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Civil Services Act 2009 may create mayhem

By Renu Mittal
June 09, 2009 01:04 IST
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It's a sure fire recipe for a head-on confrontation between the Centre and the states with the Centre preparing to centralise the entire gamut of bureaucratic appointments and transfers, and the states likely to see red as it would encroach upon their authority and jurisdiction.

The United Progressive Alliance government is in the process of finalising a draft legislation of the Civil Services Act 2009, which would seek to bring in sweeping reforms in administration, give independence to the bureaucracy and at the same time de-link the administration from political control.

Union minister Prithviraj Chavan said the government is finalising the draft after which it would be put in the public domain to invite reactions and suggestions, before it is brought before the parliament to be enacted as a law.

The proposed law seeks to create an authority with the power of the Election Commission under which civil servants can appeal for redressal of their grievances. The appointing authority for postings, transfers and appointments would be a panel consisting of the prime minister, the leader of the opposition, the home minister and a judge of the Supreme Court. All civil servants would have fixed tenures and if this has to be changed, then reasons must be given.

The top bureaucrats in the states like the chief secretary, the principal secretary, the director general of police, etc, would also have fixed tenures. The question whether the states would like to give up their authority is not a difficult one to answer as the proposed changes are likely to create mayhem, particularly in opposition ruled states.

The issue of administrative reforms has been hanging-fire for quite some time now. Veerapa Moily who headed the administrative reforms commission has given a number of reports detailing the changes required and a large number of suggestions on how the reform process is to be carried out.

In his last tenure as PM, Dr Manmohan Singh already began the process of giving fixed tenures for senior civil servants with the cabinet secretary set to get a two year term which can be extended by another year, with the term of the home secretary two years and three months -- since that is convenient to keep a particular bureaucrat in place and so on.

Much of this is arbitrary and is dependent on the person who needs to be accommodated and how much a particular government wants the services of that bureaucrat.

The Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress particularly have their favourites with respective governments rewarding their favourite civil servant with plum postings either as governors, or as commission chairmen or as ambassadors. The latest case in point is Madhukar Gupta, who has just demitted office as the Union Home Secretary of India. It is learnt that Home Minister P Chidambaram was happy and satisfied with his performance and wants to reward him by sending him as the Governor of Tripura.

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Renu Mittal