New Delhi: Seeking to overcome the dire shortage of IAS officers in the central government, the Narendra Modi government has proposed tough new rules that will take away the power of states to veto New Delhi’s request for officers.
The proposal has already sparked controversy with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee lodging her protest with the central government, and more non-BJP-ruled states could follow.
In a letter to the chief secretaries of all state governments, dated 12 January and titled ‘Proposal for Amendments in IAS (Cadre) Rules, 1954’, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) said an officer whom the Centre wants on deputation would “stand relieved” from his or her respective cadre, even if the state government concerned disagrees or doesn’t give its consent within the specified time.
ThePrint has texted detailed queries to Jitendra Singh, the Minister of State in-charge of the DoPT, and the department’s spokesperson for comments on the issue. This report will be updated when they respond.
The letter is an extension of an earlier amendment proposal that was sent to the states three weeks ago. In the first proposal, the Centre asked the states to specify a certain number of officers whom they would relieve for central deputation.
ThePrint has exclusively accessed both proposals.
According to sources in the Union government, these amendments will be tabled in the upcoming session of Parliament, which will begin on 31 January. The Centre has sought the states’ response before 25 January.
The proposed amendments
The first amendment proposal was sent to the states on 20 December, and they were asked to respond by 5 January. Subsequent reminders seeking a response were sent on 27 December and 6 January.
The initial draft proposal, dated 20 December, says the “actual number of officers to be deputed to the central government shall be decided by the central government in consultation with the state government concerned”.
And in the case of disagreement with the concerned state, “the matter shall be decided by the central government, and the state governments concerned shall give effect to the decision of the central government within a specified time”.
However, in the latest letter, the Modi government has tweaked its draft proposal. “In specific situations, where services of cadre officers are required by the central government in public interest, the central government may seek the services of such officers for posting under the central government… and the state government concerned shall give effect to the decision of the central government within the specified time,” the latest letter states.
“…wherever the state government concerned does not give effect to the decision of the central government within the specified time, the officers shall stand relieved from cadre from the date as may be specified by the central government,” it adds.
Crunch in civil servants and issue of jurisdiction
Senior civil servants say with this amendment, the state’s power to veto an IAS or IPS officer’s central deputation, or issue an objection or no objection notice, stands ‘defunct’.
The amendments evoked a mixed response from different sections of civil servants.
“This amendment actually questions the state’s jurisdiction over its cadre officers. The IAS rule says that the Centre recruits the officers, but when they are allotted their state cadres, they would come under the state government. This is how the federal structure works,” a retired IAS officer said on the condition of anonymity.
“If the Centre now takes the power of retaining an officer from the state, then it can any day recall any officer it wants. That is all the new amendment says. This can be used for political interest and to intimidate the state cadre officers,” added the officer.
However, another section of officers thinks that the Centre has brought in these rules to ensure it has enough civil servants to run the Union government.
“The Centre has been facing a huge crunch of IAS and IPS officers as the states do not want to release their cadre officers easily. I checked a few days ago — the Centre has positions for 645 IPS officers but only 390 are occupied and the rest are vacant. The situation is similar in the case of IAS cadre officers too,” said a senior IPS officer serving under the Union government.
“This IAS cadre rule amendment will now be applicable for the IAS cadres, and a similar amendment has to be brought for the IPS cadres too,” the IPS officer added.
A senior serving IAS officer said the states need to send their responses before 25 January. “These rules are subordinate legislation, and do not need to be passed in a Parliament session. But there are some technicalities involved in the case of amendments, for which they may need to be tabled in the house,” this officer said.
Meanwhile, states ruled by Opposition parties have begun to voice their objections to such amendments. West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee was the first to write to PM Modi registering her protest to the amendment proposed by the first letter. Her letter has also been accessed by ThePrint.
Calling the amendment “against the spirit of cooperative federalism”, Mamata wrote: “The amendment upsets the time-tested harmonious arrangements which have existed between the Centre and the states in the matter of posting of IAS and IPS officers.”
Mentioning how the Centre could overrule a state’s jurisdiction over its cadre officers through the amendment, she added: “Such amendments seem to make a permanent dent in the spirit of cooperative federalism and the consultative approach.”
She sought the PM’s intervention to maintain the existing rules that were “violated” by “withdrawing/ not giving effect to the proposed amendment”.
Sources at the Bengal state secretariat claim the CM is likely to send a second protest letter about the latest proposal, which she thinks is “more draconian” in nature.
A senior officer in the Bengal CMO claimed that Mamata has already spoken to some Opposition-ruled states in this regard, and the Tamil Nadu government is also expected to send a protest letter.
This report has been updated to correct the number of serving IPS officers in the senior central IPS officer’s quote.
(Edited by Rohan Manoj)