Govt withdraws order on women employees details
New Delhi, Apr 15: An embarrassed Centre has decided to withdraw its controversial circular which stipulated that women bureaucrats provide personal health details like menstrual history and date of last pregnancy in their annual performance appraisal reports.
The Government last week decided to scrap this new clause even before it got any reports from female officers in the controversial format. "A decision to this effect has been taken considering the sensitivity of the issue. A fresh notification deleting those female-specific clauses will be issued shortly," said a top Government official.
The decision came in the wake of some Maharashtra women bureaucrats openly expressing reservations over sharing such details in the proforma attached to the All India Services (Performance Appraisal Report) Rules 2007 -- notified on March 14 -- and deciding to lodge a formal complaint with the Ministry of Personnel.
Though the Ministry had so far not received a formal complaint, the loud murmurs over the issue in bureaucratic circles pushed the Government on the back foot within a month of issuing the notification which is applicable for All India Services officers including the elite IAS, IPS and IFS.
The new rule under the March 14 notification made it mandatory for female bureaucrats to share not only their menstrual history but also details of their last menstrual period, date of last confinement and result of mammography - a specific type of imaging used to detect breast cancer in women - while attaching their health check-up report with the appraisal form.
"Though female bureaucrats will now be spared from sharing all these details, they will still have to part with medical reports comprising other details which are common for all, irrespective of their gender," said the official.
Once the Government deletes the gender-specific tests from the proforma after formal notification, both male and female bureaucrats will have to share similar details concerning their routine health check-up, comprising reports of blood sugar, lipid profile, liver and kidney function tests, ultrasound of abdomen, and cardiac profile, among others.
Asked about the background of the new rule, Ministry of Personnel Secretary Satyanand Mishra said the proforma was put in place on the basis of a Committee's report which had recommended introducing a concept of performance appraisal report - including fitness reports of bureaucrats - in the place of the age-old system of an Annual Confidential Report.
The protest by the women Bureaucrats had also impelled the Women and Child Development Ministry, headed by Ms Renuka Chowdhury, into asking the Department of Personnel and Training to remove the objectionable parts from the appraisal form.
The National Commission for Women got into the act too, with Chairperson Girija Vyas saying: "We have asked for the details. The system doesn't appear to be proper; we will seek the women officers' comments before arriving at a final decision." The capital-counterparts of the Maharashtra women officers, who first raised the protest against the gender-insensitive proforma, too, rallied round with Women and Child Development Secretary Deepa Jain Singh writing to the Ministry of Personnel objecting to the queries.
Secretary in the Ministry of Animal Husbandry and Dairy Development Charusheela Sohoni also dashed off a similar letter to Secretary of Personnel Satyanand Mishra. "These details are no indicator of fitness for the job," Secretary Sohoni said.
WCD Secretary Jain Singh, whose letter is backed by complaints from several other women officers, wanted the form to be amended.
Among questions about goals and skills, a new job appraisal form sent out earlier this year asked female civil servants, "when was your last menstrual period?" and "give details of your menstrual history." The form also calls for women to detail their last maternity leave.
A senior Government official said the form was based on Health Ministry guidelines but refused to offer further explanation. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.
All civil servants routinely undergo health checkups, but the results are not supposed to be part of their appraisals.
A woman civil service officer said on condition of anonymity, due to the sensitive nature of the situation, that she and others were shocked by the move, which shows gender insensitivity at the top level of the Indian bureaucracy.
"The questions are too intrusive and have no bearing on our work, health problems or aberrations are generally mentioned to assess the officer's physical fitness. But information on menstrual cycles is irrelevant."