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Undermining State’s Authority

Bhubaneswar: The recent proposal of the Union Government has created a flutter in the country and among the States. The amendments to the All India Service (AIS) Rules seek to take the liberty of the state governments in retaining officers and also the rights of the officer concerned. The new rule will not require either the consent of the state governments or the officers for their central deputation.

The Department of Personnel and Training proposed amendments and 17 State Governments have responded to the proposal. Of them, 11 States including Odisha have opposed the move, saying it compromises the authority of the State and thus a clear case of federal encroachment in the domain of the State Governments.

The first Home Minister of India, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, was of the opinion that the two AIS, like Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and the Indian Police Service (IPS), should be created to put India’s administration on a sound footing. The recruitment to these services was to be done by the Union Public Service Commission and the Union Government was to be the cadre-controlling authority. Officers were to be allotted to the States, but they were expected to also work in the Centre.

Mr.Patel also wanted these services to uphold the rule of law and give fearless and objective advice to the new political rulers both in the Centre and States. Then also some State Governments were opposed to the creation of the AIS as it would have divested them of control over these vital services. However, Mr.Patel had stated that except in the matter of control, the entire country agreed on all other points. The officers will work as the bridge between the Centre and the States.

However, after 75 years, the issue has cropped up again after the central government’s new proposal. Now, the States have raised an alarm that the Centre was attempting to snatch away their federal liberty by taking officers on deputation without their consent. The officers also do not want to get central deputation without their consent.

The States also have specific problems as the Odisha Government has pointed out in its letter of opinion of the issue. The State, which has been facing acute shortage of officers, has suggested the Centre to increase the IAS, IPS and IFS strength in order to deal with scarcity of officers both in the Centre and the State.

The States have also pointed out that after recruitment of an AIS officer, his/her Service Book is not opened till the officer returns to State Cadre after completion of one-year training. Service Book opening is done by the respective State Government. So, during the year-long training the officer receives salary from the State Government.

It is said that “he who pays the piper, calls the tune.” As the state governments spend on the AIS officers, they should have authority on them and not the Centre.

Secondly, consent of the officer concerned and concurrence of the State Government are needed, when an officer goes on ‘Central Deputation’. With proposed changes the person concerned will have no ‘option’ to offer so also the State Government.

The State Governments which have opposed the move, have strongly rejected such an idea as after nurturing the officer concerned for so many years, all of a sudden, the authority of the State would be eroded, pointed out a former Member Board of Revenue.

The two recent instances of Tamil Nadu and West Bengal are sufficient to explain the difference between the Centre and the States. The Centre issued transfer orders to AIS officers serving in the two states, without the approval of the State Governments concerned. It is considered an infringement of the federal spirit. The convenience of the states in releasing officers must not be overlooked, the States said.

Going one step ahead, Odisha Government said that the officers should not be disturbed without the State’s permission as they were assigned certain schemes and programs for implementation. Leaving the post mid-way, may affect the performance of the welfare schemes.

In fact, the Central urge to amend the AIS Rules came to the fore after it was felt that a section of officers allegedly working for the political party in power in states sometimes go against the interest of the ruling party in the Centre. Though Mr.Modi is often criticized as “pro-bureaucrat”, he made this attempt to amend the rule to bring certain officers to the right path.

However, in the process, many officers feel that the entire IAS, IPS and IFS fraternities will suffer, as well as some states where good and efficient officers are working with dedication.

History says that it was the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi under whose tenure, the concept of a committed civil service emerged which ultimately led to the politicization of the higher civil services. After Indira Gandhi, all political parties which came to power brazenly encouraged these unhealthy practices.

Even many State Governments have promoted some identified officers for the top jobs while many efficient officers suffered for not falling into the line of the rulers. The Government may put some stringent measures for a handful of officers and not punish all in the AIS Officers.  

Whatever may be the case, the ongoing difference between the Centre and the States over the AIS Rule amendment will neither help the administration nor the people. A healthy ambiance needs to be created.

This apart, it is presently seen that many brilliant youths prefer to undertake MBA, Engineering, Medical and Law courses and are not as keen for the Civil Service as before. If the present situation prevails, it will further take brilliant persons and better brains away from the AIS leaving mediocre persons for the bigger roles for the country. It is high time that attention was paid to upkeep the standard of AIS and keep federalism intact.

None can deny the role of AIS officers for the nation building and developments taking place in the country. Detailed consultations are needed to be held between the Centre and the States, both at the political and administrative levels to resolve the issue.