Statement of the Ncsa on the Post of Dc In Nagaland
February 1974: DC ZUNHEBOTO, Mr. K.K. GUPTA, IAS was ambushed in Nunumi Village, Zunheboto district. He and his driver were killed. The Commandant of the Assam Rifles and the Head Dobashi riding in an adjoining vehicle narrowly escaped with their lives. He had been the first Deputy Commissioner of Zunheboto district. ADC Mokokchung, Mr. S.B. CHETRI, NCS was immediately sent to replace him in Zunheboto.
March 1995: DC KOHIMA, Dr. L.V. REDDY, IAS was shot dead in Kohima town. A dynamic and much appreciated officer, he had been the 24th Deputy Commissioner of Kohima District. ADC Kohima, Mr. VISUTHA ANGAMI, NCS was given charge of Deputy Commissioner Kohima for a few months till Mr. M ZHASA, NCS was posted as Deputy Commissioner.
These two tragic incidents greatly shaped bureaucracy in Nagaland. It began the chapter of what journalists would go on to call the era of ‘suitcase bureaucrats’, IAS officers posted to the State that would leave on any pretext they could find. Some applied for leave and extended their leave for years. Those that could, applied for deputation and some managed to stay away on deputation without ever coming back to serve in the State. Many officers have changed their cadre altogether. Some were so reluctant to serve in Nagaland that they just disappeared for years on end without any explanation. A’94 batch officer disappeared on multiple occasions, one time resurfacing much to the surprise of the State Government in a Ministry in the Government of India without the prior approval or knowledge of the State Government, an incident that attracted national news coverage. He is still in Service.
Regular Recruit (RR) IAS officers were thin on the ground in the 70’s and 80’s, the IAS officers serving in the State were mostly those inducted from the Indian Frontier Area Service and Nagaland Civil Service; they held not only the posts of Deputy Commissioner but some like Mr. N.I. Jamir, Mr. I. Longkumer, Mr. Z. Obed and Mr. T.C.K. Lotha even went on to become Chief Secretaries of the State. The 90’s were difficult years for administration in the State. Fresh on the heels of the assassination of DC Kohima in 1995, many IAS (RR) officers left their stations; one was particularly infamous and made headlines, the unceremonious fleeing of Deputy Commissioner Zunheboto. The district was left to the charge of the ADC Ms. Tovili Sema, NCS till the Government realised that the officer wasn’t coming back and posted Mr M.I. Borah, NCS as Deputy Commissioner Zunheboto. The officer did not return till the next year. He wasn’t the first officer to disappear and he certainly wasn’t the last, he was also not the only Deputy Commissioner of Zunheboto to “flee”.
Our State has seen officers disappearing during emergencies even during the present Covid-19 pandemic. Even senior district administration officers holding the most responsible posts in the districts and subdivisions have left their station on various pretexts leaving their charge to other officers. One left on paternity leave which is an understandable reason till one learns that an NCS officer couldn’t avail paternity leave during the same period because his services were indispensable in the management of the qurantine centres of the district. Others have left on health grounds or filial obligations, all of which press on NCS officers just as equally but are not honoured as much. Even now there are as many as 10 IAS officers who are out of station on leave or simply absent and with the exception of one Principal Secretary and one Additional Secretary, the rest are District Administration officers charged with the management of the Covid-19 pandemic.
As was quoted in a recently published article “DCs/DMs are the lynchpin of administration, whether it be law and order or development schemes…” This was as true 30 years ago as it is now, or perhaps even more so as back then death-threats were given regularly as were house and office visits, irrespective of the service or the department. All Government employees faced some degree of mental and emotional trauma during those trying times. It isn’t that these delinquent and derelict IAS officers were bad or poor officers, some went on to have successful careers serving as Chief Secretaries of the State and Secretaries in the Union Government. However, the circumstances do make us question the premium placed on the life and liberty of IAS officers in the State.
When the IAS officers availed their legal or illegal options to stay away from the State fearing for their lives and personal security, the NCS officers were sent in their place as Deputy Commissioners. There have been times when our NCS officers have been placed in situations where we have had to act against our own people, sometimes at great personal cost. Insurgency isn’t the only issue that has afflicted our State; we have also witnessed bitter violence on inter-tribal and land issues. Our officers have faced death threats and some of us have narrowly escaped with our lives on occasion.
Despite the DoPT notifications that State otherwise, NCS officers have occupied the DC posts in the State from as early as 1973 when Mr I. Imkongmar Aier was posted as DC Phek. Enclosed are the incumbent lists of Deputy Commissioners in all 11 districts of the State. Even a cursory glance will show that the State Government has always posted officers to these posts on its prerogative. Administration in Nagaland is not as simple as it is in other States. Where other States have District Collectors/District Magistrates we have Deputy Commissioners, the judiciary and the executive are not completely separate in our State and the Deputy Commissioners are charged with the dispensation of justice on customs and traditions with the assistance of the Dobashi Courts. Experience and wisdom are required to effectively handle issues with due sensitivity and regard for the customs and traditions of the people. NCS officers rise to the rank of DC after almost 20 years of service, unlike IAS officers who are eligible in 4 years (inclusive of 2 years of training). This explains to some extent the dereliction of duty by these officers who are perhaps not mature enough to handle the challenges of the job.
The recent spate of inaccurate social media posts and articles about slighted IAS officers not being posted as DC is not new. It may even be seen as a positive development, an indicator that the situation is relatively peaceful in the State compared to earlier years; orders can be passed and followed without threat to life. Hence, many IAS officers are eager to serve as Deputy Commissioners in the Districts. However, as this recent history has shown us, they are still not willing to serve in the State during emergencies or otherwise.
The IAS cadre in the State is 94 strong. Of this 94, 33% is to be filled by the State Civil Services, so at any given point of time there ought to be 63 IAS (RR) officers in the State. Presently there is barely half that number even counting those on leave because many are away on deputation and continue to extend and overstay their deputation period. They return to Nagaland for their cooling period and leave as quickly as they can after. If the earlier reason was security now it is that their children cannot access quality education or that they cannot be with their families. They continue to change their cadre at the same rate as they used to, even as recent as a 2017 batch officer. Even as recently as the 2013 General elections, the ECI directed that all Deputy Commissioners in the state should be IAS officers but there were not enough eligible officers the State to man the posts. Perhaps, the era of the reluctant suitcase bureaucrat is not yet over in Nagaland.
Doesn’t our State deserve more than a reluctant suitcase bureaucrat? The office of the Deputy Commissioner is crucial, not only as an administrative office but also because the Deputy Commissioners over see all developmental works executed in the districts. It is a full time assignment that requires an officer to be always present. Developmental works may not become emergencies overnight but as we have stated earlier Nagaland is a State that is balancing a variety of factors that have no parallel in the country and it is the moral responsibility of the Deputy Commissioner to ensure that these are contained. It is difficult to accept that officers who are unwilling or unable to be in station even during emergencies will be present and functioning during peaceful times.
The structure of the Nagaland Civil Services has changed with the changes in the State. The member officers have been moulded in the unique historical circumstances of the State. We have served in the most remote stations in the harshest circumstances, some of our members have had to face raging bloodbaths in our first postings right out of the Administrative Training Institute, but you would be hard pressed to find any of our members that fled from their responsibilities in such circumstances. The Nagaland Civil Service officers were not posted as Deputy Commissioners because we asked for the post; we were posted by the State Government that understood that only we could manage the districts during difficult times. Our postings as Deputy Commissioners are rooted in the historical circumstances of the State and not out of parochial or personal
The encadrement of all Deputy Commissioner posts in the State to the IAS may be true on paper but it is not true in practice. This is not because the State Government broke any rules but because historical circumstances necessitated it. It should be at the discretion of the State Government to assign the officers it considers suitable to this important post.
(W. HONJE KONYAK) NCS