The Policy Quagmire

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The J&K government’s recent policy of posting new cadre of Kashmir Administrative Service officers with various departments temporarily has not only crippled the administration but it has also led to lax decision making and the exploitation of new recruits by their subordinates, SYED ASMA reports.

Civil Secretariat

Civil Secretariat

Nearly half of J&K’s subordinate services posts are lying vacant. The state government had introduced a rotational policy of on-job training when the selection list of KAS officers was declared in 2009.  But many experienced patriarchs of bureaucracy feel that this policy of temporary postings of amateur officials at senior posts has created a mess in various government departments.

The policy of posting new cadre of Kashmir Administrative Service officials in various departments was meant to give them a first-hand understanding of every department, says a young newly recruited KAS officer who is assisting a Tehsildar on the outskirts of Srinagar city. After undergoing nine months of academic training at different institutions, they are temporarily posted in five different government departments which include secretarial services, revenue department, commercial tax department, rural development and social welfare department for three months.

“Our departments are already suffering due to the lack of trained man power (KAS cadre officials). This shortage has resulted in overburdening of existing officials, which in turn leads to inefficient administration. And the temporary posting of the new recruits is adding to the damage,” explains a top bureaucrat, wishing anonymity.

“The state government and policy makers take every decision with full conscience and always keep in view the state’s interest. This policy of rotational, on-job training, was taken on the similar grounds,” says Sheikh Mushtaq, Secretary, General Administration Services (GAD).

Before the new rotational policy was introduced, the newly selected KAS officers were inducted into various departments after undergoing training for almost 9-10 months at IMPA, Srinagar. The probation period of these officers is two years and the training was mostly completed within this period. Their promotion and transfer from one department to another was done according to the departments that they served.

“The training at IMPA is essentially bookish, not pragmatic. But it was certainly helpful in many ways,” says a 2009 batch KAS officer who is serving as Block Development Officer. The syllabus for the training is prescribed by GAD, J&K, says Dr Farzana Shaheen, an associate professor at IMPA. The officers spend four months at IMPA to study general administration skills, commercial taxation and different state laws. Later, they are taught revenue in Bemina and Accountancy at Rajbagh for a month at the end of their training period.

After 2009, rather than posting the trained officers in various departments on a regular basis, they were shifted from one department to another. Some were asked to assist and learn from senior officials but they were given the responsibility of functional jobs with all the powers. “Three months are too little time to learn functional jobs or quasi-judicial jobs on the field,” says a 50 year old bureaucrat who has served the state for the last 25 years. “Certain jobs require understanding, experience and careful implementation. They are a bit tricky and difficult to learn in just three months,” he says.

“The temporary posting also makes him prone to exploitation by his subordinates since the newly recruited officer is inexperienced and doesn’t have time to notice and rectify his mistakes,” the officer says. “Till he realizes his mistakes, it would be too late,” he says.

“A few of my fellow KAS recruits have been exploited and they have committed mistakes which can lead them into bigger problems in future,” says a newly recruited KAS officer working in Commercial Tax department. One has to be extra cautious and lucky to get honest and helpful colleagues, both seniors as well as sub-ordinates, which is not usually the case, he says.

Citing the recent racket involved in issuance of Permanent Residence Certificates (PRC), he says the inexperience of fresh recruits can be easily exploited. While the new recruits are facing exploitation and their seniors are silently watching the mess, Secretary, GAD, Sheikh Mushtaq has a counter-argument. “I don’t think that a person who has qualified a state level competitive examination can be exploited,” says Mushtaq, “He is capable enough to handle any responsibility for any given period of time”.

However, Mr Mushtaq accepts that reducing the time period of rotational on-job training from 15 months to nine months hasn’t done well to the administration and to the new recruits. He refused to explain why this policy shift was approved, “It is just a decision that we felt we should take. Yes, the shortage of officers can be a factor.” Seniors officials appreciate that the administration has finally woken up, “Thank God, they have realized their mistake. We are hopeful they would take better decisions in future for which they don’t have to repent later.”

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A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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