The Union government’s proposed amendments to the IAS (Cadre) Rules regarding Central deputation of officers have, not surprisingly, set it on a collision course with state governments. Although how many states have objected to the rule changes is not clear as only West Bengal has come out in the open against the amendments, it will not be surprising if more do so in the coming days. Under the present arrangement on cadre of all-India services such as the IAS, IPS and the Indian Forest Service, the Union government asks for a list of officers from state governments every year who are willing to be deputed to Delhi.
So far this system of sharing officers between the Centre and the states has worked in a more or less congenial manner, free of any rancour or dispute. But in the recent past, there have been some occasions when differences have cropped up, particularly with Bengal. Last year the then state chief secretary, Alapan Bandyopadhyay, was asked to report to the Centre on the day of his retirement because he was not present for a meeting convened by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. But the state refused to let him go. Earlier the two governments had clashed over the Centre summoning three IPS officers after the BJP president J P Nadda’s motorcade was attacked outside Kolkata. Whether the proposed amendments have been prompted by these face-offs is unclear, but the bone of contention is that if implemented, then the Union government’s view will prevail whenever there is any disagreement over central deputation of officers.
According to data unofficially shared with the media, the number of IAS officers on Central deputation has been declining over the years. It was 309 in 2011 but that has come down to only 223 currently. Even if the Centre’s concerns over the meagre numbers are genuine, it must take a considered decision only after it has taken into account the views of the states. The federal system of governance has worked well so far, and any unitary tendency will be wholly avoidable and unnecessary.