Incorrect diagnosis, wrong remedy

News: The Union Government proposal to amend Rule 6 (Deputation of cadre officers) of the Indian Administrative Service (Cadre) Rules 1954 has attracted the opposition of many states.

Read here: Deputation of Cadre Officers and the Proposed Amendments – Explained, pointwise
What are the causes of the shortage of IAS officers in the centre?

Annual recruitment of IAS officers after 1991: There was a drastic reduction in the annual recruitment of IAS officers after 1991 (from 140-160 to just 50-80). This was due to a misguided notion, that the government will have a reduced role because of the economic liberalisation. It didn’t happen. It took nearly 20 years for the Centre to restore the annual recruitment to pre-1991 levels. Presently, the shortage of IAS officers at the all-India level was 23%.

Cadre review: Centre and the States jointly conduct exercises to designate certain strategic posts in the States as “cadre posts” and earmark them exclusively for IAS officers. There is a need for proper cadre review in all the States to release many IAS officers from non-strategic posts and reduce the shortage. For instance: In Tamil Nadu, it is unfair that posts like Commissioner of Archaeology, and Commissioner of Museums has been designated as cadre posts.

Discontinuance of direct recruitment of officers: Direct recruitment of officers to the Central Secretariat Service Group B has been discontinued since 2000. Also, there are undue delays in the regular promotions of officers from the ranks in the Central Secretariat due to protracted litigation since 2011.

Non-utilisation of the services: Centre is not utilizing the services of officers who are appointed to the IAS by promotion or selection from the State Civil Services. This large pool of around 2,250 officers, usually in the age bracket of 35-55 years, who have immense field experience, remains State-bound.

Numerous administrative barriers: Centre has imposed numerous administrative barriers to Central deputation in the form of highly restrictive conditions, annual lapsing of offer lists, long debarment periods, compulsory cooling-off periods, etc.

Read here: A proposal that has stirred up questions of IAS control
What are the solutions to solve the problem?

Recruitment of state officers: There is a need to make mandatory provisions for the state officers to work for at least two years on Central deputation as Deputy Secretaries/Directors immediately after their appointment to the IAS and their training in Mussoorie.  Their next promotion in their State cadre should be accordingly to the completion of this mandatory period of Central deputation. This can solve the problem of shortage of Deputy Secretary/Director-level officers at the Centre in one stroke.

Mandatory provisions: It should be made mandatory for directly recruited IAS officers to serve at least three years on Central deputation between nine and 25 years of service. Their promotion to Principal Secretary grade in their State cadre (usually after 25 years) should be subject to their completing this mandatory period of Central deputation.

Selection of officers: The centre is being criticised for adopting opaques measures in the selection of IAS officers for the posts of Joint Secretary, Additional Secretary and Secretary. The centre should adopt a fair process and similar measures as it chooses Deputy Secretaries/Directors.

Read here: Finding a way to share IAS officers
What is the way forward?

The centre can solve the problem by holding constructive dialogue with the respective states. The Inter-State Council constituted under Article 263 of the Constitution is the institution meant specifically for handling such Centre-State situations.

Source: This post is based on the article “Incorrect diagnosis, wrong remedy” published in The Hindu on 15th February 2022.

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