Dilip Cherian | Amid shortage of officers, govt sets up panel to find out why

The shortage, perhaps, explains why there are not enough IAS officers on Central deputation or even in the states

It’s a crisis. Critics often say that India has too much bureaucracy. But actually, as admitted by the Centre, the problem is that there are not enough babus. Minister of state for PMO and personnel Jitendra Singh recently informed Parliament that there is a shortage of 1,515 IAS officers.

Recently, a parliamentary standing committee had also recommended to the department of personnel and training (DoPT) to “significantly increase” the annual intake of IAS officers given “the evolving needs of Indian administration”.

The shortage, perhaps, explains why there are not enough IAS officers on Central deputation or even in the states. Clearly, the initiatives taken by the Centre to increase the number of IAS officers haven’t worked, even though the annual intake of IAS officers was increased to 180 and IPS officers from 150 to 200 in 2020. Vacancies have also been filled by inducting officers from the state services, which apparently is against the rules which state that non-cadre officers cannot be posted to cadre posts.

The civil service rules state that 22 per cent of the total sanctioned strength of IAS officers, which is 6,709, should be deputed to the Centre but currently only six per cent of IAS officers are on Central deputation.

Now sources have informed DKB that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has now formed a four-member committee, headed by former DoPT secretary C. Chandramouli to analyze the reasons for the dearth of babus and offer solutions. However, it is unlikely to be an easy task. DoPT officials believe that simply increasing intake will not fix this crisis. It could create hurdles in postings and promotions of babus.

Ex-babus in Yogi’s Cabinet 2.0

Taking VRS just before the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections turned out to be a good move for ex-IPS officer Asim Arun. He fought the poll on a BJP ticket and has now been sworn in as a minister of state (independent charge) in the new Yogi Adityanath government.

A 1994-batch officer, he probably paid his “dues” when he was the head of the state anti-terror squad (ATS) and as police commissioner of Kanpur.

Another retired babu, whose progress was closely watched by observers, A.K. Sharma who has worked closely at the Centre and was reportedly sent to UP by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to assist the chief minister, has been made a Cabinet minister. Their appointment is even more interesting given that Yogi has dropped many big names and former ministers from the Cabinet. Clearly, these ex-babus now wield a bigger influence than your regular BJP netas in the state.

Cooperative federalism will have to wait

The game of political one-upmanship between the Centre and Maharashtra is escalating and putting a further strain on the already fraying Centre-state relations. In the latest salvo, the Mumbai Police’s Economic Offences Wing (EOW) has started a probe against a few Enforcement Directorate (ED) officers for alleged extortion.

Sources have informed DKB that the EOW move comes just a day after the ED provisionally attached immovable properties belonging to a relative of chief minister Uddhav Thackeray in a money laundering case. The EOW is also pushing ahead with an inquiry into the alleged role of a senior BJP leader’s son in a land deal. However, Maharashtra is not the only state to challenge the Centre on its jurisdiction to investigate alleged serious crimes in the states. The CBI and ED are the obvious targets of the state’s ire. And on this issue, it is of one mind with two other non-BJP governments, in West Bengal and Kerala.

That there has been a breakdown in trust between the Centre and the Opposition-ruled states has been evident for some time now. The effect is now being felt in the administrative machinery. Getting bogged down by political manoeuvres is hurting the Central and state agencies alike. Instead of doing their mandated work, they are investigating each other. And initiating rival probes against officers is hardly where it will end. Cooperative federalism remains a distant dream.

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