Disquiet in states over officers’ Central deputation

On April 21, 1947, Patel addressed the first batch of IAS probationers. He advised them: ‘A civil servant cannot afford to and must not take part in politics. Nor must he involve himself in communal wrangle.’ Patel’s words have special relevance now as the Centre is perceived to be overbearing towards certain states. It is thus their responsibility to allay these fears if they claim to carry Patel’s grand legacy, considering the reasons why the All-India Services were created by him.

Disquiet in states over officers’ Central deputation

Dissonance: Taking IPS officers into the Central Armed Police Forces has caused opposition. PTI

Vappala Balachandran

Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat

On February 23, a national daily reported that the states were resenting a new Government of India order to stop “empanelment” of Deputy Inspectors General of Police (DIG)-level officers going to the Central government on “deputation”. There were fears that in future, the Central Government might “attempt at pushing the envelope further on increasing its own powers over officers serving in the states”.

The daily said that this is creating great resentment, coming after an earlier proposal to amend the All-India Services Rules that would allow New Delhi to requisition any IAS, IPS or Indian Forest Service officer on Central deputation with or without the state’s consent.

“The All-India Services Act, 1951” (AIS) envisaged an apex administrative structure, common to both Central and State governments, comprising the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), the Indian Police Service (IPS) and the Indian Forest Service. Section 3 of the 1951 Act had said that the Central Government may, after consultations with the governments of the states concerned, make rules for the recruitment, and conditions of service of persons appointed to the AIS. Appointments at the Central level would be through “empanelling”.

There is an erroneous impression that “empanelment” creates a list on the eligibility for promotion. According to the Central Government, it is not so. The idea of empanelment is not to consider it “as a reflection of the intrinsic merit of an officer or otherwise, but the suitability of an officer to occupy senior levels in the Central Government”. This is because a person may be fit to occupy senior positions in the state but not at the Centre as the state does not have such varied senior positions as in the Central Government.

Take for instance a DIG-level officer. In the state, his opportunities may be confined only to being head of a “range” or in charge of urban police or intelligence and senior staffing. At the Central level, he faces the daunting task of leading his forces for border policing, detecting cross-border terrorism, enforcing industrial security in highly sensitive sectors, doing specialised investigation or intelligence collection on national or international crime or security-related activities.

In the beginning, when the AIS officers were very few, batch-wise empanelment could be done by considering this priority. Also, till the mid-1960s, the Central “deputation” was confined only to limited positions in the Intelligence Bureau (IB), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Central Reserve Police (CRP) and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police. Later, opportunities widened when more Central armed forces and crime investigation or intelligence agencies were raised from 1965, each one specialising in special type of operations in which no IPS officer could possess experience while serving in the state.

Despite this, “empanelling” became a routine exercise based only on scrutiny of the Annual Confidential Reports (ACRs). The common format of ACRs in those days permitted no scope to record the work challenges or a person’s achievements, except integrity. Thus, in many cases, it became a subjective exercise. During Rajiv Gandhi’s prime ministership (1984-89), a major exercise was undertaken to recast the ACR formats of AIS officers, giving them an opportunity to record what they had achieved which would be examined by their immediate superiors and review levels.

Even with this, empanelment reverted to mechanically tabulating how many “outstanding” or “very good” entries the officer had earned, knowing full well that the difference between these two gradings depended upon subjective impression at higher levels. This is because the field of activities of AIS officers cannot be compared to commercial positions where profitability is the only narrow criterion: hence, ACR remarks cannot be constricted to mere mechanical grading.

Till the 1980s, a DIG was a senior-level officer. In the 1970s, I served under the Commissioner of Police of Greater Bombay who was a DIG-level officer. In those days, an Inspector General was heading every state police. The DIG slipped into a middle-level officer in police hierarchy in mid-1980s with proliferation of higher police ranks in every state with a surfeit of Directors General and Additional Directors General. Perhaps this might have been one of the reasons why the decision to do away with DIG empanelment was taken.

However, taking IPS officers into the Central Armed Police Forces has generated serious opposition from within the CAPF officer ranks as limiting their chances for promotion. They quote BSF founder KF Rustamji’s opposition to statutory reservation for IPS officers and former Union Home Secretary IP Singh’s concurrence on October 14, 1970: “Finding avenues of promotion for officers of the IPS cannot be the over-riding objective.”

The present generation may not perhaps know how much care India’s first Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel had taken to secure the country by maintaining continuity in the country’s administrative structure despite serious violence and possibility of apex services deserting the administration in 1947. He wanted the states and Centre to work with one objective of strengthening the nation.

On October 10, 1949, while discussing Article 283-A in the Constituent Assembly on the provision for protection of service conditions of existing officers of All-India Services, Patel chastised even a senior leader like Deputy Speaker Ananthasayanam Ayyangar for doubting their contribution: “This Constitution is meant to be worked by a ring of service which will keep the country intact.” He reminded them how much even the British services like the ICS and IP had tried to keep the country secure.

On April 21, 1947, Patel addressed the first batch of IAS probationers at Metcalf House, their training institution. Besides maintaining the “highest standard” of integrity, he also advised them: “A civil servant cannot afford to and must not take part in politics. Nor must he involve himself in communal wrangle.” Since then, April 21 is observed as “National Services Day”, commemorating this event.

Patel’s words have special relevance now as the Centre is perceived to be overbearing towards certain states. It is thus their responsibility to allay these fears if they claim to carry Patel’s grand legacy, considering the reasons why the All-India Services (AIS) were created by him.

Views are personal

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