Friday, June 29, 2012

I.                    DG (HRD)
Met the DG(HRD) Shri Birendra Kumar Singh  at his office at Saket . The ADG (HRD/IW) was also present in the DG’s chamber then.
a.      Cadre Restructuring :
DG  Informed that the matter is held up with DoP&T on their objections on proposals related to senior level Gr A officers. He very categorically said that there is no objection from DoP&T on that part of the proposals that concerns Gr B and Gr C.
When I specifically asked about the cuts  reportedly made by DoP&T, the DG said that so far as Commissioners are concerned their number will go up from the 295 at present to  around 350. That may  translate into maybe 30 Audit Commissionerates being formed and the larger among the present  Commissionerates  getting split.  When I asked him that since these figures don’t match with the number of new Commissionerates/ other formations proposed originally by the Board, does it not mean that there will ultimately be fewer new Commissionerates etc. than initially proposed, he said that it is possible.
The DG further said that Board officials are working very hard to get the proposals approved by DoP&T and send the same expeditiously to the  Committee of  Secretaries and  the Cabinet for the final nod.
He also said that that proposals of Gr B and Gr C levels are not required to go to the CoS or the Cabinet.  “Proposals   of  Cadre Review of only Gr A Officers  goes to the Committee and Cabinet, and so far as Gr B and Gr C are concerned only information about them is sent, and no Proposals. For Gr B &  Gr C, the Board is fully empowered to do the needful.  The DoP&T, the  Committee of  Secretaries and the  Cabinet are concerned only with those proposals that concern the Gr A, but since Restructuring of the Deptt. cannot and will not be done in parts, it will come out only in a comprehensive manner, after the Gr A roadblock is resolved.”
When I asked him pointedly by when can we realistically expect our promotions as part of Restructuring ( with officers waiting for even the very first promotions in their careers  after 20/22 or even more years, and  dozens of officers   who have got only one promotion in their careers spanning over thirty five years retiring  month after month with that single promotion), he said that the earliest he expects implementation of Restructuring is by the year-end.

b.      Austerity  Measures – Apprehensions :
I asked the DG whether the austerity measures announced recently by the Government  would have any bearing on the Restructuring of our Deptt., he said that he did not have any such apprehensions, since ours is a revenue-generating deptt. and not a “spending “ one. He also shared the information that during interactions with the PAC, especially with the Chairman Shri MM Joshi, this fact had been pointed out by him , and  thereafter  as advised by the PAC Chairman, a note on how acute shortage of manpower in the CBEC is adversely impacting revenue realization  has been prepared and  submitted to Shri Joshi, who has assured that he will be taking up the matter at the appropriate level with the GoI to ensure that austerity measures do not come in the way of personnel requirements of CBEC  so that indirect tax collection is not hampered and revenue targets may be met.

c.       All India Seniority of Inspectors :   
The DG told me very clearly that he has recommended to the Board that All India Seniority  must be brought in for  Inspectors of Central Excise to remove the huge regional disparities  that obtain in the promotion of Inspectors to Superintendents. However, when I asked him whether it will be brought in before the Restructuring exercise, he replied in the negative, saying that “it would involve demoting officers already promoted in those Zones which are ahead of others  in this aspect, and if this is done without demoting any officer, it would result in stopping promotions altogether for a long time in certain zones.”
I then asked the DG what that was being proposed, and he informed that it is something  which  over   some period of time will  gradually do away with regional disparities, and thereafter an All India Seniority List of Inspectors can be drawn.  Then on getting promoted  from Inspectors as Superintendents, officers will have to move to any part of the country where vacancy of Supdt. is available, and those unwilling to do so will have to forego promotions. There will be a clearly defined policy that officers moving out from their zones can get repatriated  to their home zones whenever a vacancy arises there, strictly on a ‘first out- first in’ basis.  When I asked the DG when we can expect such a situation to emerge, he replied that no time frame can be fixed for such matters, you will have to wait and see.  There also seems to be some misgivings in the Board on the All India Seniority issue.   

II            Jt. Secretary (Admn.), CBEC
                        I called on the JS (Admn)  Shri Lok Ranjan at his office in North Block and inquired whether any progress has been made in respect of improvements/ clarifications requested for repeatedly  by the AICEIA on the Board’s letter dated 27.10.2011 under which the ban on Inter Commissionerate Transfers was lifted.  When I said that things do not seem to be moving at all on this front, the JS said that  “it could be your perception”. He also emphatically said that loss of seniority on ICT was a well established principle and there cannot be any rethink on it, with the  Courts too having pronounced verdicts with finality on the issue. When I pointed out that the AICEIA ‘s representations were not limited  to this , he said that:
a.      The  concerns of the Assn. have been taken on board by the CBEC, and that the Chairman had called for certain additional information, and once the same is received, the Board may consider the issues concerned   afresh.

b.      Presonally, the JS said, he felt that completion of probation period  having been made a precondition for applying for ICT is not all that fair and can be dispensed with.

c.       Regarding need for uniformity in considering  ICT applications by  all CCAs , the JS (Admn.)’s  strongly held view is that since it is the CCA’s who have to run their respective Zones, it would not at all be advisable to do away with or impair their discretion in such matters. He said that although he appreciates that further loss of seniority  occurs for each single day of delay,  in absolute terms  as well a comparatively  in some cases  where  junior officers from  some  zone getting transferred earlier to a preferred zone while officers senior them, of another zone, are waiting  to move to that  same preferred  zone,   and that it is a huge concern for individuals losing out on this count, this cannot be a defining consideration to even allow ICTs, leave alone hasten them.
d.      As for those already on deputation to their desired Commissionerates , he said that the Board’s firm opinion is that at one point in time, a deputation is allowed, and the decision is to that extent only – deputation for a fixed number of years- it is not for sparing an officer for the entire length of his career, as in the case of ICT. Any decision on ICT has to be taken  independently and separately, keeping  in view  current  circumstances.  It is not that all these aspects were not weighed carefully and appropriate decisions taken when the ban on ICTs was lifted and conditions therefor  stipulated.  So It is very unlikely that  the requirement  of those officers  presently on deputation to return to their parent Commissionerates and apply afresh for ICT will be dispensed with .
                When I informed the JS of the tremendous pressure on us from our members adversely   affected by the draconian provisions woven into the ICT scheme, his reply was that policies were framed for meeting administrative needs and not to suit individuals’ conveniences.  He, however, suggested that the Association represent afresh on these points in a concise way.
                                    [It is learnt that Shri Arun Goel, presently with the Ministry  of Urban Development, will join CBEC  very shortly as the new  JS(Admn.).]

III.        Member(P&V), CBEC

I also met the Member (P&V) and submitted before her the concerns of the Association on the issues already presented before the other officers earlier.

The Member was of the opinion that it would  be proper  if this issue is brought before the JS(Admn.). However when I persisted,  the Member did give a patient hearing.  I repeated all the points already made before the JS. The Member was dismissive of those and said none of the points had any merit. She said the Board’s role in the matter was limited to lifting the ban and permitting ICT with well-considered  conditions.  She said that she was sure that there was no need to alter any of those conditions, and that those interested in ICTs  have to necessarily  accept and abide by all those conditions, since it is only a facility that has been extended/ restored by the Board, which is under no obligation to facilitate postings of officers at places of their liking with protection of all  benefits including their seniority. I was given the clear impression  that any further pleading on these matters is futile. When I requested the Member that instructions be issued from the Board to all CCAs to adopt uniform standards and effect expeditious processing while dealing with ICT applications, the Member sad that each CCA has  to deal with situations peculiar to the Zone(s) concerned, and that is precisely why the present dispensation has been formulated. That will stay as such, and the Board will have nothing to do with how CCAs handle ICT applications in their respective jurisdictions, as long as it is within the conditions already laid down by the Board.

Cadre Restructuring :
I pointed  out to the Member  that Inspectors in several Zones are  waiting for even their  first promotions  even after putting in  20 years and more of unblemished service. She assured me that she, as also the CBEC, are  very well seized of these facts and that Cadre Review should substantially address these problems. When I asked about the  delay  in Restructuring now  getting counted in years, the Member(P&V) said that she too is worried about it – the Board has sent the proposals to DoP&T in April, where it is stuck. The Board is doing everything to get it through, and we should hope that it happens fast.

I also had occasion to interact  with some  other  officials and  what  I could gather is that the file is with DoP&T, after the CBEC has revised the proposals at the DoP&T’s behest. It is understood that the revised proposals involve a reduction of overall 8500  number of posts. It is learnt that  the functional aspects were not gone into by the DoP&T, and the cuts directed by them were arbitrary. Another information gathered is that the all the proposals including the original one, and not just the revised one will be examined by the Committee of Secretaries, and therefore nothing is final as yet. The CoS could even recommend the original proposal submitted by the Board, or any other configuration they find appropriate. In this backdrop it has been suggested to us that it could be worthwhile for us to pursue the matter urgently with the CoS headed by the Cabinet Secretary  at this stage, laying  stress more on how the acute paucity of executives  at  the cutting edge and Gr A entry levels has badly affected the department’s functioning, to get a better restructuring package.

Yours fraternally,
Ajit Kumar K G