Four engineers opt out of APCS, MLA highlights stagnancy in APCS in assembly

[ Amar Sangno ]

ITANAGAR, Aug 28: Four assistant engineers (AE) – Bapu Tabing (5th rank), Tagir Taring (19th rank), Jaki Tulang (28th rank) and Arunachal Pradesh Public Service Combined Competitive Examination (APPSCCE)-2020 topper Niti Taki – have shocked many by choosing to remain in their posts instead of joining the Arunachal Pradesh Civil Service (APCS).

Although their decision was personal, it has sparked a debate over the demoralizing stagnancy in the state’s premier service in terms of promotional scope.

Chayang Tajo MLA Hayang Mangfi brought up the issue in the short duration discussion during the fifth session of the seventh legislative assembly on Thursday, urging the members to discuss and adopt a resolution to reform the APCS cadre by amending Schedule 1 of the APCS Rule, 2018. The resolution was supported by Congress MLA Ninong Ering, PPA MLA Mutchu Mithi, Raga MLA Tarin Dakpe, Aalo East MLA Kento Jini, Koloriang MLA Lokam Tassar, and Kanubari MLA Gabriel D Wangsu.

Mangfi suggested three major steps for reforming the state civil service: an impartial and uncompromising merit-based selection process to choose the best candidates to serve as civil servants; providing proper training; and providing good career progression to keep up the officers’ motivation.

There are six grades – entry grade, senior grade, selection grade, administrative grade, senior administrative grade and super time scale – in the promotional structure of APCS officers. The entry grade has limited scope of assignment, such as a circle officer at the district level, and assistant director. In Assam, the entry grade leads from circle officer to assistant commissioner, deputy director and undersecretary.

The APCS senior grade has the posts of EAC and undersecretary only. However, in Assam, the senior grade enjoys the privileges of the post of ADC and deputy secretary, equivalent to the privileges enjoyed by our APCS administrative grade officers.

The 1993 APCS batch, with a cumulative 27 years of service, is still in the selection grade, and the 2003 APCS batch, with 17 years of service, is still in the senior grade. In the Karnataka Administrative Service, officers are inducted into the IAS even before completing 15 years of service.

According to Mangfi, the 1993 APCS batch should qualify for super time scale grade by 2021, with 28 years of cumulative service, and the 2003 batch should qualify for the administrative grade by 2021, with 18 years of service. He said that the stagnancy in the APCS’ career progression is such that, by the time one becomes a DC or an administrative grade officer, the person is already over 50 years of age, at the fag end of their career.

Mangfi argued that “deprivation and diminution” of the state civil service in terms of promotion is a serious impediment to the long-term development of the state, as the 2017 batch All India Service officers are getting the privilege of being posted as DCs in the districts and as special secretaries in the secretariat, whereas the same privilege is only for the administrative grade APCS officers who have been in service for 35 years. This is a classic example of discouraging career progression in the state civil service.

The MLA proposed awarding APCS officers the opportunity to become DCs at a reasonable age of 45-50 years.

“COs who are on field work (should) be given the opportunity in policymaking too. Young and innovative ideas can help in making robust policy decisions, but we deprive the best young minds of our state,” Mangfi added.

Later, Chief Minister Pema Khandu assured to constitute an expert committee to “streamline, reform, uplift and empower the APCS officers” to meet the demands of the current times.

On 22 May, 2001, the state government had issued an order, stating that entry grade officers would be eligible to be posted at the APCS secretariat, in order of experience and seniority; that entry grade officers who had completed four years in the grade would be eligible for posting as undersecretaries; and that APCS senior grade officers would be posted as deputy secretaries in the state secretariat. The order was an attempt to remove the disparity of pay structure among the different cadre officers posted in the same post at the secretariat.

However, the order could not be implemented as it had to face legal battles. After 10 years, on 20 July 2010, the petition against the implementation of the order was dismissed by the high court. Subsequently, the governor issued an order for restoration of the government order number Apptt-41/93 (pt), dated 22 May, 2001, which had been kept in abeyance, with immediate effect.

However, there was no political and administrative will to implement the order. Later, in order to bring reformation in the APCS cadre service, the government constituted the Bagra Committee, which submitted its recommendations. Among the recommendations were: streamlining of the APCS grade posts (at par with the Assam and Mizoram civil services), and streamlining lateral entry to the APCS. Nonetheless, successive governments failed to implement it.

The current sanctioned posts of APCS officers is 484: 220 entry grade posts (45.45 percent), 126 senior grade posts (26.03 percent), 63 selection grade posts (13.02 percent), 67 administrative grade posts (13.84 percent), 5 senior administrative grade posts (1.03 percent), and 3 super time scale posts (0.62 percent). The posts at the higher grades must be increased proportionately, so that officers do not stagnate at the lower and middle levels of their careers.

The muffled state civil service officers finally found a voice on the floor of the legislative assembly on Thursday.

Arunachal Pradesh Public Service Officers’ Association president Abu Tayeng lauded everyone who supported the state civil services’ cause, especially MLA Hayeng Mangfi, for taking the issues to the assembly.