Kiran Aggarwal Committee Report - 2014 (District Training of IAS)
Since the inception of the service, IAS Officer Trainees have undergone a one-year district training in their allotted state cadre. This has traditionally followed the professional instruction at the Academy and, in some sense, mirrors the training pattern followed in British India in the case of the ICS, where the formal instruction in a university in England was followed by a year in the district of the allocated state cadre.
Traditionally, the duration of district training has remained at one year, both during British times (for the ICS) and post-Independence (for the IAS). Since 1969, when the “sandwich pattern” (with a short training course succeeding district training) was introduced, district training has been kept at 52 weeks.
Institutional Training at ATI
A key element of district training is institutional training at the state ATI. This is, of course, subject to considerable spatial variation across state cadres and ranges from 3 weeks (including some states till recently that did not have any institutional training) to 12 weeks. Normally, this component comprises introduction to the state’s socio-economic, political and cultural ethos; its administrative architecture; introduction to district and land administration; and introduction to the state’s major laws. Some states also incorporate revenue and settlement training and a state darshan (tour) within the ATI attachment.
The positioning of the ATI attachment (within the one year of district training) also varies considerably across states. In some states, district training commences with training at the ATI whereas some others have preferred to schedule it later during the course of the year. It is also pertinent to mention that in some states (like Maharashtra) a short debriefing is scheduled by the ATI at the end of district training.
Attachments in the District
One of the principal cornerstones of district training has been “learning by watching”. In addition to training at the ATI, around 25-30 weeks are allocated for a series of attachments with district-level offices. This is generally prescribed by the state government and is done under the supervision of the District Collector, who plays an important mentoring role during district training. The principal offices where Trainees are attached include Collectorate, Zila Parishad, SDM and Tehsildar offices, subordinate revenue officials, SSP, District & Session Judge, DFO, CMO, Engineers of the line departments, Municipal Corporation/ Council, BDPO, etc. Some states also have an attachment with the Divisional Commissioner and also at the State Secretariat. However, in some states the attachments are not so well-structured and often Trainees end up abiding more by the wishes of the Collector. There is also a tendency to position Trainees (as a stop-gap arrangement) on certain vacant positions, either in the field or in the Collectorate. The oversight exercised by the state ATI or state Government on district training also varies across states and generally leaves a little to be desired. This places too much emphasis on the Collector, the interest taken by her/ him, and also the initiative displayed by the Trainee as a learner.
The other, and equally important, cornerstone of district training has been the maxim “learning by doing”. IAS Trainees are expected to hold independent charges of subordinate positions as a sequel to their numerous attachments in the district. This “blooding” of young Trainees into actual positions of responsibility, albeit under the watchful eye of the District Collector, has been found extremely useful and can be said to be time-tested. Generally, Trainees are given two to three independent charges, viz. that of BDPO (ranging anywhere between 4 to 8 weeks), Tehsildar (ranging again from 4 to 8 weeks), and in some cases those of Executive Officer of a Municipal Council and even that of SDM. The premise here is that this allows Trainees the independence to work and thereby to first-hand appreciate the working of subordinate offices that they would be supervising immediately upon completion of their probation. However, the nature and duration of these independent charges again varies and in some states, governments are loath to entrust Trainees with independent charges.
Attachment at State Secretariat and Departmental Examinations
IAS Trainees normally visit the State Secretariat for calling on senior dignitaries and officials of the state government. This is usually for a period of around one week wherein they are also attached to various Secretaries during this time to obtain an exposure to the working dynamics of the state government at the headquarters. Like everything else in district training, this too varies considerably across states. In some states, Trainees are required to even sit in branches/ sections of the state department and prepare note sheets on files in process.
A related aspect is the conduct of Departmental Examinations which all Officer Trainees are expected to clear during their probation to allow them to be empowered under certain laws of the state before they assume their first mandated position of responsibility. These are conducted either by the State Public Service Commission or the State ATI or even the State Government.
The district training, like all other components of probation, is assessed by the Academy. This involves evaluation of daily diaries and monthly analytical notes (sent by Trainees to their respective cadre Counselors at the Academy), of a village study report to be prepared through empirical field work, of similar urban assignments, of a district assignment, of law cases heard and decided by the Trainee, and of assignments on the state language. There is a nominal component for assessment by the Collector and State ATI. There is a strong demand by State governments and ATIs that the weight assigned to assessments by the District Collector and State ATI must be increased as they are best placed to evaluate the work (in terms of initiative, effort and application) of the Trainee during district training.