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NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi believes younger bureaucrats should be posted as heads of the 115 districts that rank low in development parameters as they would be better suited to address the governance challenges compared with “promotee” officers, mostly in their forties.
Advocating the need to post young IAS officers as district collectors for transformational change in these 115 “aspirational” districts, the PM called for deploying such officers for the next five years to see change. The 115 districts have been identified on the basis of 48 parameters.
Speaking at the National Legislators Conference in the Capital, Modi said during a recent review of the 115 districts, he found that more than 80% of DMs were in the 40-45 age group. “Usually, the average age of a district collector is around 27, 28 or 30. Young IAS officers with three-four years’ experience take up such assignments. But I found that in these 115 districts, more than 80% of district collectors were 40 plus and some were 45,” Modi said.
The PM said officers in these age groups had grown up children and they were worried about education and wanted to shift to big cities. He also pointed out that most district heads were “promotee officers” from state civil services and most of them looked upon such appointments as “punishment postings”.
Modi’s remarks can revive talk of youthful energy and drive versus experience and some have even speculated whether the PM’s view could turn out to be the trigger for lowering the maximum eligibility age for civil services, which is not an easy thing to do because of the stand of reservation categories for age relaxation on the ground that they start and bloom late. Several seasoned officers TOI talked to said drawing such a conclusion to a “complex” issue was “premature”.
Modi said while some districts had progressed well, others had lagged behind and that was not because of lack of funds but because “governance is an issue, leadership is an issue, coordination is an issue and effective implementation is an issue”.
Reaching out to lawmakers, the PM sought their cooperation to take up development of laggard areas as a mission along with the local administration. Last week, Modi had told his ministers to see this as an opportunity to serve people. Modi also told lawmakers that doing hardcore politics, holding protests and issuing political statements was helpful for political leaders earlier, but now the situation had changed. He said now people have elected leaders who had worked for them and not for how many times they had been jailed.