Bureaucracy: more a caged parrot than the famed steel frame

How political masters pick and choose bureaucrats for central deputation by tweaking rules

ajay

Ajay Singh | July 21, 2014



PTI File Photo

If the state of affairs in Indian bureaucracy is any indication, the metaphor of “caged parrot” should have readily replaced “steel frame” as an apt description of the executive. IPS officer Archana Ramasundaram’s case is the symptom of a sinister syndrome that has reduced this essential apparatus of the state to a pliable tool of political masters.

Take the case of the transfer of certain IPS officials from Gujarat to the Centre. Satish Varma and Rajnish Rai had applied for central deputation about a year ago as they felt persecuted by the Modi government in the state. Both are known to have taken a stance that is in conflict with the stated position of the state government on critical issues.

Rai was instrumental in the arrest of three IPS officials -- DG Vanzara, Rajkumar Pandian and MN Dinesh -- in the Sohrabuddin encounter case. Varma’s conduct in his role as a member of the Supreme Court-mandated Special Investigation Team probing the Ishrat Jahan encounter case caused serious embarrassment to the state government. Both the officials have been fighting cases against the Gujarat government in the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT). It was in this context that these officials sought deputation to the centre to serve under a favourable UPA regime.

But the Lok Sabha elections have changed the equations. The Gujarat government which was reluctant to relieve them has now given the go-ahead to Rai and Varma for central deputation. Obviously, with the Modi government firmly in the saddle at the Centre, these officials are genuinely wary of a future which is held hostage by hostile regimes.
 
The genesis of this crisis lies in the dependence of the Union government on IAS and IPS officials of states to run the administration. Usually, as many as 25 percent of IAS and IPS officials are sent for deputation to the Centre in an arrangement meant to strengthen the federal structure of governance. These officials are supposed to be picked on the basis of merit and given cadre clearance by the ministry of home affairs (MHA) after a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the state to which they belong.

This system is often bypassed by the political executive to play favourites among bureaucrats. Take, for instance, the case of CBI joint director Javeed Ahmed, who was to be promoted as additional director-general but his cadre clearance was withdrawn just when the central vigilance commission (CVC) board met to clear the names for deputation. This clearly showed that the CVC could consider the names of only those officers who are cleared by the MHA. That personal prejudices play a key role in selection of officers is evident in Ahmed’s case, as his name was frowned upon by certain political masters who were uncomfortable with his presence in the CBI.

Contrast this scenario with the list of officers waiting for years on end to be cleared by state governments. In Uttar Pradesh, a long list of IAS and IPS officers is pending clearance from chief minister Akhilesh Yadav. Brij Lal, a 1977 batch IPS officer, is kept in waiting since Akhilesh Yadav came to power. There are many others like him who are left in a limbo by hostile regimes which act with a vengeance against those officials whose perceived political alignments are incongruent with the day’s regime.

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