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SBI `fast track' promotion under fire

Sarbajeet K. Sen

New Delhi , Nov. 23

STATE Bank of India's new `fast track' promotion vehicle could well be forced off the track.

The SBI management's decision to tinker with the eligibility criteria after completion of the first two stages of the three-stage selection process is facing severe opposition from the powerful officers' association of the bank.

Alleging that the lowering of cut-off marks has been done to allow the passage of the management's favoured few to the top executive grade, the SBI Officers' Association has written to the bank's management and the Ministry of Finance expressing doubts over the "credibility of the system." In its communication, the association has also questioned the legal validity of altering the selection criteria after the process has been set in motion.

"Changing the norms in the midst of the selection process is unjustified and also legally questionable in as much as it affects the rights of others and it will further erode the credibility of the system," the association has said.

The `fast track' promotion policy was cleared in May 2003 for promotion of assistant general managers (Scale V) to the top executive grade that starts with the deputy general manager rank (Scale VI). The bank had said that the new promotion policy was meant to identify and promote younger officers to the top grades who could provide more vibrant leadership in the future.

While initially the cut-off marks for the written test (the first of the three-stages) was set at 70 per cent, a bank circular dated November 13 (after the results of the examination of the first two stages had been made available to the management) has informed all SBI staff that the eligibility has been revised to 62.33 per cent. Similarly, for the Assessment Centre Process (second stage), the cut-off has been reduced from 60 per cent to 55 per cent. The third and final stage (group and individual interaction), that is currently on, consists of interviews of the selected officers.

"The lowering of the cut-off is only to accommodate the management's favourites who could not make it under the earlier norms," Mr T.N. Goel, General Secretary, SBI Officers Association (Delhi Circle), alleged while confirming that the association had protested to the Government and the bank management on the issue.

However, while admitting that the alteration were done after the selection in the respective stages were over, the bank management has claimed that the decision was taken since the recommendation on selected candidates by the outside consultants hired for the first two stages were at variance with the minimum qualifying standards for each stage.

"On perusal of the results (placed by the consultants) it was observed that recommendations of the consultants were at variance with the minimum qualifying standards stipulated for each stage," the bank's circular amending the cut-off has explained. Under the new policy, if sufficient numbers do not qualify under the fast track the resultant vacancies would be transferred to selection under the seniority channel.

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