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The Government’s of India Clerks’ Salaries Committee

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Discontentment on the part of personnel in an organization is gravely injurious to its image and productivity. To this end conscious efforts are made to monitor and redress the employee grievances. The Government of India has shown its concern for this problem by the appointment of Pay Commission from time to time.


The Government of India appointed, in July 1908, a Committee, to investigate the complaints of the clerical personnel working in the secretariat to find out if the prevalent scales of pay were found insufficient to attract and retain man possessing the requisite qualifications and to suggest suitable measures for remedying the position. This Committee, known as the Government of India Clerks’ Salaries Committee, had as its members J.S. Meston, G.B.H. Fell, H. Hudson, H.N. Heseltine, Sarat Chandra Banerjee, Maula Bakhsh and C.W. Caston, the first named being its Chairman. The Committee submitted its report in December of the same year.

The Committee found itself in agreement with the complaints made by the clerical personnel about the absence of the higher avenues for promotion for them, ‘while the members of other Indian services have opportunities for advancement to the higher executive and administrative posts’. It remarked: ‘It is certainly the case that except in the Finance Department, from which clerks occasionally receive promotion to the enrolled list, the clerks in the Government of India secretariat offices have practically no hope of securing executive appointments, such as are open to clerks in provincial secretariats and other offices under local governments. We have considered whether it would be possible to remedy this, but have come to the conclusion that, as all such posts are in the gift of local governments, it would be impracticable to advise the reservation of any outside appointments for the imperial secretariat clerks. The proper course in our opinion is to render the conditions of clerical service in the secretariat itself sufficiently good to offer to its members a career not appreciably less attractive than that which is afforded to men of equal educational qualifications in other branches of the public services’.

The clerks pointed out the following grievances and pressed for better rates of pay:

  1. The rates of pay attached to appointments in the clerical service had been originally fixed some forty years ago and had remained practically unchanged ever since.

  2. The cost of foodstuffs and other necessities of life, house rents and wages of domestic servants had increased enormously during the last forty years.

  3. The standard of living in India advanced and continued to advance, which pointed out the need for increasing their emoluments.

  4. The clerks enjoyed a social status, distinctly inferior to that of the members of corresponding classes in other services such as the Postal, Salt And Telegraph Departments ‘who possess no higher educational qualification, whose duties demand no greater degree of intelligence, and whose salaries are in many cases lower than those of the senior clerks’.

  5. While the degree of intelligence and ability demanded of the more responsible clerks was high, their individual contribution to the administrative system was overlooked and their personal identity wholly merged in the machinery of which they formed a part. ‘As an instance of this feeling, one witness laid stress upon the fact that all notes by clerks have to be written in the third person: ‘We find’, he remarked, ‘that this is inconvenient and we have to go out of our way to conceal our identity by writing in a round about way’.

The Committee looked into all these complaints, some of which were rejected on the grounds of being untrue. On the question of the rising standard of living of people of India, it observed: ‘The rise in the standard of comfort or luxury is not confined to any one class, but has affected Europeans and Indians equally, in every grade of society above the lowest. This development unquestionably accounts to some extent for the alleged inadequacy of the present rates of pay as compared with former times. We have no wish, however to deprecate it, or to regard it as wholly extravagant, if increased self-respect is one of its fruits. The Committee was also inclined to share the view held by the clerks about their inferior social status. We are satisfied that it is felt by the clerks to be a real grievance and as such it tends to have an adverse influence upon recruitment.

The Committee laid stress on the exceptional character of the central secretariat or, as was known during that period imperial secretariat, which called for a level of treatment to be accorded to its clerical personnel different from that of other Government offices. It emphatically pointed out: ‘We wish to make it clear that, in our opinion, the imperial secretariat require in its clerical staff a higher degree of intelligence, a broader outlook and a more discriminating critical faculty than are expected in the offices of any Department or Provincial Government. Nothing that we have advised either as to scales of pay or as to gazetted rank is intended to have any application to officers of a different type, either at Simla or at Calcutta or elsewhere’.

The Committee set out to find out if the secretariat was successfully attracting a competent clerical staff. It was impressed with the quality of local personnel as reflected in their work but at the same time warned against complacency in the matter of recruitment of this class of persons.

‘We believe that the clerical work of the secretariat is on the whole very well done. We consider that the steady rise in the quality, and still more in the standard, of noting and drafting which it required from the clerk goes far to disprove any deterioration in the average capacity of the men employed. But we think that the increasing competition of the other departments for intelligent Indians and members of the domiciled community must add to the difficulties of suitable recruitment. And particularly for the more active and self-reliant the rapid development of commercial and industrial enterprises holds out attractions, which are wholly absent from the monotony of secretariat service. To make these attractions more than counter-balance the unquestionably lower scale or pay, continuity and prospects that business houses offer to clerks whom they recruit in India. We understand that these influences are already being felt in the secretariat. There is often difficulty in filling up vacancies without going to field. The frequent suppressions are partly due to the same cause; and we believe that an increasing weight of the heavier and more responsible work is being thrown upon the senior clerks and superintendents, imposing on them a severe physical an mental strain depriving them of the leisure which is necessary for the proper supervision and training of the younger men.’

The Committee sought to make the posts of Registrar and Superintendent more effective and prestigious. These two classes were, in fact, to be the lynchpin of the clerical wagon and were the ‘prize appointments of the secretariat open to the clerks.’ It is, in our opinion, a matter of high importance that both these classes of officers (registrars and superintendents) should be liberally paid, not only on account of the responsibility of their work, but because the appointments are practically the only goal towards which the ambition of the new first division (clerk) can press. We consider that the scale of pay should be at least equivalent to that of the selection grades in a provincial civil service;…’ With this view in mind, the Committee recommended that gazetted rank be conferred on the Superintendents. Elaborating this recommendation, it observed:

‘We are very strongly of opinion that adequate recognition is not extended to the importance and responsibility of the work which is done by this class of officers (superintendents). They are the repositories of the experience and traditions of their departments, much in the same way as the senior members of the permanent civil service are in England . The burden of supervision rests heavily on them; and the efficiency of their duties demands a high degree of intelligence, memory and tact. We have no wish to embark on comparisons, which may invite criticism in detail; but we may note the chief superintendents in accounts offices, inspectors of salt and customs in Madras , civil assistant surgeons in Bombay , inspectors of police in Bengal and inspectors of registration in the United Provinces, are all gazetted officers. We think that the Government of India might well pay that some compliment to a class of officers on whom they rely so largely for assistance which is nonetheless valuable because it is unostentatious. It would increase the self-respect of the whole establishment, and it would materially enhance the inducements of the secretariat service for men of education and character.’

Equally, the Committee was anxious to improve the caliber and utilization of the first division clerk in the secretariat. The first division, as it was called, ‘will be, in a way, a corps de elite engaged upon the most responsible work in each office, and upon nothing else; and our recommendations as to pay, status, etc., are based upon the assumption that these conditions will be strictly observed’. The first division clerkship was to be open only to the graduates, ensuring thus a high level of intelligence in the personnel. To make it an attractive avenue for really bright persons, the Committee suggested a change in the nomenclature; the first division clerk should be called ‘Secretariat Assistant’. To clearly mark him off from the lower level, the second division clerk was to be simply called ‘clerk’.

The Committee also attempted to determine the precise ratio that one level should have with another. The ratio of superintendent to assistants and clerks was not to exceed 1:7 nor fall below 1:10. Similarly, it was insistent on keeping the ratio of assistants to clerks to ‘the narrowest limit’.

The Committee did not look favorably at the practice of suppression for promotion to higher posts by men brought in from outside.

‘We recognize that the efficiency of an office must always be the first consideration and that it may at times be necessary to fill a particular appointment by an outsider if no one then in the office is considered to be fully qualified for it. But we are of the opinion that, if recruitment is properly regulated and more especially if the senior man in an office takes pains to train the younger man in their duties, it should very rarely indeed be necessary to pass over existing members of an office for promotion to higher posts; and that when such suppressions are frequent, as they have been in some offices in the past, the effect upon the clerks who are superseded is so disheartening that it cannot fail to affect injuriously both the morale and the popularity of service.’

The other recommendations of the Committee related to the Simla allowances and grading of pay. It suggested the abolition of the Simla allowance.

‘The theory of the ‘Simla allowance’, as we understand it, is that it is an addition made to the clerk’s pay to compensate for the cost of living in two places instead of one, including the cost of moving his family to and from Calcutta every second or third year The history of these allowances is involved in kaleidoscopic. They had their origin in a time when a visit to Simla was looked upon as a tour. But now that there is an unvarying regularity about the seven months’ stay in Calcutta, it would be well to fix the substantive pay of the clerks on the clear understanding that they have to provide for this manner of life and that, whether they are married or single, no further or special concession will be given by Government.’

It was also against long delays of promotion, as this practice had a detrimental effect on a person. A lower range of pay with frequent movement is more effective than a more expensive scale with stagnation in keeping ‘an officer keen on its work and in good heart’.

Executive Summary

The Caston Committee on the Government of India Clerks’ Committee, 1908 highlighted the importance of the clerical personnel in the secretariat, the headquarters organisation of the Government of India was at their poor pay scales and inferior social status. It recommended an improved pay scale and some promotional avenues; Superintendent (re

Written by upsc aspirants

January 27th, 2012 at 9:38 pm

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