IAS officers: Aliens at Home

MHA, IAS Apathy

There are serious pitfalls of Government becoming a cushy avenue of wait-till-a-good-time employment for the Indian Administrative Service, with the “Service” aspect of IAS getting severely compromised.

Composition of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), in terms of representation of officers in DS/Director rank, is perhaps the most shocking proof of it.

Believe it or not, but a study by Indianmandarins has revealed that of the (approx) 66 sanctioned posts in the rank of Deputy Secretary and Director (DS/Director) in MHA, not even one is held by an IAS officer at present. And the Indian Police Service, which has a direct link with the country’s internal affairs, is not far behind because only two IPS officers are posted as a DS/Director in MHA.

The reason, however, is not far to see. During the past two years or so, it has been amply rumoured that no officer from the All India Services, particularly the IAS and the IPS, wants to serve on central deputation in GOI unless it becomes totally unavoidable for personal and family reasons. These figures indicate – in fact, establish – that this is not a rumour in thin air.

Not long ago, more than 50 percent of the DS/Director posts, in MHA, were held by IAS officers. Having worked in the field and various state-level assignments, they were sufficiently experienced to tackle issues of law and order, immigration, border management, disaster management, besides being well versed to handle the home ministry’s line and command requirements. Officers of DS/Director rank play an important role in laying down the foundation of office work, initiating the policy making process, and also execution of work.

Who then are handling these DS/Director posts in the MHA? Sample the present composition:

Central Secretariat Services (CSS): 48, Indian Telecom Service (ITS): 04, Indian Ordnance Factory Services (IOFS): 03, Indian Defence Accounts Service (IDAS): 02, IPS: 02, IA&AS: 02, Indian Defence Estates Service: 01, Indian Postal Service: 01, Indian Civil Accounts Service: 01 and IAS: NIL.

There is a definite preponderance of officers from the Central Secretariat Service (CSS) in the DS/Director rank in the home ministry as they account for 48 posts (72%). The CSS is known as the backbone of the civil services bureaucracy. It has always had a significant role to play in assisting the policy makers, besides being an organic pool of institutional memory.

But such a resounding dominance of back-office civil servants (CSSS) in a critical ministry like MHA can have an adverse impact on its functioning. Ground level experience is crucial for the working of the home ministry and IAS and IPS officers are the best repository of such experience.

Perhaps the revelation also indicates that MHA suffers from extremely poor personnel management and DoPT must also share part of the blame.

It is desirable to have a right mix of services with set of necessary skills and experience in handling the subjects that MHA deals with. Districts, obviously, are a prototype of India in managing issues like law and order, disaster management, border management, emigration/immigration, language and culture, leftwing extremism, terrorism and drug-weapon nexus. Moreover, IAS and IPS officers, drawn as they are from all states, help in maintain the necessary plurality. But the present composition of MHA secretariat does not come as an encouragement.

By Rakesh Ranjan (Editor-in-chief)

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