Perhaps the most crucial decision of the national leadership of Free India at the time regarding the management strategy of the new Democratic Republic was to retain the “steel frame” left by the British in the form of ICS and IP and to establish IAS and IPS as All India Civil Services to succeed them.
These were envisioned as specially empowered national instruments to broadly manage development administration and law and order in an apolitical manner – through the national grid – taking into account the federal system of things in the Republic.
In no other major country in the world does an equivalent of the IAS and IPS exist in the sense that, on the basis of merit-based selection at the national level, the candidate is installed in the post of decision-making “leadership” of a government under-secretary. of India just within three years after training – Collector and SP in the States represent that status granted at the start of the service career itself.
That there was no conflict between the Center and the States over these prime services was implied in the practice of the Center which dealt with the recruitment and training of IAS officials. and IPS, then entrusting them to the states based on an assessed “frame strength”. ‘ with the subsequent minimal role of broadly monitoring their performance and giving them a sense of central protection from unfair treatment by the state government whenever necessary.
The Center has also assisted in reassigning the spouse cadre where needed, if both husband and wife are members of the Indian civil service. The allocation of Framework State was made on two bases – consideration of individual preference allowed based on place in the merit list and exercise of discretion by the Center.
The strengths of these services were the high level of integrity at the personal level, independent decision-making in the public interest, and fair play in the management of junior officials down the line.
The comparative advantages and facilities offered even to young officers – given the general economic situation of the country – are visible enough to promote self-confidence and a sense of pride in the Indian civil service.
For many years after independence, many of their members distinguished themselves in central and state governments. They served the cause of national integration and also added to the credit of ruling rulers in any part of India – regardless of their party label.
But then there was an unavoidable slide for which the reasons had to be examined.
Civil servants all over India have retained an intrinsic desire to serve the national government at appropriate stages of their careers and looked forward to this experience to enhance their job profile.
They all carried the desire to occupy most of the senior positions that existed only in the Center. It was therefore fitting that officers serving in their cadre states aspired to have the opportunity to be picked up by Delhi under the central quota, which each state knew it had to meet at all times.
This gave them an extra reason to perform well. There might be an occasion where the call from the Center had to be denied by an agent for a valid personal or family reason, but it was otherwise a mutually agreeable arrangement that worked without hindrance.
Slowly but surely. the politicization of the bureaucracy and the police by the states’ ruling parties has created the tendency among officers to retain their position in the state for vested interests.
State governments, for political reasons, also began to give weight to state service agents directly recruited by them, prompting the IAS and IPS to become increasingly ‘compliant’. All of this resulted in the unhealthy tendency of civil service officers across India to look weaker as they rose through the ranks – with the Chief Secretary and DGP not even caring about transfers and postings. officers made by the political masters behind them.
The Center was right to worry that state administrative and police chiefs were not living up to their apolitical constitutional responsibilities. The central oversight of the two All India Civil Service Prime Ministers had to be maintained and legitimate procedural remedies had to be made in the wider national interest to ensure competent administration of the democratic state.
An irrational refusal by the state to release an officer selected by the Center for delegation to the Indian government – out of political recalcitrance – can damage the great tradition of the Indian civil service which contributes to democratic governance through its apolitical work directed towards the public service. .
If the rule that the decision of the Center prevails over the will of the State in matters of central delegation of an officer has acted somewhere as a deterrent against the willful neglect of constitutional obligations at the highest levels of administration of the State and the police, it is welcome.
A few long-term steps come to mind to improve issues relating to these services. First, there should be greater transparency regarding the appointment of the Secretary General and the State CEO. There should be sound central input into the process through the UPSC in consultation with state governments, drawing a panel of three most eligible officers from the cadre – based on seniority and performance – to leave the choice to the state government.
Some time ago, the Supreme Court welcomed this approach when it overturned the practice of appointing an “officiating” DGP. There is no reason why this cannot be followed with regard to the selection of the Chief Secretary as well.
Second, for senior positions at the Center requiring specialized work experience, officers available in various states may be given the opportunity to indicate their interest in being considered – this may already have been done to some extent.
Thirdly, it would be useful if the Cabinet Secretary and the Home Secretary – Director of Intelligence Bureau (DIB) organize a biennial conference of Chief Secretaries and DGPs solely to discuss Indian Civil Service – performance issues , facilities and working conditions. For DGPs, this may be a segment of the annual conference convened by the DIB.
Fourthly, in keeping with the lofty aim of providing a uniform standard of efficient administration throughout the country after independence – which had inspired the establishment of the All India Civil Service – it is fitting that during the brief period of joint formation for the new trainees organized by the LBS National Academy of Administration in Mussoorie every year, education on strategic issues and national security had been introduced recently.
This will foster cooperation among civil service officers across India in their later years on matters of national interest and foster in them the spirit of serving anywhere in the country. The idea should also be replicated in the joint courses organized for the civil service in the later stages. the provision of the best human material available, special facilities for accommodation, transport and allowances provided for in the first years of the career and the introduction of the practice of a central deputation after certain periods of work in the framework states , as far as possible.
The Center relies heavily on these civil services and the States should be happy if their officers are selected for such deputation to the Center. There appears to be a need to increase the annual recruitment of officers for these services and to respond to States’ requests in this regard.
States should not retain officers the Center needs to show political assertiveness – they are always free to take on individual cases when they deem it necessary to retain an officer longer for a particular state requirement. Nothing should be done to further politicize the management of the Indian civil service.
(The author is a former Director of the Intelligence Bureau. Opinions expressed are personal)