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AIS cadre rules issue is neither complex nor controversial. Here’s what you are missing

Time has perhaps come to amend All India Services Cadre Rules, and make central posting mandatory for a specified period. But only through spirit of federalism.

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The recent proposal of the Narendra Modi government to amend the All India Services Cadre Rules has, predictably, stirred up a hornet’s nest, with several states, particularly those ruled by political rivals of the Bharatiya Janata Party going up in arms against this “draconian move” against the “foundations of our federal polity”.

Attempting to solve the perennial problem of acute shortage of All India Services (AIS) officers in central government establishments, the Centre recently sought comments from the state governments on its proposal to amend the “Cadre Rules”. State after state has bitterly opposed the move, and the issue has explosive potential with dangerous portents for the health of centre-state relations. If viewed objectively, however, the issue is neither so complex nor controversial as it appears to be.

Rationale and purpose of All India Services

As against the Central Services and State Services, which are meant to staff the establishments of the central and the state governments, the All India Services (AIS) are common to the Union and the States. This was an ingenious mechanism envisioned by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, as an instrument that would contribute to the unity of the country and the strength of the administrative structure, and make for a high standard of efficiency and uniformity. The Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and the Indian Police Service (IPS) were identified as AIS under the original Constitution itself, and the Indian Forest Service (IFoS) was added in the late 1960s.

The broad objectives and purpose of All India Services, as envisaged by the Constitution-framers, were to: (i) facilitate effective liaison between the Centre and the States; (ii) enable the administrative machinery at the Centre to keep in touch with grassroots realities in the States; (iii) help State administrative machinery acquire a wider outlook as also obtain the best possible talent for its senior posts.

The All India Services Act, 1951 – the mother legislation of these Services – empowers the central government to make rules, in consultation with the state governments, regulating the recruitment, and service conditions of AIS officers. Upon selection by the UPSC, the officers are appointed by the central government, and allocated to one or another state cadre. Since exchange of experience and perspective between the Centre and the states is a basic objective of AIS, no exclusive cadre is provided for the Centre. To cater to its requirement, there is provision for a “Central Deputation Reserve” (CDR) made in the authorised cadre strength of every state cadre. Thus, the AIS officers needed by the central government are also provided for in the State cadres.

Also read: States should retain veto on Centre’s request for IAS officers, retired civil servants say

The shortages 

The exact data on the current shortages of AIS officers in central government establishments is not available in public domain. A GOI-sponsored study on bridging the IPS shortages a few years ago had, however, found only 303 IPS officers actually in position as against 490 posts specifically designated for them in central establishments, signifying nearly 40 per cent of such posts were lying vacant. What a distressing situation, given the serious internal security problems those organisations were grappling with. Going by the media and anecdotal accounts, the situation in recent times has been equally dismal for the IPS and the IAS.

A prominent cause contributing to this problem is the increasing reluctance of individual officers to join central establishments, fomented sometimes by the ‘fear of the unknown’ syndrome, but oftentimes by the lure of cosy environs and comforts of the state. Total absence of any obligation, compulsion or even incentive adds to their complacency. Promotions have also gradually become quicker in the states than at the Centre. Officers, however, need to realise that they are members of an All India Service, not of a glorified state service.

Further, the central government’s practice of accepting only such officers who are empanelled under a stringent process, precludes many willing officers.

Besides, states have created a large number of ‘ex-cadre’ posts, well beyond the authorised strength of “State Deputation Reserve” (SDR) for their cadres. Many such posts are not genuinely needed, but created to merely augment promotional avenues for officers. The study for bridging the IPS shortages had found as many as 1,152 ex-cadre posts created by different states across the country, as against just 525 authorised under the SDR. This adds to the already existing shortage of officers caused by a large number of vacancies (averaging nearly 20 per cent), perennially existing in most of the state cadres.

Also read: Why Modi govt’s proposal to amend AIS Rules makes officers shuttlecocks in steel frames

What needs to be done?

Acute dearth of officers causes severe problems to central government establishments. And the need to remedy the situation is imperative. However, the Centre’s attempt to introduce unilateral provisions in the Cadre Rules is not an ideal solution. The conundrum of officer shortage needs to be resolved in the spirit of cooperative federalism.

The States should appreciate the Centre’s plight, and acknowledge its legitimate share over AIS officers (to the extent of CDR quota). Both the Centre and the states must accept that the extant shortages of officers would need to be shared proportionately between them.

Mandatory central postings

CDR quota (40 per cent of ‘senior posts’ in every State cadre) would ideally mean that every IAS/IPS officer should be required to serve under the Centre for 40 per cent of the period after their promotion to the senior scale. This translates to approximately 10-12 years in the entire service span. The Sarkaria Commission on Centre-State Relations had even recommended that “there should be an element of compulsion in the matter of deputation of AIS officers to the Union”.

Time has perhaps come to amend the Rules, and make central posting mandatory for a specified period as an eligibility condition for promotions of officers under both central and the state governments

Assess the actual requirement

But, before doing that, the Centre should undertake a thorough exercise to compute the exact requirement of AIS officers for its establishments and rejig the CDR quota. This is essential since the current quantum of CDR quota posts does not appear to be based on any realistic need assessment. For example, the study for bridging the IPS shortages had found only 490 posts specifically earmarked for IPS officers in all the central establishments put together, as against the total of 840 posts assigned to the CDR countrywide.

Even otherwise, the percentages (40 per cent for IAS and IPS, 20 per cent for IFoS) were fixed decades ago, and there has been a sea change in the public administration practices since then.

Also read: Centre’s Bengal move can make CMs lose faith in AIS, rely more on state services

Involve Inter-State Council

The changes suggested here should be brought about after a rigorous examination of the issues by a body of professional experts, without even the slightest inkling of political influence.

Effective resolution of this contentious controversy would need active involvement and cooperation of the central and state governments, and indeed political consensus. The issue of requirement of AIS by the governments – an important matter of ‘public interest’ – is of common interest between the Union and States. Investigating and dealing with such matters is a duty assigned to the Inter-State Council, which would be an ideal forum to deal with the issue, duly assisted by the body of professional experts referred above.

The unseemly controversy over sharing of All India Service officers between the States and the Centre needs to be resolved with urgency and alacrity, avoiding any kind of political brinkmanship. The apprehensions of the states need to be efficaciously set at rest through conscious effort by the Centre.

Kamal Kumar is a retired IPS officer, who has been involved with several government initiatives on police reform. He is the former director of National Police Academy, and former vice-chairman, UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. Views are personal.

(Edited by Neera Majumdar)

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