Next Transfer of a civil servant from one post to another is an essential feature of the bureaucratic system prevalent in our country. Based on the Weberian principle of separation of powers, transfer is a means to ensure that the civil servant remains separated from his office after a certain stint. Normally, in most states the average tenure of a civil servant in a particular post averages around two years.
In certain states like UP, Haryana, etc, transfers are too frequent and often for extraneous considerations, mostly political. A few years back, the central government fixed tenure of two years for certain key posts such as the Cabinet Secretary, the Home Secretary, and the Foreign Secretary. Since then, a proposal on whether to have such fixed tenures for certain key officials in the states like the Chief Secretary, the DG of Police, etc is under consideration of the states.
When an IAS officer completes his training of two years, one year at the academy and another in the district, he is prepared to undertake the responsibility of the development and regulatory administration in the district for the first 10 years of his career.
Thereafter, he is expected to work in several line departments in the state or central government. Public administration and public policy making is far more complex and difficult to comprehend than people imagine.
The stakes are too high, the challenges are daunting and it requires tremendous amount of domain knowledge in that field for an officer to be effective. Take the case of VAT administration. It is a very technical field and one has to not only be well-versed in the technicalities of the legal aspects of tax administration, but also have a very fair understanding of the market, the tax payers and the effects of every taxation policy on the revenues, the tax payers and the economy.
A very important sector like the energy sector too requires extensive domain knowledge and experience of electricity generation, transmission and distribution, the commercial issues of electricity pricing, regulatory issues, consumers’ behavior and the effects of a policy on the political government.
The social sectors like education and health are even more complicated and require tremendous insights into the socio-psychological behavioral traits of the citizens in a multi-layered society like ours.
Based on my experience in several sectors like commercial tax, urban administration and energy, I can say with certainty and candor that the first six months in such posts were the most difficult as one had to comprehend and learn a lot.
It’s only after a year that a diligent officer can claim to have a fair idea about the complexities and challenges of his assignment and then set out to implement new ideas and improve upon the present. With a minimum tenure of two to three years, one gets the advantage of experience and can improve upon the present policies.
Frequent transfers without any meaningful tenure achieve nothing and result only in wasteful expenditure. The policy of stable tenures of senior officials in key departments in some states like Gujarat has shown a lot of positive results in the delivery system and policy-driven governance.