For all central government officials and All India Services, the testing time will now come at the age of 50 and not 60 as per the new review to decide whether to continue their services till retirement or not and all the 4.5 million government officials will have to reckon their reputation now to survive for another ten years in the service.
The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) headed by the Prime Minister has decided to review the career or service of an officer at the age of 50 years and send home those found non-performing as per the expectations, removing the century-old permanent gpovernment job feature that allured many to join the government service.
Another merit of it may be that the officers with bad reputation or corruption charges but shielded by the rules may be asked to leave at the age of 50 years after a negative review.
The retrenchment that was experimented during the Emergency in 1975 when the centre and Congress-ruled state governments retired many "unwanted" officers from the service if they had crossed 50 years of age, now the feature being introduced by the BJP government may spell death-knell for those who cross the age of 50.
The circular of the DoPT said, “Whenever the services of a public servant are no longer useful to the general administration, the officer can be compulsorily retired for the sake of public interest… For better administration, it is necessary to chop off dead wood," said the message bluntly sent out to those who are non-performing.
Insisting on integrity of the officer, the circular said: “The officer would live by reputation built around him. In an appropriate case, there may not be sufficient evidence to take punitive disciplinary action of removal from service. But his conduct and reputation is such that his continuance would be a menance to public service and injurious to public interest.”
Under FR 56(j) of the 1968 All India services Rules, the retrenchment clause or compulsory retirement will now be carried out after a 2-member panel of every department screens officers and employees based on internal feedback and yearly appraisal reports.
Those who are marked negatively by the Chief Vigilance Officer (CVO) of departments will also be used as a ground to retrench officers or employees at the age of 50 years or those who have crossed 30 years of service now.
Defending the move, BJP MP and former Home Secretary R.K. Singh said the move is in keeping with Modi’s slogan for Minimum Government and Maximum Governance. "This circular is a step in that direction,” said Jitendra Singh, minister for department of personnel and training.
Now the debate is whether the review will be politicised or not. Secondly, will merit alone get to continue in service as even during the Emergency, several cases of honest officers being punished by corrupt seniors came to then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s notice that she has asked review of all those retrenched from service under this clause much before the Emergency was revoked.
Misuse of the clause should be guarded against as even one honest officer punished under the new order means denial of justice to the entire service. On their part, bureaucrats should now realise the need to be neutral and not serve political masters to carry out their designated duties. In view of the past record, it is unlikely that this may be used purely on merit.