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Bid to break ‘IAS monopoly’? Forest service officer named MHA additional secretary in rare move

B.V. Umadevi, a 1987-batch Chhattisgarh-cadre IFoS officer, has been posted as an additional secretary in MHA. Govt officers also point to a crunch of IAS officers at the Centre.

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New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government Tuesday attached an Indian Forest Service (IFoS) officer to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), in a rare instance of such an appointment for an IFoS officer.

According to an Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) order dated 18 January, B.V. Umadevi, a 1987-batch Chhattisgarh-cadre officer, was posted as an additional secretary, MHA. She was earlier serving as additional secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

Former senior officers pointed out that the government has started empanelling officers from all services, elevating them to crucial positions in important ministries. However, the move has raised eyebrows in “a section” of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), they said.

“The government can bring any civil service officer to any position, depending on the officer’s merit and performance. No position is reserved for IAS officers. The government has empanelled officers from all services and appointed them according to their efficiency,” said C. Chandramouli, former secretary of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT). He retired as the DoPT secretary in September 2020.

Earlier, the Modi government had brought Bharat Lal, a 1988-batch IFoS officer of the Gujarat cadre, to the Centre as additional secretary to the Ministry of Jal Shakti, where he led the key Nal Se Jal programme. He was last month promoted and posted as the secretary to Lokpal.

ThePrint has texted detailed queries to the spokespersons of the MHA and the DoPT seeking their comments on Umadevi’s appointment. This report will be updated when a response is received.


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Breaking IAS monopoly and addressing crunch

Speaking to ThePrint, an IAS officer said that a section within the service is feeling the heat as the government is trying to break the IAS monopoly on certain positions, especially those in the MHA and other important ministries. However, the officer added that this seems to be a way to address the acute crunch of IAS officers at the Centre.

“We can see that the IFoS officers are rising, and that is good. There should not be any monopoly over any position. But, why does the government do so? We can understand there is an absolute crunch of officers at the Centre since the Union government cannot have its own cadre and it needs to take officers from the common pool of state cadre officers,” said the officer who didn’t wish to be named.

“As the states are increasingly refusing to let the state cadre officers go on central deputation, the Centre is trying to improvise. That is why we saw a provision like lateral entry,” the officer added.

“Despite that, we have enough IAS officers who are posted in different departments. They can be appointed in pure administrative positions,” the officer said.

Umadevi’s appointment isn’t an isolated case of other services making their way to important positions.

Last year, Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officer P.C. Mody, former chairman of the Central Board of Direct Taxes, was appointed the Rajya Sabha secretary-general. In December 2021, Mritunjaya Sharma, another IRS officer, was named deputy secretary in the Ministry of Civil Aviation. 

“In the Union government, there is no position reserved for the IAS cadres like the states have cadre posts, reserved for the administrative service officers. It is the government’s prerogative to appoint any civil service officer to any position depending on the empanelment and the particular officer’s performance,” said V. Ramani, a retired IAS officer.

Moreover, to address the crunch in IAS officers at the Centre, the Modi government has already proposed an amendment to the IAS (Cadre) Rules, which may clip the power of the state governments to veto New Delhi’s requests for officers. The amendments are likely to be tabled in Parliament during the upcoming session.

(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)


Also read: Proposal to change rules for central deputation of IAS officers will affect states’ administration: Mamata to PM


 

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