Thoughts on economics and liberty

Request for information from IAS/AIS colleagues on the cadre allocation system for all India Services

An academic has asked the following:

I am currently attempting to reconstruct the allocation process of IAS officers before 1984. While trying to find descriptions of that policy online, I came across your IAS website on the 1982 batch.

Since you entered yourself prior to 1984, I was wondering if you could enlighten me about the specific policy that was in place at that time. As far as I know, the cadre allocation policy was changed in 1984 (see attached the guidelines). But I could not find any information pertaining to the allocation rule prior to that.

I would be most grateful if you could share your own experience. Any information and details (preferably as much as possible) would be greatly appreciated. How did the rule differ from the rule in 1984? Were officers also allocated based on insider status and their category?


I’m not personally aware of the history of the allocation systems for the IAS but from the note you sent, there seems to have been a roster system prior to 1977.

In 1982, when I was selected, we had the Limited Zonal Preferences System system described in the letter. (In this system all the cadres/joint cadres

were divided into zones and the candidates were given the opportunity to indicate their preferences zone-wise and also for two cadres in each zone.)

Sometime during the application process (I forget at which stage – but I suspect it must have been at the Main exam stage) we had to choose the specific services and specific cadres.

I chose IAS over the Indian Foreign Service, then IPS (police) for the services. I think there were around five to seven zones (I forget) and I chose the northern zone within which I chose Haryana cadre as my first choice, then Panjab. My last choice was the North Eastern states.

As it so happened, the vacancies for Haryana were just enough for me to get my first preference as an outsider (my domicile was New Delhi). I later switched cadre after marrying my colleague to her cadre: Assam-Meghalaya.

At that time there was generally a surplus of selected officers from the prosperous states that had better educational institutions. Therefore the higher ranking ones among these bagged the “outsider” quota in their first or second preference cadres within their first preference zone – as occurred in my case.

It is also true that “limited inter-regional movement of candidates takes place only in respect of a few low ranking candidates”. That’s best illustrated by my Assam Meghalaya batch of 1982 in which only two Assamese were selected that year. Therefore everyone else allocated to Assam-Meghalaya had to come from other states. These were all rather low ranking candidates (that I moved to this cadre later still meant that I had the highest national rank in the Assam Meghalaya cadre – although for the purposes of the State, my rank now became last). I must hasten to add (and this is a very important point!) that I have come across no evidence in my entire life to suggest that the intellectual calibre of the lower ranking officers was (or is) in any way lower to that of the higher ranking officers.

I’ll share these comments on my blog and through that with my IAS batchmates Whatsapp group and ask them to add any other information they may have.

Btw, I’d like to invite your attention to more fundamental issues through the attached article (which will be published in the next issue of Smart Governance) and my book Breaking Free of Nehru (of which I would suggest chapters 4 and 6 in case you have time).

Sanjeev Sabhlok

View more posts from this author