sir,

    Consider my theory : A degree is worthy only to the extent that it is difficult to get into or get out of one. One difficult degree to get into is MBBS from AIIMS,or a Bachelor's degree from St. Stephen's College, or a BTech from IIT Kanpur, etc. A degree difficult to get out from is , for example, MCA from IGNOU or Chartered Accountancy from ICAI. Now,degrees not falling in either of these categories are degrees which are easy to get in and also easy to get out (with a degree). Examples are MBA from Punjab Technical University, or PGDM from Tom Dick Harry Institute of International Business and Management Technology, or a BTech from a college affiliated to MDU or UPTU or CCS University.
    When such easy degrees are available, the supply will increase and to keep demand matching price (salaries) will fall and jobs will be mundane.

    Anand Vaidya

    1 year ago

    This article would have been more valuable if the author had named the colleges and provided specific cases, instead of generalized , almost ad-hominem accusations. I agree that education in India is at its worst (eg: JNU Bharat Tukde Honge fatcat gang being fed with our tax money) and needs fixing urgently.

    sunil jivan date

    1 year ago

    You have hit the nail on the head.
    I have the same opinion about engineering. Most jr college students attend coaching classes and are taught to crack the exam. With this knowledge and the arrogance of having bought the admission in engg college, I am totally bleak about the lot that will enter the services field which contributes ~ 50% to the GDP.

    The education system is in a rot. What is expected from a medical, supposedly, graduate, who pays ₹ 60l upwards as fees. Immediate return on investment i.e fees.

    Roshan Shah

    1 year ago

    I really don't know if you are an ex Christite or not but so much feels oh my god. Even christ bought a building the size of four football fields and it's now raising no one else but a bunch of South Indians. Pretty idiotic the system and they seems everyone to Pune city on Tuesdays, having made the college 60 kmts away from Pune in a town.

    Llatika Gopal

    1 year ago

    Awesome penmanship... I couldn't agree more with quality vs quantity situation. I'm in a similar situation with one of the biggest, oldest, most famous University in Mumbai who have been doing nothing but extorting money. Worst, mine is a advanced certification course (ROFL) and it's costing me more than a PG course. Horrible faculties, study material has content which is copied from blogs, unethical and illegal practice information is being shared with suggestion on how to use them, we're shown hindi videos during session, and feedback OMG don't wanna go there. Worst is mistakes spelling mistake in exam questions... God save this country and hope things change one day

    Employees find tax-saving reimbursement process time-consuming, says Zeta-Nielsen survey
    Do employees take advantage of all tax-saving benefits available to them? Research by Zeta-Nielsen on 1,233 employees from manufacturing and service sector showed that one in four employees did not understand tax-saving possibilities through benefits that form part of their salary breakup. The survey was conducted in top tier cities - Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad. 
     
    The salaried class can avail of several expense-based exemptions to reduce their tax burden. The entire list of exemptions is available in this link - https://goo.gl/PqVWhQ
     
    Out of the various tax-saving benefits on medical, communication, fuel, leave-travel allowance, meal vouchers and gift, employees preferred using medical and communication the most. The least popular were tax-saving benefits on meal and gift vouchers; reasons being limited acceptance of the vouchers, storage difficulties and limited validity.
     
     
    But is lack of awareness the only reason for employees to not opt for tax-saving benefits? Not so. The survey found that processing-time of claims was the biggest reason why employees opt out of reimbursements. 71% of the companies surveyed took 8 days or more to process each claim. Even for completing the claim process, the employee had to get 2 or more approvals which lengthened the claim process. Employees stated tracking the status of claims, completing the one or more approvals for claim processing and storing bills as key challenges faced while half of the employees stated the process as ‘too complex’. 
     
    Ramki Gaddipati, chief technology officer and co-founder of Zeta says, “Due to the complex time-consuming paperwork, many employees prefer to opt out of the benefit because they are not able to derive a value for the benefit.”
     
    What did the Employer have to say?
     
    Employers’ didn’t find the long processing time for claims a major concern. Yet, 35% of the companies surveyed had discontinued one or more reimbursements. Why? High running costs, high employee opt-out and managing logistics of bills were top 3 reasons for discontinuing the reimbursements. Two out of three companies felt that the time and cost spent on administering tax benefits exceeded actual benefits to employees. Also, invalid or illegible bills submitted by employees were another major issue companies faced. Difficulties in handling of intensive paperwork related to the reimbursement process delays the claim-processing time. Employees rather choose to forgo saving tax than go through the claim process. 
     
     
    When business processes are going digital, including the filing of tax-returns, why is it that companies are still using dated paper-based processes to reimburse tax-saving benefits? 94% of the companies surveyed used a paper-based process compared to only 6% that had turned reimbursement management completely digital. 
     
    “Although we have several employee benefits in place, the lack of digitisation is an area of concern given the fact that we have a young & tech-savvy workforce in the country. Most importantly, a digital transition will ensure faster processes, significant cost savings for companies and transparent functioning,” Ramki added.
     

     

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    COMMENTS

    upadhyay preeti

    1 year ago

    You have very correctly brought up the issue which covers the sorry state of affair in our education system. Nothing is being done to improve the situation and every successive government is worsening it by their whimsical decisions. The fictitious figure of burgeoning professional work force is going to lead our country nowhere. Its far better to have simple graduates having decent knowledge, willing to do hard work than employees who have big degrees, no knowledge, great expectations, attitude problems leading to dis satisfaction in the society.

    Ramesh Poapt

    1 year ago

    tax shaving...IT deptt should give due publicity of various
    tax exemptions ..

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