The Manipur government had recently appointed as many as 43 Manipur Civil Service (MCS) Jr to be the post of sub deputy collectors (SDCs) from those candidates who had appeared in the re-examination conducted by the Manipur Public Service Commission (MPSC) in 2022 after the 2016 fiasco, in addition to the number of position requisitioned. The step was welcomed by a few in that the SDC shortage will be met, while strenuously opposed by others.
The state government is yet to provide personal protection to those who were appointed in 2016 and had again been selected in the same cadre in the 2022 re-examination as directed by the Supreme Court. Further, there is a deviation from the past practices while recommending the names. In the past, MPSC recommend the names for the different categories of services based on the marks obtained, the reservation and the options made by the candidates.
However in the instant case, all those who had appeared in the viva voce were submitted along with their marks, which make the state government at liberty to appoint the additional 43 candidates in the MCS Jr service beyond the number requisitioned.
This additional appointment was questioned by many as MPSC based on the number of positions requisitioned identified the number of candidates who will appear in the main examination and also in the viva voce.
There is a plethora of decisions from the law courts, including the Supreme Court, that candidates beyond the requisitioned post cannot be selected and these 43 candidates may have to fight court cases from the moment they join service and their fate will always hang in a balance till the disposal of the cases which is likely to be filed by prospective candidates for the Manipur Combined Civil Services examination.
The shortage of SDCs were acute no doubt, especially after the 2016 examination fiasco for which unfortunately not one of them have been indicted and the candidates were made to suffer tremendously by mistake, mostly on the part of MPSC and not from the side of the candidates. If this had happened in other countries heads would have rolled.
However, the question why there is a perennial shortage of SDCs was never gone into and without correction of the root cause, there will be continuing shortage of SDCs at one or the other time.
Main cause of SDC shortage in Manipur
The main cause of the shortage of SDCs is in the time-bound promotion provided in the service rules allowing an MCS Jr with four years of service to be promoted to MCS Grade II. So all those who have been appointed as MCS Jr after four years will all become MCS Grade II and those who were appointed prior to them will also have been promoted earlier. Thus there will be perennial shortage in this cadre with similar cycle going on.
Promotion is provided to induct experienced individual in higher positions as well as to provide incentive to those who are in service. Without promotion, employees will become derelict in their duties as they know there is no further rise in the hierarchy and will involve in nepotism and corruption.
In the government service, it was assumed that every employee should get at least three promotions in their entire career of 33 years and that is the reason why in the Modified Assured Career Progression Scheme, grant of three financial upgradation at intervals of 10, 20, and 30 years of continued regular service is provided, This provide financial benefits similar to promotion even for those post where there is no or limited promotional avenues like Grade IV, drivers, etc.
Earlier, those who had put in eight years of regular service as SDC were promoted to MCS Grade II but this was reduced to four years, some years ago. Similarly for promotion from MCS Grade II to Grade I it was reduced from eight years to four years due to the strong lobby by those who newly joined the services. This ensures that the promotion from the lowest rung of the service is fast and with limited promotional avenues at the higher hierarchy there is stagnation at the higher level.
The problem with stagnation at the higher level is that without promotion, one becomes frustrated and the damage one can do at the higher level is much more than at the lower level. Their proximity to the powers to be is more and many do away with major manipulations without hardly any penalty.
There were many instances where officers were promoted as MCS Grade I but were made to continue to hold MCS Grade II posts as there are insufficient officers in MCS Grade II to hold their cadre posts. This is not only demeaning to the officers but also leads to frustration as they may be serving under their batch-mates in the same grade. This had happened in a few instances where the senior were made to serve under their juniors due to poor cadre management. This is not only demeaning but outright illegal as the junior may be writing the ACRs of his seniors in the cadre and the outcome is not hard to predict.
The shortening of the time for qualified service for promotion is based on the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) Rules where the length of service for promotion in government service was limited and this is due to the fact that the service has a number of hierarchy levels.
In the case of MCS, one can go only up to the super-time scale or got promoted to the IAS, whereas in the IAS it can be up to the highest that is the Cabinet Secretary for a few lucky ones, while for most it is the Secretary, Special and Additional Secretary in the Government of India or its equivalent in the states.
To equate MCS Jr and MCS with the IAS is not only unjustified and uncalled for but perhaps the lobbying capacity of the then officers in these services when the rules were amended were too great that the state government had to acquiescence without taking into consideration the likely impact not only on the service per se but on the overall cadre management and efficiency in the delivery of public services.
Due to quick promotion to even SDCs from the lower cadre as regular SDCs can be appointed as MCS even on officiating basis, the promotion to SDCs are also rather fast. This had led to situation where persons who were not really fit and had not attained the necessary proficiency have been promoted to MCS Grade II.
There was surprise when two MCS officers were placed under suspension for land records manipulation and there were trolling in the social media about MCS, though none is aware that both were promotees; one was inducted into government service as MCS Jr and another as Zilladar. There is a need for better assessment of the candidates for promotion by the DPC or Selection Committee, rather than the existing perfunctory scrutiny of the ACRs, which many have got it re-written through lobbying.
For a government employee to get stuck in a court case related to his service is not only costly, but it hangs like a Damocles sword over his head and he was never settled in his job and thus cannot give his best. Therefore, the government needs to ensure that the process in the appointment is all correct and that no room for court cases is provided.
The urgent need for proper assessment of the service rules
Further, there is an urgent need for proper assessment of the service rules so that too quick or too long regular service requirement for the next promotion is avoided and this can be done through a proper rationalisation of the service rules by competent senior officers within the state government.
Too long a service requirement leads to frustration while too short will make the candidate not fully fit and competent to hold the higher position. Till this is carried out, the acute shortage of certain critical positions like the SDCs and SDOs (sub divisional officers) at one or the other time will continue.
Those who are at present borne in the cadre may feel disgruntled by the proposed changes to the existing rules but if the existing rules are allowed to apply for those vacancies which arose before the changes are made and the changes are made prospective, the disgruntlement will be lessened. This will minimise heartburn and avoid litigations.
However, the time for a rationalisation of the service rules is considered essential in the interest of better governance and delivery of quality services.
(The views expresed are personal)