January 25, 2022
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we look at the issue surrounding amendments to the IAS Cadre Rules. We also have an update on the alleged abduction of a youth by the Chinese army in Arunachal Pradesh, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Row Over Changes to IAS Cadre Rules
In a tug of war, it’s no fun to be the rope. The opposing sides have their heels dug in, grips firmly tightened, all to not give an inch. There isn’t a compromise in this scenario. The Indian Administrative Service (IAS) probably feels like the rope, if events over the past week are any indication.
In news that isn’t exactly without precedent, the Centre and some states are at odds on an issue. The government proposed amendments to the IAS cadre rules to ensure an adequate pool of civil servants works with the Union government. Some states are crying foul. They see it as overreach and an undermining of the state’s authority.
“Remove them, and I see nothing but a picture of chaos all over the country”, said Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel when discussing the All India Services. Being the administrative arm of the All India Services, the Indian Administrative Service is considered to be the creme de la creme. The other two components are the Indian Police Service and the Indian Forest Service. Getting to be amongst the ranks of the IAS starts with recruitment. It’s done through civil service examinations, recruits from state civil services, and in some cases, recruits from non-state civil services. Regardless of how one gets in, all IAS officers are appointed by the President of India.
Much like starting out in the corporate world, entrants start out small and slowly climb up the ladder. Once their training is completed, they are assigned to various ministries and departments under local, state, or the Union government. In 2015, a new three-month assignment was made part of their training as assistant secretary at the Central Secretariat. Here, they work on projects and present them to their respective ministries. Once this is complete, they become a collector cum district magistrate for several years. With experience under their belt, IAS officers can then go on to lead government departments or ministries.
The current issue has to do with the central deputation of IAS officers. After a stint with a state, officers are asked to report to the Centre, where they’ll be assigned roles in various central agencies. In 2017, data showed an overall shortage of almost 22% in the sanctioned strength of IAS, IPS, and IFS officers. While this problem has persisted, the government now sees a solution.
The Centre has personnel requirements in various departments and agencies. The expectation is that states will put forward a certain number of officers to be posted. Usually, the Centre asks states to provide an offer list of officers willing to go on central deputation. Each state gives a number depending on the strength in their state.
The Centre says states aren’t providing an adequate number. The government’s way to solve this issue is through amendments to the IAS Cadre Rules, 1954. The first is for Rule -6 (1), implemented in May 1969. It states that an IAS officer will be deputed for service with the central or a state government. What the amendment essentially proposes is the actual number of officers to be deputed will be decided by the Centre in consultation with the State.
The other amendment deals with any disagreement between the Centre and the State. Currently, the rule states in part, “State Government or State Governments concerned shall give effect to the decision of the Central Government.” The amendment proposes to add the words “within a specified time.”
A necessary change to the rules
On December 20, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) said several states haven’t given an adequate number of officers for central deputation. Information and Broadcasting secretary Apurva Chandra defended the move saying central deputation will help the IAS overall and broaden the perspective of the officers. He cited personal experience in Maharashtra that helped him in his post at the Ministry of Defence.
The government’s argument of shortages in central deputation holds water. While there has been an increase in IAS officers at the deputy secretary/director level from 621 in 2014 to 1130 in 2021, there has been no proportional increase for central deputation. The number of these particular officers in central deputation has reduced from 117 to 114 during the same period.
The non-availability of a sufficient number of officers affects the functioning of the central government. These officers are needed to provide inputs on policy formation, planning, and implementation. Also, it helps states and the Centre as officers flow from one to another and it presents an opportunity for better coordination between the two.
There’s a notion that the Centre has all the cards in this instance; not so much. Previous disagreements didn’t go the way of the Centre. States were the ones that have come out on top. A recent example concerns Alapan Bandyopadhyay, now a Chief Adviser to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Post-retirement as the state’s Chief Secretary, he was asked to report to the Centre. He didn’t, nor did Mamata Banerjee relieve him.
States lose out
It’s not that the Centre asks states to provide officers, it’s that there’s a quota being enforced. Understandably, the Centre requires people to run various agencies. However, even when the government knew there was a shortage, they decided not to increase recruitment. Over the years, the thought was economic liberalisation would reduce the need for central staffing. The opposite came true as the government expanded its role in various sectors and initiatives.
The amendment would remove a state’s veto power on an officer’s central deputation. An officer in a state doing good work could unnecessarily end up at a central agency becoming a political football. Here’s how. A state’s requirement to list a specific number could negate an officer’s consent for deputation. If there aren’t many willing officers, some may end up on the list anyway.
Running a state government is no cakewalk. As Mamata Banerjee said in her letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, this decision will affect the state’s administration. Any sort of planning by a Chief Minister will become rife with uncertainty over a sudden deputation. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin and his Kerala counterpart Pinarayi Vijayan also expressed concerns. They said it could affect state autonomy.
The proposed amendment will ensure that the Centre has leverage over states. The term cooperative federalism has been mentioned by some who oppose the proposal. It’s just a fancy term for a flexible relationship between the Centre and state governments. The Centre’s move will deal a big blow to this. The issue of shortages obviously merits increasing the strength, with lateral recruitment being one option. Instead of looking at practical solutions, the government is adamant about arm-twisting states. As a former member of the Planning Commission, Naresh Chandra Saxena, wrote, the amendments are in line with the BJP’s methodology of promoting a patronage-based administrative culture.
What’s your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) The Centre’s proposed amendments to the IAS Cadre Rules are necessary.
b) The Centre’s proposed amendments to the IAS Cadre Rules are unnecessary.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
The Kashmir Press Club saw a government-backed takeover – not a war between factions
For the Left:
Liberals mourning India Gate flame must also recall some dark aspects of the colonial Army
🏴 STATE OF THE STATES
‘Abducted’ and found (Arunachal Pradesh) – On January 18, 17-year-old Miram Taron went missing while out on a hunting trip in the mountains by the Indo-Tibet border. His family believes that China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had abducted him. On Sunday, Tezpur Defence PRO Lt Col Harshvardhan Pandey said that the PLA had communicated that he had been found by them. Now, due process is being followed for him to return home.
Why it matters: While a lot of this story still remains hazy, we do have some moving parts of it. Taron was out hunting with his friend, Johnny Yaiying who managed to escape from the alleged PLA soldiers in the darkness. And when the PLA was asked for help in the boy’s search, they denied ever having seen him. While locals believe that this ‘abduction’ took place on the Indian side of the border, the details are yet to be found. When it comes to PLA transgressions of the LAC, there have been 1,025 cases from 2016-19.
Paharis for ST status (Jammu & Kashmir) – As the Pahari community’s demand for the Scheduled Tribe status grows, the Bakarwals and Gujjars of the region have raised a few issues. According to them, the Paharis are far more affluent compared to the pastoralists so an added ST status might change the dynamics of the area. The Paharis, on the other hand, think that without the ST status, they are at risk of becoming invisible in the Assembly as the Delimitation Commission recommends 9 reserved seats for STs.
Why it matters: The Paharis have been demanding this ST status since 1991. That was when the Gujjars and Bakarwals got their ST status too. Considering that most Paharis live in areas dominated by the Gujjar and Bakarwal population, a simple 4% reservation for being Residents of a Backward Area will not be enough to proper Pahari representation. But, according to researcher Javed Rahi, the Paharis do not need any more reservations as they generally are more affluent and their literacy rate is far higher than that of the pastoralists. The literacy rate among ST people is only at 50%.
Seeking special status (Bihar) – On Sunday, the CM Nitish Kumar, once again, brought up the state’s demand for special status and said that if this demand isn’t heard, he will hit the streets in protest. The JD(U)’s national President Rajiv Ranjan Singh even tweeted about the same saying that the state isn’t asking for a loan or charity. What the state demands are its rightful dues. Bihar says that its growth rate has been among the lowest in the country and 51.91% of its population lives below the poverty line. Thus, they deserve this special status.
Why it matters: Bihar has been asking for special status since 2007, that’s 15 years. The problem with this is that the 14th Finance Commission did away with the “special category status” in 2015 but states like Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha have maintained their demand for it. With this special status, the Centre-state split when it comes to funding schemes becomes 90:10 and the state gets special tax breaks. States that were given special status were the Northeastern states and our three hill states – J&K, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.
A deep-sea pipeline dream (Gujarat) – The state government’s ₹2,300 crore sub-sea effluent disposal pipeline project that is supposed to help curb water pollution in the Sabarmati, Mahisagar, Vishwamitra and Bhadar is yet to see the light of day. In 2020, the government tried floating tenders for it but there weren’t any takers and now, they are thinking of re-working it. But this public-private partnership project’s cost wasn’t its only problem, fishermen have also come out against it as the pipelines would pollute the sea killing marine life.
Why it matters: The unchecked flow of industrial waste into the Sabarmati, Mahisagar, Vishwamitra and Bhadar has increased their pollution levels to critically high. Apparently, according to official guidelines, waste with a chemical oxygen demand (COD) level higher than 250 mg per litre should not be dumped into the rivers. But reports of waste with a COD range of 700 to 1000 mg per litre has been continuously dumped in them. To deal with this, the pipeline was thought of but that too only transfers the waste from the rivers to the sea.
Pedestrian problems (Karnataka) – The non-profit organisation Janaagraha conducted a survey in 5 wards of Bangalore about how pedestrian-friendly they are. Out of a score of 100, even the highest-scoring ward could not cross a 30. Banaswadi scored the highest with a 26, and Varthur did the worst with a score of 0. This survey was released to inform and educate residents about the BBMP’s allocation of ₹60 lakh to ward committees for fixing potholes and footpaths.
Why it matters: In March 2021, the High Court ordered a survey that reported 5,435 potholes, bad roads or inadequate footpaths in the city. Even the 74 roads that the BBMP claimed had no potholes reported 437 potholes. Authorities have a legal obligation to maintain roads and footpaths so that they remain in a reasonable state as it is a fundamental right of citizens. Yet, this is not the case in Bangalore. To encourage participatory governance in the state now, the BBMP has allotted ₹60 lakh for the same.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
45.9% – As per the India Skills Report 2021, the employability of Indian youth has fallen to 45.9%. This seems to be a part of the steady decrease seen since 2019 when employability was at 47.38%. This went down to 46.21% in 2020.