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Faceoff over deputation of IAS officers

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Prakash Singh

The dust arising out of the centre-state controversy over enlargement in the jurisdiction of the Border Security Force in states having international borders has yet to settle down.  Meanwhile, we are faced with another controversy over amendments in the All India Services (Cadre) Rules.

The broad objectives of the Constitution-framers in providing for the scheme of All India Services in Article 312 of the Constitution were to facilitate liaison between the Union and the States and to ensure certain uniformity in the standard of administration. The Indian Administrative Service and the Indian Police Service were, at the time the Constitution was promulgated, deemed to be services created by parliament under this Article.

The Indian Forest Service was constituted on July 1, 1966.Officers for these services are recruited by the Government of India through the Union Public Service Commission. After selection, the officers are allotted to states and union territory cadres depending upon their vacancies. Every state has a Central Deputation Reserve which is 40% of the senior duty posts in the state.  Officers out of this reserve are provided to the central government to run the various organs of Government of India including the central police organizations.

The existing practice is that the Centre every year asks states for an “offer list” of officers from All India Services who are willing to go on central deputation.  Out of this list, the Centre selects officers considered suitable for its requirements.  Unfortunately, the number of officers on “offer list” has been dwindling. The net result is that the Centre has not been getting its full quota of Central Deputation Reserve for quite some time in the past, leading to huge vacancies in different departments.

To give a few examples, at the level of joint secretary, the number of IAS officers on central deputation dropped from 309 in 2011 to 223 in 2021, showing a fall in the utilization rate from 25% to 18% during the last decade. At the deputy secretary and director level, the number of officers in the country increased from 621 in 2014 to 1,130 at present, and yet the number of officers on deputation has gone down from 117 to 114. The position is equally bad, if not worse, in regard to IPS officers.

There are a total of 2720 senior duty posts (SP to DG) out of which the central deputation reserve works out to 1075.  As against that, only 442 officers are on central deputation, leaving behind a vacancy of 633 officers who have not been made available by the state governments to the Centre. The worst defaulters are West Bengal with 16% utilization of CDR, Haryana 16.13%, Telangana 20% and Karnataka 21.74%. As a result, the central police organizations are facing acute shortage of officers. In the BSF,as against 26 posts of the DIGs, there are 24 vacancies; in the CRPF, as against 38 posts of DIGs, there are 36 vacancies; in CBI, as against 63 posts of Superintendents of Police, there are 40 vacancies; in IB, as against 63 posts of DIGs, there are 45 vacancies, and so on.

The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) wrote to the state governments on December 20, 2021, expressing its difficulties and seeking their views on the proposed amendment to the IAS (Cadre) Rules, 154which read as follows: “Each state government shall make available for deputation to the central government, such number of eligible officers of various levels to the extent of the Central Deputation Reserve prescribed under Regulations referred to in Rule 4(I), adjusted proportionately by the number of officers available with the state government concerned vis-à-vis the total authorized strength of the state cadre at a given point of time.  The actual number of officers to be deputed to the central government shall be decided by the central government in consultation with state government concerned”.

The Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, seems to have decided to oppose any and every move which the Government of India initiates even if it is to strengthen national security or run the government machinery itself at the Centre.  She alleged that the amendment is “against the spirit of cooperative federalism” and that it “upsets the time-tested harmonious arrangement which has existed between the Centre and the states in the matter of posting of IAS/IPS officers”.

The Department of Personnel issued another letter on January 12, 2022, expanding the scope of amendment to “specific situations where services of cadre officer(s) are required by the central government in public interest”. Yet another letter of January 17, 2022 says that “to maintain uniformity in respect of all three All India Services, analogous provisions are proposed to be incorporated in Rule 6(1) of IPS (Cadre) Rules,1954 and IFS (Cadre) Rules,1966”.

The amendment proposed in Government of India’s letter of December 20, 2021 is necessary for the smooth functioning of Government of India and its various formations which are run by officers of the All India Services. A large number of AIS officers never go on central deputation with the result that they develop frog in a well mentality.

The subsequent amendment proposed in the letter of January 12, 2022, which empowers the central government to seek the services of specific officer(s), has however caused genuine concern among AISofficers who feel that it may be misused to victimize officers caught in the cross-fire of any dispute between the Centre and the states. Government of India would be well advised to withdraw this clause.

The Sarkaria Commission’s views on cadre management are very relevant in this context. “A pool of resources meant for a number of users ceases to be a ‘common’ pool if individual users get the power to veto the decisions of the authority which manages the pool. We are, therefore, unable to visualise any arrangement as workable if it gives over-riding authority to the state governments on matters concerning officers of the All India Services and yet expects the Union Government to be responsible for their training, career management and other crucial aspects of personnel administration relating to All India Services. The Union Government, therefore, should have the final say in these matters.”

The All India Services are in urgent need of reforms in several areas and at different levels.  Deputation to the Centre is one such measure which must be strictly enforced. The central government cannot be hamstrung for lack of cooperation from the states.  All India Services officers must move out of what they begin to look upon as their zamindari in the states.

(The writer is Chairman, Indian Police Foundation)

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