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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Regarding Cadre restructuring in CBEC & CBDT....for IRS[C&CE] & IRS[IT] officers

ONLY a fortnight back, I had talked about the possibility of rising crescendo of demand for immediate implementation of the proposed Cadre Restructuring of a large basket of Group A, B & C services of both the Revenue Boards. With the news gradually spreading to the field formations that it is not only the CBEC but also the CBDT, which has achieved the Revised Targets of revenue collections, such a news has buoyed up the spirit and morale of the officers cutting across the Group-hierarchy. They sincerely hope that the Finance Minister, Mr P Chidambaram, may not look for more tangible reasons to justify their demands. Rather they feel that their demands are nothing extra as they have always been a loser from the perspective of the Doctrine of Parity with other organised Central or All India Services. So, the IRS or others in sub-ordinate grades strongly feel that the DoP&T has historically been inimical to their interests, and since most of the key administrative organs, which advise the Union Cabinet, are controlled by the IAS, their service interests have been ill-treated. The feeling of injury to their self-respect has been so deep-seated that such a systemic discrimination or partisan behaviour is largely perceived as hostile advances to snatch away what is due to them. They also have a feeling that whatever internal rivalry or mutual distrust the IRS has with Group B and other Services, are again fuelled by extraneous forces, which ultimately damage the interests of the Exchequer by injecting virus of unionism.
Let's now move to some of the ground realities. As per the DoP&T guidelines, the Cadre Review is an exercise, which is to be undertaken every five years. And the rationale behind such an exercise is to overcome the shortcomings, which may have crept into subsequently. The cadre-restructuring is to satisfy the functional, structural and personnel requirements by removing distortions and enhancing efficiency and morale of the cadres. It is also to plan recruitment in such a way to avoid future promotional blocks and prevent gap build-ups. In simple words, it aims at harmonising the functional needs with the genuine and justified career expectations of the officers. But as the facts go the previous Cadre Reviews were undertaken in the year 2002 and 2003 for the CBDT and CBEC respectively. It clearly means a Review, which should have been undertaken after five years, has been initiated after 10-long years. Besides, it has been dragging its feet for two years and meanwhile, a good number of officers with legitimate expectations of getting their second promotion have sorely retired but the system does not care - least bothered is the DoP&T.
How irrelevantly our responsible Ministers speak on such sensitive issues can be gauged from the statement of MoS V Narayanasamy, who spoke in January 2012 at Bangalore, that ''Within a fortnight Cadre Review will be finalised with the PMO’s approval. The government will safeguard your interests.” He said so in the inaugural session of the All India Convention of the Indian Revenue Service Association. Although a Minister is ultimately responsible for the failure and success of a System but he had blamed the IRS Association for not taking the Cadre Review initiative for 10-long years. Strange it may sound! But, our politicians, who shape up a system, are generally good at passing the buck, and time over-run, whether is an infrastructure project or a Cadre Review, is a 'salient' feature of every decision they take.
Anyway, let's visit the current status of the case. TIOL has come to learn that the CBDT case, which has been running months ahead of the CBEC, was finally referred to the Committee of Secretaries after the DoP&T came up with their partisan prescription to make amendments in their proposal. The issue has presently been escalated to the level of a Group of Ministers (GoM), headed by the Defence Minister. There are about half a dozen other key Ministers in this GoM, which is slated to meet coming Monday (April 29). The only item on its agenda is to look into the fairness of the demand made by the CBDT and how justified is the rejection by the DoP&T. If the GoM approves the proposal with a few alterations, it would pave the way for the CBEC proposal, which has been approved by the Finance Minister recently, and it has to now snake through the Department of Expenditure and then to the DoP&T before it gets the 'bureaucratic nod' to get escalated to the Cabinet-level. The only hope for its speedy clearance is the decision of the GoM on the CBDT proposal. Whatever formula is accepted for the CBDT, the same would apply to the CBEC, which is gearing up for the proposed GST but has not taken any new posts for now matured Service Tax.
Let's now go to the key objections raised by the DoP&T. While tailoring the proposals, both the Revenue Boards, which have undergone massive transformation in terms of revenue collections responsibilities; expansion of tax-base and enhancement of taxpayers' services in the past one decade, decided to ask for less number of posts for their horizontal growth and demand vertical parity with other Services to salvage their self-respect. Although IRS is reported to be the second most preferred Service among the Civil Services aspirants but ironically, it has not a SINGLE en-cadred Secretary-level post. Although in terms of size it is as big as the IAS, which has the cadre strength of 4400 officers and about 275 Secretary-level posts, there is NONE for the IRS. Its Chairman, the senior-most IRS officer, is at best the ex officio Special Secretary-rank officer. What a travesty of justice!! When it comes to postal service or Railway Service or Audit Service, they have their own officers reaching the top in the rank of Secretary but for the IRS, the same system, nourished by the representatives of Parliamentary Democracy, sanctions an IAS head to rule them or put them in a state of servitude. Even the IFS, which has a cadre strength of 618 officers, has as many as 26 Secretary-level posts. Even the IPS, which has a strength of 3500 officers, has as many as 50 posts in the Apex Scale. Even the Indian Audit and Account Service has its fair share of Apex Scale posts but not the IRS. Why? Any constitutional reason for such 'systemic discrimination'? None except the whims of politicians and fancies of IAS-dominated system. Given that our system is IAS-dominated and the fact that the IAS constitutes a Class in itself, it does not like migrants from other Services having the same Apex Scale posts. And this is the Objection Number ONE of the DoP&T.
Interestingly, the DoP&T itself had communicated to the Department of Revenue that there should be three pay-scales for CCITs. In response to the same, the CBDT had proposed to remove the flaw in its structure where no posts in relation to Apex and HAG+ exist today. It also proposed to earn parity with other comparable services and sought compensation for expanded span of control, workload and jurisdiction. It has asked for 26 Apex level posts, which would constitute 0.44% of their cadre strength. For the Audit & Account Service the same ratio is 0.57%; for the IFS, it is 4.45% and for the IAS it is 1.35%, including the field level posts. But when the CBDT has asked for 26 such posts, the great wisdom, which has recently dawned on DoP&T and its same Minister who had earlier said that the Cadre Review would be approved within a fortnight, such a demand may upset the balance in the Service and may also trigger similar demand from other Services. What a wonderful demonstration of administrative justice for which 'rule of law' and doing away with injustice is no concern in the face of the possibility of similar demand from other services. Merely because other services may ask for their own pound of flesh, the DoP&T's variety of doctrine of justice is to do no Justice to any service at all!! Even though the CBDT demand for Apex scale constitutes only about 3% of Senior Duty Posts (SDPs), which was recommended by the Fifth Pay Commission, it makes little sense to DoP&T, which specialises in practising its own brand of justice-dispensing administrative ideology. DoP&T is not able to see the fact that even after it gets what it has proposed in its cadre restructuring plan, it would stay behind the IAS and others by THREE years in HAG Grade.
In a nutshell, the present dispute is more about the Apex Scale posts, which are again more about salvaging the face and self-esteem of the Service, which has been doing the most crucial work of earning revenue for the Treasury. The GoM needs to remind itself of the fact that it is the Tax Department alone, which represents the Union Government in every nook and corner of the country. It earns 'bread' for the Treasury and the Executive, which can indulge in ambitious developmental programme as per the Directive Principles enshrined in the Constitution. Even when the economy has been under tremendous stress it has met the 'political targets' of revenue collections but it seems the Finance Minister and others in the Union Cabinet have scant respect for all such achievements. Across the world the Revenue Service is treated as a premium service but India truly stands in a different class where logic and common sense do not make much sense! I fail to understand why our politicians do not see the festering frustration in the various Revenue Services where an Inspector of Central Excise barely manages just one promotion in his entire career of 37 years. Why do they not understand that keeping a demoralised workforce is much more hazardous for a system than pleasing a few dozen top-notch babus, who assist them in perpetuating the Westminster style of governance. It is high time the Finance Minister and others in the GoM need to undo the historical injustice inflicted on the Revenue Services of all Groups, and their service conditions must be brought to the level of parity with other Services if not more.....keep on blogging.....


Anonymous said...

Good post. I'm facing some of these issues as well..

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Anonymous said...

The discrimination meeted out 2 IRS is indeed appaling.. The solution lies in both revenue services coming together and fighting out for what is long due to them..
Also i would like 2know ur views about future prospects of IRS C& CE in the wake of gst.. From what i read in news papers, it seems that the centre is giving too much to the states in order to get them on board.. In such a scenario we would lose as far as prospects of our service is concerned.. If we dont negotiate n protect our service interest we might become worse off after gst..

Anonymous said...

I totally agree.. one of the sub-groups on dual control has recommended that all assesses below 1.5cr will go to states while above that there will be dual control.. this means IRS gets nothing in return but shares the base of central excise and service tax with the states.. where has the financial edge of centre as enshrined in the Constitution gone?? and why are the officers doing the negotiations not protesting.. also if this sees the light of the day then what will be the difference between the work group b in states do with the work irs does?and how will the designations be differentiated.. all officers of cbec its time to wake up and fight for the interest of the service before it is too late..