A “perform or perish” attitude towards the bureaucracy has been the hallmark of the Narendra Modi sarkar. The Prime Minister’s Office is reportedly directly in charge of maintaining “discipline” among the ranks. And the government has been firm in acting against non-performance by babus. Earlier this year, the ministry of personnel, public grievances and pensions took unprecedented actions such as premature retirement and a cut in remunerations against 381 civil services officers, including 24 officers from the IAS, for being non-performers and for allegedly being involved in illegal activities. Consequently, babus serving at the Centre remain on tenterhooks, knowing that they are under close observation all the time. Some observers explain this as the reason behind the dip in the number of babus willing to come on Central deputation, even if eligible. As per sources, a total of 25 Group A officers, including one IAS and two IPS and 99 Group B officers, were prematurely retired by the government; 21 civil servants, including 10 IAS officers, “resigned” and penalties like dismissal, removal or compulsory retirement and cuts in pension were imposed on 37 Group A officers, including five from the IAS. In addition to this, 199 Group A officers, including eight from the IAS, were penalised in terms of remuneration cuts.
The purge continues. According to sources, the government is likely to engage in a major shakeup of the top bureaucracy, in which the “dead wood” is likely to be weeded out. It’s quite clear to some that babus who have not fully accepted Mr Modi’s way of functioning will be replaced with new faces, those more in tune with the PM’s vision. The buzz is that babus working in financial and economics-related positions will be subjected to special scrutiny, given that the Modi sarkar is leaning heavily on the success of demonetisation and Goods and Services Tax for the 2019 elections. So far, it seems the PMO has concluded that the demonetisation and GST drives would have given much better results if they were executed more professionally. This implies that somewhere the PMO blames some babus for the negative perception about the schemes in the public’s mind.
Of course, the babus who are already on board with the government’s goals need not worry too much. After all, it’s been seen that when it comes to its “blue-eyed boys”, the Modi sarkar exerts all efforts to place them at “appropriate” positions. Moreover, the government is also favourably mulling the call for raising the retirement age of Group A officers from 60 years to 62 years. The view is that at 62 years, babus still have the ability to maintain good governance. The kind of acumen the Group A officers acquire by the time they reach the age of 60 should be put to use for another two years. It’s likely to get a go-ahead soon. Naturally, this will spell good news for babus, those already marked for weeding out may face a trying time in the months ahead.