Dec 13, 2008

India - ARC suggests lower age limit for civil services aspirants

Aarti Dhar

NEW DELHI: The Second Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) has recommended lowering of the upper age limit and reducing the number of attempts for civil services aspirants with some relaxations for reserved categories.

The Tenth report of the Commission on “Refurbishing of Personnel Administration — Scaling New Heights,” released here on Friday, suggested doing away with the present system of evaluation of performance based on annual confidential report (ACR). Instead, it came up with a concept of annual performance agreements to be signed between the Minister concerned and the Secretary or head of the department, providing physical and verifiable details of the work to be done during a financial year. The actual performance should be assessed by a third party.

Addressing a press conference, Commission chairperson M. Veerappa Moily said the panel favoured reducing the upper age limit for writing the civil services examination to between 21 and 25 for general candidates, 28 for the Other Backward Classes (OBC) and 29 for Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) candidates as also those who were physically challenged.

The number of permissible attempts in the civil services examinations should be 3 years, 5 years and 6 years for the general candidates, OBC, and SC/ST and physically challenged aspirants, the panel has suggested.

At present, the upper age limit is 30 years for the general candidates with 4 attempts. But there are relaxations for the OBC and SC/ST aspirants.

According to the report, a Post-School Grooming System for civil services aspirants and a formal degree course in public policy would be of great help and also discourage the system of coaching centres which have tended to distort the formal education system.

While recommending the establishment of National Institutes of Public Administration to run degree courses in public administration, the report has said an expert committee should work out the modalities of the proposed system.

For a transparent system of appointments in the government, covering all ranks, the Commission has suggested the setting up of a Central Civil Services Authority. The panel is also in favour of introducing competition for all senior positions by opening these to services. The Authority, the panel says, should be a five-member body with the chairperson appointed by the President on the recommendations of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition to make it totally apolitical.

The Commission is of the view that in order to avoid any conflict of interest, government officials should not be allowed to go on deputation to private commercial organisations.

Periodic review

In order to increase accountability, the Commission suggested a periodic review of the performance for which it recommended a system of two intensive reviews — one on completion of 14 years of service and the other on completion of 20 years. The first review will primarily serve the purpose of intimating individual about his/her performance and the second is mainly to assess the fitness of the officer for his/her future continuation in service. The employees found unfit after 20 years should be dispensed with and a provision in this regard should be made in the proposed Civil Services Law, Mr. Moily has said.

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