A Jan. 12 letter from the Department of Human Resources and Training (DoPT) of the Union Department of the Interior (MHA) to the states has set the latter off. The letter called for responses by January 25 to a proposed change in the division of All India Services (AIS) bureaucrats, which included the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS) and Indian Forest Service ( IFoS) belong.
The DoPT letter follows a perceived shortage of AIS officers in Union departments. It states that states “are not sponsoring a sufficient number of officials for the central deputation,” resulting in a lack of coverage for the needs of the Union government. His previous letters (December 20 and 27 and January 7) soliciting comments from the states elicited limited response, leading them to revise the proposal in the January 12 letter. Earlier last year, the DoPT warned states that not deploying enough officers could hamper future cadre review proposals. Apparently, the Center is unable to fill vacancies at director and joint secretary level in various ministries of the Union. Of the vacancies in the Central Secretariat Service (CSS), 390 are at joint secretary level (over 19 years’ experience) and 540 are for assistant secretaries (nine years) or directors (14 years of service).
At stake now is the move to amend Rule 6 of the IAS (Cadre) Rules, 1954, which governs central deputation in the IAS. After that, with the approval (no certificate of objection) of the responsible state government, an AIS officer can be dispatched to the headquarters. The DoPT requires states to submit an annual list of names of AIS officers who are willing to go to the central deputation, from which it then selects officers. The new proposal is prompted by an ongoing shortage of officers in the central deputation. As of January 1, 2021, only 458 IAS officers out of approximately 5,200 IAS officers in the country were in the central deputation. In fact, some states have nominated very few officials to serve at the center. Madhya Pradesh (with only 24 out of 370 IAS officers in the central deputation), West Bengal (28 out of 298), Rajasthan (12 out of 241) and Telangana (9 out of 164) are notable on this list (see Cadrewise Breakup of IAS officers) . In fact, actual deputation as a percentage of required reserves has fallen from 69 percent in 2014 to 30 percent in 2021, suggesting the DoPT has legitimate concerns.
The DoPT has already made two significant changes in less than a decade. In August 2017, the Union Government revised the Cadre Allocation Policy, ostensibly to ensure national integration of the bureaucracy and ensure an all-India character for the services. The existing state cadres were divided into five zones. According to the policy, a candidate must first make their choice in descending order of preference from the zones. They must then enter a preferred squad from each selected zone. The second squad preference for each preference zone is given below. The process continues until the candidate exhausts the list. Subsequent changes are not permitted. Officers continue to work in their assigned cadre or are seconded by the Government of India. In order to ensure more officers at the Center, in 2020 the DoPT made it mandatory for IAS officers beginning in the 2007 charge to serve at least three years in the central deputation at the Assistant Secretary level and above in order to establish and To be considered for appointment at higher ranks – as general secretary, additional secretary or secretary.
Now Delhi wants to gain supreme power if the state delays sending an official to the central deputation. It has been suggested that “the official will be relieved by the cadre from the date which may be determined by the central government”.
The problem is that the majority of bureaucrats are happy to stay in the States. But the central deputation of AIS officers, be it IAS or IPS, ensures a two-way movement of officers that is beneficial to both the states and the government of the Union. It also improves the skills of individual officials and broadens their experience.
However, the states view the move with suspicion. The Prime Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, was the first to express her opposition to cooperative federalism”, “taking the matter to non-federal extremes” and also against the “fundamental structure of Indian constitutional system”.
Banerjee knows only too well what central interference can mean. Last year, the DoPT ordered West Bengal Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay to report to his Delhi office hours after the chief minister allegedly skipped a Cyclone Yaas review meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The 1987 IAS officer, who had never been in the central deputation, was due to retire on May 31. He’s fighting the center now.
The center’s proposal has also provoked other prime ministers to join the chorus. MK Stalin of Tamil Nadu points out that it authorizes the center to enlist any officer without the consent of the state concerned and put him “in constant fear of being punished at any moment by the Union government”. Jharkhand’s Hemant Soren argues that this would induce an anxiety psychosis in an IAS officer and impair his “objectivity, efficiency and efficiency” and prevent him from expressing an open opinion on matters described as “participating in sensitive matters of disputes between the center and the state” could be construed “.
Still others invoke the federal spirit to claim it is an attempt to undermine state authority. Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel warns that the implementation could lead to the collapse of the states’ administrative system. He claims that as a result of the changes, officials deployed in various key roles are overcome with a sense of instability and ambiguity. “They will face a dilemma in carrying out their duties and political interference will prevent them from working impartially, especially at the time of elections,” says Baghel. Most of the protests, of course, come from non-BJP states.
What irks states the most is that while New Delhi is trying to consult states on the number of officials to deploy to the center, it wants overriding powers in case of disagreement. With similar proposals for IPS and IFoS, countries fear that this is an attempt to undermine their constitutionally guaranteed authority.
THE POSITION OF THE OFFICERS
The bureaucrats face a dilemma and secretly fear that the proposed changes will expose them to reprisals. A major concern is the Union government, which usurps the power to engage the services of any IAS official for a key task. In fact, a bureaucrat close to a rival party government can be sent to Delhi as a punitive measure.
But some support the proposal. “Camaraderie and cooperation between Union and countries cannot be a one-sided construct like federalism. It goes both ways,” argues Srivatsa Krishna, a 1994 IAS officer who is now on sabbatical. “The Government of India (GoI) cannot function effectively with only 458 IAS officers serving. The quality of governance, both policy making and implementation, depends heavily on the hand behind the wheel.” He says any state that treats AIS officers as state officials violates existing norms. Furthermore, he asks, shouldn’t the government of the government have the ability to select certain officers for special situations, especially now that they are even bringing in professionals from the private sector?
However, many remain suspicious of the center’s intentions. “India is a union of states and so we have a central government. What is being attempted is to transform an All India Service as one under one centralized authority,” says retired bureaucrat and author MG Devasahayam.
Others say the problem goes deeper and involves the essential subjugation of an already heavily co-opted public service. “If the center itself is pushing for side entry, why need unwilling officials to deputize?” asks Ajit Kumar Singh, a retired IAS official from Rajasthan. “This move will demoralize IAS officials and the services will lose their luster over time. Short-sighted decisions can harm communities in the long run.” Still others say the problem is that the majority of civil servants do not want to work outside their state. You give two reasons for this. First, the incorporation process itself is played off against those who go to the Union government. Second, the cadres develop a sense of well-being in the state and do not want to take on an unknown (the center). Consequently, the AIS has effectively shifted to provincial services.
“There are no competence bonuses in the public service. That’s the problem. It is a self-imposed quality or virtue rather than an externally demanded one. What is required of the bosses is only servility,” stresses PV Ramesh, who has retired from the Andhra Pradesh squad. People refer to the IAS as a steel frame, but it really isn’t a frame at all, he says, comparing bureaucrats to multiple amoebae that get stuck in a bowl and move in different directions.
Ramesh proposes an overhaul of the government structure (which has not been attempted in the past 75 years) as the IAS is too small for a complex country of 1.4 billion people. His solution: The first 12-14 years when you’re expected to do field service and earn your stripes to reach the next level, don’t get assigned to a cadre. At this stage, have an independent national public service agency, together with the UPSC, assess performance and decide which direction each should go. Also make it mandatory for the civil servant to work with the union government for a few years and only after completion should the civil servant be assigned to a state. He believes that the staff office in an All India Service should be national in order to have a bureaucracy that is independent and upholds the rule of law while being part of the nation-building enterprise.
– With Amitabh Srivastava, Rohit Parihar and Romita Datta