The Union government’s proposal to change the rules of the All India Service did not go down well with a dozen states, mostly those run by non-NDA parties. The biggest bone of contention is the power that the Center wants to give itself to obtain an officer in central deputation without obtaining the consent of the individual or the respective State. Here is an overview of this controversy:
How are All India Service officers recruited? Where do they serve?
AIS officers come under Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS), Indian Foreign Service (IFS), Indian Forest Service (IFoS), Indian Revenue Service (IRS) and about thirty other services. They are recruited by the Center and placed under the management of the State. IAS, IPS, and IFoS officers serve at both central and state levels. The Center can get a maximum of 40% officers from a state cadre. To do this, he asks the states for a list of officers willing to go to the central deputation, then selects the officers after obtaining a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the state concerned. In case of disagreement, the question is decided by the Center and the State must implement it.
What did the Center offer?
The Center wants more powers to decide on the delegation of AIS officers. If a State delays sending an officer to central deputation or does not implement the decision of the Center within the time allowed, the officer is relieved of the cadre from the date and time specified by the Center. The Center also wants the power to decide how many officers to delegate from a particular state in consultation with that state, and the state should provide a list. In the event of a dispute, the Centre’s decision will be final and the State must execute it within the time allowed. The Center also wants to appeal to an officer in deputation in the public interest and the State must implement the decision within the time limit.
Why does he want to do this?
The Center says it is not getting enough officers because the states are not relieving enough. Second, many officers are reluctant to serve at the Center themselves. Official data shows that the number of IAS officers in central deputation at the joint secretariat level has fallen to 223 from 309 in 2011. The current number of deputy secretaries is 114 from 117 in 2011.
The Center wants to change the AIS rules so that it gets enough bureaucrats without having to haggle with states or officers.
Why don’t the States send enough officers to the central deputation?
States also say they are short of manpower. Sending many officers to the central deputies would go against their interests because many of them are responsible for implementing central programs at the state level.
Why do few officers want to serve at the Center?
Since 2014, many officers have reportedly avoided serving in central government because they believe they might fall foul of the current dispensation.
Which states oppose the proposal and why?
Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Kerala, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and West Bengal – all ruled by the opposition – opposed the proposal. There are also reports that NDA-ruled states like Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya and Bihar also have reservations about the amendments. Other states could join the bandwagon.
Opponents say the proposal is draconian and goes against the concept of cooperative federalism. They also say the move will lead to over-centralization, create fear psychosis among officers and affect their morale. Officers may not be able to give candid opinions on sensitive issues involving disputes between Center States.
After that ?
The Department of Personnel and Training has asked states to provide feedback on the proposal by January 25. If they don’t, he can send a reminder. If States still do not respond, the Center can go ahead and notify the changes. It remains to be seen whether the Center integrates the objections of the States or takes a unilateral decision. It is also necessary to see what the States do if the official notification ignores their concerns.
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