Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee raised the shortage of IAS officers in the state with the Modi government during her four-day visit to the capital last week, ThePrint has learnt.
In April, Bengal Chief Secretary H.K. Dwivedi had written to the Union government seeking more IAS and IPS officers as the state planned to carve out more districts for better administration.
Earlier this month, seven more districts were announced in addition to the existing 23.
“The CM has announced the creation of seven more districts, and that would require more officers. The shortage has been persistent since the number of districts increased in 2017. We have urged the Centre to increase the strength, but there has been no action so far,” a senior Bengal minister told ThePrint.
In January, Mamata had protested against the Modi government’s proposed amendment in service rules to ensure the availability of a sufficient number of IAS officers for central deputation.
Bengal has a sanctioned strength of 378 IAS officers but is short of 79, making it fourth in the list of states with the maximum IAS vacancies, after Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, according to data tabled by Jitendra Singh, Minister of State, the Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT), in the Rajya Sabha on 21 July.
According to official DoPT data, Bengal has been allocated 12 to 15 IAS officers/year since 2016, which is the second-highest among all states after Uttar Pradesh.
When Mamata became the chief minister for the first time in 2011, the IAS strength was 359, which was 12 per cent more than during the erstwhile CPI(M) government, sources in the state secretariat Nabanna said. In 2016, the number rose to 377, but it is down to 299 at present.
Sources in Nabanna said an estimated 100 officers were required to fill up vacant posts.
In Delhi, a senior civil servant hinted that the Union government’s hands were tied when it came to the crunch of IAS officers.
“There are states which are in worse situations… The Centre is also facing a crunch. Distribution of state cadres is generally decided after the UPSC examination every year, in consultation with the states, DoPT and the UPSC. There are cadre reviews also,” the senior civil servant said.
Acknowledging that more civil servants are required as Mamata has announced the formation of new districts, the IAS officer added, “If needed, it [state] can promote officers from the state service, too. The Centre cannot increase the intake of IAS officers now. The government has mentioned it in Parliament, too. The states need to make optimal use of the officers they already have.”
A fix within the state
A senior official working in the Chief Minister’s Office said IAS officers are preferred over their counterparts from the West Bengal Civil Service (WBCS) due to their “grasp on groundwork”.
“Bengal requires a larger number of IAS officers as there is a perception that young bureaucrats perform better. Most states depend heavily on them for the role of district administrators,” the official added. “The dynamic movement of IAS officers between central and state postings gives them a sense of grassroots work with a sound knowledge of the central policies.”
A senior secretariat officer said “promotee officers” comprise one-third of the bureaucracy in the state. As the phrase suggests, this category of officers enters administration through the State Civil Services examination and is later inducted to the IAS cadre on the recommendation of the state.
Mamata is said to be taking the IAS shortage as an opportunity to strengthen the WBSC in order to draw more officers from within the state to fill the void.
The CM is keen to deploy “deserving WBCS officers” in posts traditionally reserved for IAS officers, according to the senior Nabanna officer quoted above.
“The chief secretary has already formed a committee to fill key administrative posts in the newly announced districts from among new WBCS officers and those already in service,” said the source.
In May, Mamata had announced at the Annual General Meeting of WBCS Officers’ Association her plans to increase the strength of the WBCS by 200 officers.
Besides announcing incentives, including a monthly allowance of Rs 10,000 for senior WBCS officers who have reached their maximum pay scale, the CM also said the officers will hold departmental secretary posts, which are usually taken up by IAS.
(Edited by Tony Rai)