Chidambaram effect: IAS officers shying away from central posting     

IAS officers even from Gujarat seem reluctant to take up central government postings. The Centre has never before faced such a dearth of IAS officers. Look at the numbers.

Chidambaram effect: IAS officers shying away from central posting      

Umakant Lakhera

The witch hunt launched against former Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram is putting off officers of Indian Administrative Service (IAS) from seeking Central deputation. Not only has the witch hunt affected decision-making, confide insiders in the bureaucracy, the Centre faces a serious shortage of experienced bureaucrats willing to be posted in New Delhi.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED), it is worth recalling, has filed a charge sheet against the former FM and a clutch of bureaucrats for allegedly approving a foreign investment worth Rs 403 crore to INX Media in lieu of a bribe of Rs 10 lakh ostensibly paid to Mr Chidambaram. The ED in a separate case has claimed that the former FM and his son, also a lawyer, have several bank accounts and properties abroad. These submissions were made orally and presumably in sealed covers to the court.

But the damage has been done. A large number of central postings, manned earlier by the IAS, have been filled up with officers from the Indian Railway Service, Indian Economic Service and Indian Engineering Service. The relative inexperience of these officers in administrative posts, claim IAS officers, have affected the implementation of Central projects.

IAS officers from states are clearly reluctant to come to the Centre. And the statistics bear this out.

The quota for IAS officers from Bihar for Central deputation, for example, is fixed at 74. But according to records available in the public domain, only 38 IAS officers from Bihar are posted at the Centre.

Contrary to the popular misconception that Gujarat cadre officers have taken over all key administrative posts, there are only 17 IAS officers serving at the Centre whereas the quota for Central deputation from Gujarat is for 64 IAS officers.

Similarly, only 44 IAS officers of the Uttar Pradesh cadre are posted at the Centre whereas there is provision for sending as many as 144 IAS officers on Central deputation.

The ratio of IAS officers from the southern states, is said to be even poorer. The number of IAS officers at the Centre currently is the lowest in the last several years.

Officers who are serving at the Centre, these sources claim, are doing so for personal reasons, largely because their children are studying in NCR region. They are neither comfortable working under the shadow of surveillance and interference nor are they able to adjust with the new work culture and acute centralisation, they say.

The working relationship between Secretaries and Joint Secretaries too have undergone qualitative changes, they allege. While earlier they would work together, now they often compete with each other for drawing the attention of the PM or the PMO, where all decisions have been centralised.

Lateral entry from the Private Sector and contractual appointment of ‘experts’ in key positions have also undermined the bureaucrats and their authority, they complain.

The INX Media case has come as the last straw, they add. While Central agencies are gunning for innocent bureaucrats for political reasons, the age of professional and politically neutral bureaucrats seems to be over.

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