According to sources, this back-to-the-parent state movement of top IAS officers is a rare occurrence as the officers who had opted for repatriation are at senior level in the rank of joint secretary and above.
Just three IAS officers left the Centre prematurely in 2013 and only one between August and December 2012, according to details presented on the department of personnel and training (DoPT) website.
But the numbers rose to 13 between January and May 2014, in the run up to the Lok Sabha polls that resulted in the BJP forming government at the centre.
A top DoPT official, however, said that the “exodus” may not indicate an unwillingness to serve under the Modi regime which is keen to change the system of governance.
“It may have been to take up assignments at senior levels, including as chief secretary, in the state,” he said.
An examination of DoPT’s repatriation orders shows that seven officers went back to take up chief secretary’s position in their respective states.
A defence ministry source said at least four joint secretary-rank officers had left for their parent cadre because it had become difficult for them to put in the “hard work” required under the present dispensation.
Normally, after reaching a certain level of seniority, officers tend to stay in Delhi where there are more avenues of advancement.
The problem for the government is not about vacancies alone. Few from the states appear to be eager to take up senior openings being created in Delhi by the increase in repatriations.
As against the 30 vacancies in the joint secretary rank in 2014, only four IAS officers have come forward; and of them one has picked Bengaluru as her preferred choice of posting.
The delays in the process of empanelment – the main hurdle the officers of all central services need to cross to be eligible for the rank of joint secretary and above – has shrunk the available pool.
Non-IAS officers are usually reluctant to take up assignments at the Centre as they often have to work under IAS officers two to five batches their junior.
“Indian Telecom Service is the only significant catchment area left, that too because the government has been attempting to downsize their service and merge them in BSNL and MTNL,” a non-IAS officer said.
A review of additional secretary rank posts in the central ministries show they are all occupied by IAS officers, despite the fact that 26 non-IAS officers have been empanelled in the last two years and have offered their services.
It’s the same at the joint secretary level. Out of the 30 slots available, 23 are occupied by IAS officers.
Non-IAS officers often complain about the dominance of the IAS cadres, saying it runs contrary to the emphasis periodically placed on having specialists helm positions requiring domain knowledge.