Given how few people ever get sacked, not surprisingly, a government job has always been seen as totally secure. As a corollary, except for a small minority, that breeds complacence since, while it is true that there is an annual review for promotions, few get a bad grade unlike, say, in the case of private sector firms who follow the Bell-curve, 10-15% of staffers have to be compulsorily marked poor and be asked to move on. Indeed, thanks to decadal pay commissions and linking salaries with inflation, even the worst-rated government employees get sizeable annual benefits—and even hefty pensions for those who joined service before 2004. So it came as a breath of fresh air when, after the NDA government was sworn in three years ago, it started taking some action against non-performers and those considered corrupt.
Last year, a total of 33 tax officials were prematurely retired (this included seven Group A officials) and another 72 (including six Group A officials) were dismissed after departmental inquiries; over the past few months, two IAS officers were retired, one under the compulsory retirement provision and one under the premature retirement one. It now appears the process is being taken to the next level with an exercise to review the service records of about 67,000 employees, which includes IAS and IPS also, to identify the non-performers and corrupt officials and take action against them.
That nearly 25,000 of these cases, according to a PTI report, are from the All-India and Group ‘A’ services like IAS, IPS and IRS, speaks of the seriousness of the move to identify non-performers. While this is probably part of the performance review that takes place twice in a bureaucrat’s life—the first after 15 years of qualifying and the second another 10 years after this—it appears to be a more serious exercise and should instill some fear among the 49 lakh central government employees. While it would be a good idea to conduct a major performance review more frequently, say after every five years, this needs to be done with care.
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Often enough, the reason for non-performance can be political interference or even, as in the case of the police or health services, a severe shortage of staff. The fact that all branches of government have an adverse head-to-tail ratio—too few officers, too many peons—is another reason for poor performance. While these issues need to be tackled for any serious improvement in the quality of government services, letting staffers know that a government job is no longer for life can only be a good thing.