Monday, June 18, 2012

Pranab as President: Why IRS officers could be orphans again

'Chanakya' at an I-T office
INDIAN Revenue Service (IRS) officers will be "orphans" once again! As finance minister Pranab Mukherjee is likely to move to Rashtrapati Bhawan by the end of July, IRS officers who regained their lost clout during Mukherjee’s stay in North Block, may go back to the days when there were attempts to make them just a tax-collecting machinery by stripping most of their power. When Mukherjee was at the helm, there were instances where tax hounds raided IAS officers’ premises and even argued why CBDT and CBEC chairmen...
who hold special secretary’s rank should not report to the revenue secretary, an IAS?
Politically astute Mukherjee has always pampered IRS officers because he knows it well that the charged-up taxmen would be able to raise more resources needed for UPA’s ever-growing social programmes. In official functions, Mukherjee quoted Chanakya’s Koso Moolo Dandah theory of Arthasaastra making it a point that the treasury and its inflows are the source of a nation’s might. But he cautioned the taxmen as well. “Historically, the focus of the direct tax administration has been on maximal enforcement of the statute so as to maximize tax revenue and the collections. Both theory and practice has shown that this did not bring in the intended results,” he said while speaking to the IRS probationers last year. 
Many a time, Mukherjee was a father figure to the IRS officers. The officers who were upset by transfer-policy during the UPA-I regime, heaved a sigh of relief when FM emphasized that all annual general transfers should be carried out by the second week of April. “I have noticed that transfer orders of the officers are issued in mid of the year, which affects not only the officer, but also the department. The officer has to shift his family and children in the mid of the academic session, which causes avoidable mental stress. Similarly, by shifting of the officers in the mid of the year from one charge to the other charge, the continuity and time available is reduced considerably. This adversely affects achieving the targeted revenue,” Mukherjee said at a review meeting with the chief commissioners and commissioners of income tax, customs and central excise in Mumbai in September, 2010.
Also, if the tax sleuths’ raids during the last few years were closely examined, I-T officials (IRS officers) who are numbered over 4000 were silently waging a war to end supremacy of IAS in the department. Unlike in the railways or postal departments where IAS officers don’t dictate terms, the IRS officers ultimately come under the revenue secretary of the ministry of finance. Only till a few years ago, members of CBDT and CBEC were additional secretary ranked officers, but 6th pay commission elevated their position to special secretaries. But chairmen of the two boards remained at the level of special secretary. In all administrative matters, the revenue secretary calls the shot. 
As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is likely to take the additional charge of finance ministry after Mukherjee resigns, very likely on June 24, to contest the Presidential elections, there will be a major shake-up in North Block’s bureaucracy. And the voice of Pulok Chatterji, the all-powerful principal secretary to PM, will prevail in North Block too.


  1. "INDIAN Revenue Service (IRS) officers will be orphans once again, literally." Literally, really?

  2. Through Twitter and e-mails, some IRS officers have objected to the use of the word "orphan" in the story. In fact, the story was not written to hurt the sentiments of the IRS officers but to highlight the fact that Pranab Mukherjee is a father figure to many of them. The clout of the IRS, one of the influential services, began to decline during UPA-I. But Mukherjee changed the equation. Will IRS get another Pranab? That's the biggest question now. In most cases during Mukherjee's tenure, even the PMO did not interfere in North Block's affairs! Also, the spirited IRS officers doubled their workload resulting in massive raise in tax collection during this phase of economic turbulence.
    Also, BoI thanks one of the IRS officers who pointed out a mistake in the post. Only the Members of CBDT and CBEC, not chairmen as was written in the original post, were of the rank of addition secretaries till 6th pay commission. Now, they all are special secretaries. It was already corrected.

  3. "Literally" implies that their parents would die. Obviously, that's not what was meant. Why not remove that word?

  4. The word has been removed to keep in mind your sentiments even though it did not mean so. Thanks for participating

  5. So this means that the members and the Chairman of CBDT and CBEC hold the rank of Special Secretaries?????

    1. Yes, they are ex-officio special secretaries. It's high time they were made secretaries, because now railways are elevating their General Managers to special secy rank (as Director Generals), and Chairman and Members of Railway Board are already full-fledged Secretaries.

  6. I am fully agree that the members n chairman should be elevated as secretaries and all the CCs n DGs as Special secretaries...It is need of hour and by doing this YES MAN type of beaurocracy will be sidelined