[Answered] There are simpler, more effective, and less contentious solutions to the shortage of IAS officers for central deputation than the proposed amendments to IAS (Cadre) Rules. Analyzing the reasons behind shortage, suggest remedial measures.

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Introduction: Give context of the proposed amendment and related issues.
Body: Explain the causes of shortage of IAS officers. Write the steps that can be taken to resolve the issue.
Conclusion: Give a way forward.

The proposed amendments to the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) (Cadre) Rules of 1954, seek to empower the Central government to unilaterally order the Central deputation of IAS officers without the consent of the State governments or the officers concerned. 

Centre has justified the amendments on the ground that the States are not meeting their Central Deputation Reserve (CDR) obligations because of which the Centre is suffering from an acute shortage of mid-level IAS officers, especially Deputy Secretaries and Directors.  

Causes of shortage of IAS officers at the central level. 

  • Reduction in recruitment: Annual recruitment of IAS officers after 1991 was reduced (from 140-160 to just 50-80). Justification for the same was that the government will have a reduced role due to economic liberalisation. As of January 1, 2021, the shortage of IAS officers at the all-India level was 23%.  
  • Lackadaisical “cadre review”: It is conducted jointly by the Centre and the States to designate certain strategic posts in the States as “cadre posts” and earmark them exclusively for IAS officers. Many IAS officers are stuck in non-strategic posts without a proper cadre review.  
  • Discontinuance of direct recruitment of officers to the Central Secretariat Service Group B: Discontinuance of direct recruitment and undue delays in the regular promotions of officers from the ranks in the Central Secretariat due to protracted litigation. These officers used to occupy a sizeable proportion of Deputy Secretary/Director-level posts in the Central Secretariat.  
  • Non- utilization of Officers from state services: Non-utilisation by the Centre of the services of officers who are appointed to the IAS by promotion or selection from the State Civil Services. A large pool of around 2,250 officers, usually in the age bracket of 35- 55 years, who have immense field experience, remains State-bound. 
  • Administrative barriers: Numerous administrative barriers to Central deputation imposed by the Centre itself in the form of highly restrictive conditions, perverse incentives, annual lapsing of offer lists, long debarment periods, compulsory cooling-off periods, etc. restrict the ability of IAS officers join the central government. 

Once the root cause of shortage of officers is recognized there can be simpler, more effective and less contentious solutions to the shortage than the proposed amendments.  

  • Increased recruitment: The number of IAS officers recruited annually should be increased to around 200 for a few years as a short-term measure to address the vacancies of IAS officers. 
  • Mandatory central deputation: it should be made mandatory for directly recruited IAS officers to serve at least three years on Central deputation between nine and 25 years of service. Their promotion to principal secretary in the state shall be dependent on fulfillment of this requirement. 
  • Relieve IAS officers from Non-strategic posts and Utilize state services offices: A proper cadre review in all the States will release many IAS officers from non-strategic posts and reduce the shortage. Utilizing State Service officers by making it mandatory for these officers to work for at least two years on Central deputation after their appointment to the IAS. 
  • Making the central deputation attractive and hassle free: The centre can reduce administrative barriers and make the central deputation attractive by introducing a deputation allowance. 

Central-state cooperation and collaboration will go a long way in resolving the issue of shortages. A sense of cooperation shall prevail for any solution to work under the federal structure of India. Forums like the Inter State Council may be utilized for this purpose. 

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