Both, CM MK Stalin and CM Pinarayi Vijayan said that the move undermines the spirit of federalism in the country, and asked for the changes to be dropped.

TN CM MK Stalin and Kerala CM Pinarayi VijayanPTI | Representative Image
news Cooperative Federalism Sunday, January 23, 2022 - 18:41

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin and Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan became the latest chief ministers to write to Prime Minister Narendra Modi opposing the proposed amendments to the IAS (Cadre) Rules.

In his letter, MK Stalin said the proposal “strikes at the very root of our federal polity and state autonomy” and that it would cause irreparable damage to the spirit of cooperative federalism and result in powers being concentrated with the Union government. He added that the proposal will destroy the uniqueness of the IAS, which he said is a basic feature of the Indian Constitution. “…the idea of All India Services has served the nation well and stood the test of time through a cordial working relationship between the Union and States,” he said.

He pointed out that state governments are short of officers at specific seniority levels, which he said is “primarily due to the wrong cadre management policies followed by the Union government.” He added that state governments depend solely on the limited pool of IAS officers available in the state and that governments are the ones who are at the forefront of implementing schemes as well as in need of IAS officers for handling issues such as natural disasters.

“Given this situation, forcing the State governments to depute officers would surely aggravate the governance deficit in various States due to shortage of officers and also it is an affront to the administrative framework of the States. Further, I wish to state that the Union government's lateral entry recruitment has also affected the morale of the officers who seek deputation on their own willingness,” the letter read.

Stalin’s letter also pointed to a specific proposed provision, which it said will “empower the Union government to unilaterally draft the services of any officer without his/her consent and without the concurrence of the concerned State government.” This, the TN CM said, will demoralise and destabilise the bureaucracy, and that officers will be spending their career “under a perpetual fear of being penalised by the Union government at any time.”

“The proposed amendments would adversely affect not only the character and functioning of bureaucracy, but also complicate the cadre management in the States per se. Moreover, this will have a cascading effect on the administration of the State with a direct bearing on the welfare of the Nation,” the letter stated.

Calling the ramifications “ominous”, he stated that the Union government’s “hasty eagerness” in bringing in changes to the country’s basic structure without going through a consultative process is “grossly violative of the federal structure of the Nation”, adding that the move was not welcomed by bureaucrats nor state governments.

“The Union cannot usurp an existing provision to the disadvantage of the State in a federal polity. It will tend to weaken the core principles on which the country has been painstakingly built over the past 75 glorious years. Demolition is easy, but reconstruction has always been a long process,” he added.

He called on the Prime Minister to drop the proposed amendments and engage with state governments.

“In my considered view, instead of imposing restrictive provisions to usurp the powers of States, the Union government can positively reconstruct the working/ service conditions for All India Service officers through transparent empanelment process and by ensuring professional space and independence so that the officers opt for deputation to Union government voluntarily without any need for coercive rules,” he said.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said in his letter that as per the federal setup, states are on par with the Union government as both are elected by the people, although the Constitution gives the Union government jurisdiction over a wider range of subjects.

“We need to recognise that in a vibrant democratic and federal polity, States and the Centre can be ruled by political formations with vastly different ideologies and political views. But these governments function within the framework of the Constitution,” he said.

He added that the proposed rules will induce a “fear psychosis and an attitude of hesitancy” among officers to implement a state government’s policies which may be formed by parties that are politically opposed to the party which runs the Union government.

“The present Deputation Rules are themselves heavily loaded in favour of the Union and bringing in further stringency will weaken the very root of cooperative federalism. The Government of Kerala is of the opinion that these proposed amendments may be dropped, he stated.

Prior to the two south Indian chief ministers, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren, Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot and Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel have all written to the Prime Minister opposing the proposed amendment. According to reports, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Meghalaya have also opposed it.

The Union government's proposed amendment to the IAS (Cadre) Rules would enable it to post IAS officers on central deputation bypassing reservations of the state governments. IAS officers pick a cadre at the time they join service, which is the state they want to work in, and primarily end up working under respective state governments. For bureaucrats who need to work in the Union government, bureaucrats are picked from various state cadres with the consent of the state government. The proposed amendments remove the requirement to obtain the state government’s approval to transfer an officer.

The actual number of officers to be deputed to the central government shall be decided by the Union government in consultation with the state government concerned, the new proposed amendment states. In case of any disagreement, the matter shall be decided by the Union government and the state government or state governments concerned shall give effect to the decision of the central government within a specified time, it has proposed. Existing rules did not mention any time limit for deciding on such disagreement.

Read: ‘Attack on federalism’: Ex-bureaucrats on Union govt move to ‘snatch’ IAS officers

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