23 February 2017

FORTHWRITE Downside of upgrade

Iagine a batch of students appearing for their tenth standard exam and the rule is set that whatever marks the topper gets, the rest of the class would get the same marks, on condition that they wait for two years. Sounds crazy? Well, that is exactly how the Indian bureaucracy rewards itself through something called Non Functional Upgrade, which has become a bone of contention between the civilian group A officers and officers of the armed forces, who have been denied the same by the civilian bureaucracy.

So what is Non Functional Upgrade? As per a circular issued by the department of personnel and training, Government of India, ‘Whenever an Indian Administrative Services Officer of the State of Joint Cadre is posted at the Centre to a particular grade carrying a specific grade pay in Pay band 3 or Pay band 4, the officers belonging to batches of Organised Group A Services that are senior by two years or more and have not so far been promoted to that particular grade would be granted the same grade on nonfunctional basis from the date of posting of the Indian Administrative Service Officers in that particular grade at the Centre.’ This scheme was introduced by the United Progressive Alliance government in 2008 and was extended to 49 organised Group A central services for time bound pay promotions of every officer till the higher administrative grade (thus ensuring ‘one rank, one pay’ for most), irrespective of capability, performance or vacancy.

Therefore, in a country where every prime minister, chief minister, MP, MLA or municipal councillor has to face the electorate every five years, where every student has to compete and work hard for each mark he scores in board exams or competitive exams and where every company chief’s performance is evaluated in three months, our bureaucracy is exempted from such scrutiny. Performance and vacancy be damned, they would get time bound promotions. While barely 1 to 2 per cent of Army officers get to reach the apex scale of lieutenant general and upward, an IAS, IPS or IFS officer is guaranteed to reach the rank of director general of police.

Today, India has a ridiculous situation where every state police force has innumerable director generals and additional director generals, one each for prison, CID, home guard, training and so on, and yet the constabulary and subordinate officers face stagnation in terms of promotion because no one thinks of them. How has such a top-heavy structure helped India’s administration? Has any feasibility study ever been done on it? Is there any precedence of such Non Functional Upgrade anywhere in the world?

Today, the armed forces and the central armed police forces cannot be blamed for asking for similar benefits because the UPA rocked the apple cart and created major fissures in the civil-military relationship. If NFU is good then it should be given to all, including the armed forces and employees in Group B and C categories. It cannot be exclusively for the babus.

How would an officer, who has won a Param Vir Chakra, feel when he sees an IPS or IAS officer being promoted just because he appeared for an exam and qualified in it? Doesn’t an army or central police officer face a much bigger challenge of dodging the enemies’ bullets? Wouldn’t it be demotivating for the officers in the armed forces to be stagnating in one position while the civilian officers enjoy promotions?

In a resource-scarce nation, where the priority of the state should be to spend every penny on the people and cut out wasteful administrative expenditures, NFU should be scrapped. Merit alone should be the criterion for promotion. The feudal system of exclusive benefits has to end. PERIOD.

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