New Delhi: The Nagaland Civil Service Association has hit out at the Indian Administrative Service for representing a “suitcase bureaucracy”, alleging that officers posted in the state leave on any pretext they find.
This comes weeks after the Narendra Modi government had pulled up the Nagaland government for illegally appointing non-IAS officers as district collectors.
In a statement issued 26 July, the NCSA said the trend of “suitcase bureaucracy” was firmed up with the killing of two IAS officers in Nagaland, in 1974 and 1995.
“These two tragic incidents greatly shaped bureaucracy in Nagaland. It began the chapter of what journalists would go on to call the era of ‘suitcase bureaucrats’ — IAS officers posted to the state would leave on any pretext they could find,” the statement read.
“Some applied for leave and extended their leave for years. Those that could, applied for deputation and some managed to stay away on deputation without ever coming back to serve in the state. Many officers have changed their cadre altogether,” it continued.
“Some were so reluctant to serve in Nagaland that they just disappeared for years on end without any explanation.”
The NCSA alleged that the trend of “disappearing” IAS officers has continued even during the Covid-19 pandemic, leaving its management to state civil service officers.
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However, an officer from the IAS Association, who did not want to be identified, rebutted the NCAS’ claims. “Officers from all states go for deputations, and transfers keep happening. That’s the nature of the All India Services. It doesn’t make anyone a ‘suitcase bureaucrat’,” the officer said.
“This is a serious issue of a state civil service association making up reasons to justify an illegal practice… Ideally, the Centre should intervene on priority.”
IAS officers now want to stay because of peace
Earlier this month, ThePrint had reported that the Centre’s Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) had shot off a letter to the Nagaland chief secretary, pulling up the state administration for posting non-IAS officers as collectors in six of its 11 districts, even though there is no shortage of IAS officers. The appointments, the DoPT had said, contravenes the All India Service rules.
However, the NCSA said while the trend of Nagaland state service officers being appointed as DCs is not new, because the situation in the state is relatively peaceful, IAS officers now want to stay and take up the posts.
“The recent spate of inaccurate social media posts and articles about slighted IAS officers not being posted as DCs is not new,” the association said.
“It may even be seen as a positive development, an indicator that the situation is relatively peaceful in the state compared to earlier years; orders can be passed and followed without threat to life. Hence, many IAS officers are eager to serve as DCs. However, as this recent history has shown us, they are still not willing to serve in the state during emergencies or otherwise,” it alleged.
‘Doesn’t our state deserve more?’
To corroborate this point, the NCSA has said that at any given point, there ought to be 63 directly recruited IAS officers serving in the state — since the Nagaland cadre strength is 94, out of which one-third are officers promoted from the state civil service to the IAS. However, at present, there are no more than 32 IAS officers serving in the state.
“There is barely half that number, even counting those on leave because many are away on deputation and continue to extend and overstay their deputation period,” the NCSA said.
“They return to Nagaland for their cooling-off period (mandated to be one year) and leave as quickly as they can after. If the earlier reason was security, now it is that their children cannot access quality education or that they cannot be with their families. Doesn’t our state deserve more than a reluctant suitcase bureaucrat?” it asked.
The NCSA went on to say that officers from the state civil service are posted as DCs not out of any “parochial or personal ambition”, but because of the unwillingness of the IAS to serve during crisis situations, and flee to the Centre at every given possibility.
“This is not because the state government broke any rules but because historical circumstances necessitated it. It should be at the discretion of the state government to assign the officers it considers suitable to this important post,” it said.
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