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Mr FM, Revenue Services do not need a new transfer policy but a modern Cadre Planning Authority!

By TIOL Edit Team

THE New Transfer Policy is in place for annual tamasha of large-scale transfers! But the fundamental question is : What does this policy intend to achieve? Does it want to give equal opportunities to all to have exposure to all the multifarious activities of tax administration like enforcement, investigation, recovery, assessment, representing Revenue in tribunal, border & Airport manning and policy-making? Or it aims to eliminate the space for developing vested interests at one place? Or it targets to see smile on the face of hitherto 'have-nots' in terms of poor and non-metro postings by punishing the 'Haves' of the Department? Since the policy has not succinctly spelt out its set of objectives let's presume that it has all these multiple goals and now examine the feasibility of realising them.

First, let's go back to the pre-policy days. Even those days both the Revenue Boards had a transfer policy and it was no less just, transparent and futuristic. But the problem areas were non-compliance, rule of making too many exceptions, unchained discretion and political & bureaucratic lobbying. All these elements were instrumental in bringing distortions in the policy and they exist even today to do nothing but the same!

So far as CBDT was concerned it can tell FM by compiling the data of choice preferences given by officers those days. Kolkata and Mumbai were certainly not an attraction for any officer. The Chairman and Member (Personnel) had to persuade and cajole officers to opt for a stint in these cities. No infrastructure in terms of housing, office equipment, motor vehicles etc was available to the tune of number of officers being posted there. A senior income tax officer today recalls how his family had to share his flat with another family!

This instance clearly shows counting a past stint to these cities for a tenure in the metros of today would do no justice to a large number of officers. Similarly, counting a deputation tenure availed in early 90s is like changing the rule of the game when the game is half-way through.

There can be many more such issues but the basic question is : Is this policy not missing the wood for the tree? Corruption, vested interests and lack of equal opportunities are only the manifestations of the malady and the malady is something else! It seems North Block policy eagles are no longer that sharp in their vision to see a new and worrying trend of good officers leaving the Department in flocks. Certainly a spurt in the number can be seen in both the Revenue Boards. Why is it happening?

And the malady is the lack of modern human resource planning! Both the Revenue Boards have undergone cadre-restructuring a few years back and another one is due again but all these exercises have so far been post-grabbing at best. Multiple cadres in both the Revenue Boards continue to be successfully messed up and litigations are the only order of the day. People who have at best the experience of a shepherd are the cadre managers of more than two lakh personnel of the revenue department. And they are indeed honest to their abilities in shepherding the huge lots mundanely and that is how we have annual circus of transfers.

If not others, the Finance Minister should at least analyse the global trend of reorganising the tax administration keeping in mind the future necessity of one Board as can be seen from the UK, the USA and New Zealand. With the growing financial intricacies it would be a visionary move to merge the Boards and go for an independent Cadre Planning Authority manned not by IAS, Forest Service and Central Secretariat babus but a team of dedicated revenue officials of proven trackrecord in this area (FM can check with Health Secretary how efficiently a revenue officer is handling the large and generally string-pulling cadres of doctors). Let this authority have the mandate to work out details of training, exposure to conferences and seminars overseas, promotion and transfer based on the larger goal of revenue and just administration. Such an authority can also play a vital role in re-tuning the mindset of the personnel who could understand the real nuance of taxpayer-friendly administration. No policy would be able to realise its potential unless the taxpayers are put at the centrestage.

But, unfortunately, this new transfer policy, which is nothing but the old rotten eggs in a new basket, once again aims at mere transfer of one lot which has overstayed in metros and pulling by collar the other lot which appears to be happy manning the mofussil revenue formations. The final outcome, under such circumstances, is going to be an easy prediction : Both the lots would end up grumbling, leading to further tumbling of revenue mop-up performance!