Suitcase bureaucrats and historical circumstances: NCSA says assigning officers is at government’s discretion - Eastern Mirror
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Suitcase bureaucrats and historical circumstances: NCSA says assigning officers is at government’s discretion

By EMN Updated: Jul 26, 2020 8:11 pm

Dimapur, July 26 (EMN): Citing the era of ‘suitcase bureaucrats’— referred to a section of IAS officers posted to Nagaland, and the Northeast in general, who were notorious for staying out of the region on any pretext — the Nagaland Civil Service Association (NCSA) has asserted that their postings as deputy commissioners (DC) over the years are “rooted in the historical circumstances of the state, and not out of parochial or personal ambition”.

The association issued a statement on Sunday in response to what it said was “the recent spate of inaccurate social media posts and articles about slighted IAS officers not being posted as DC”. This, it reminded, is nothing new.

“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 (regular recruit) 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 in the state to man the posts. Perhaps, the era of the reluctant suitcase bureaucrat is not yet over in Nagaland,” read the statement.

Tragedies shaped bureaucracy

In February 1974, the then DC of Zunheboto, KK Gupta, an IAS officer, was killed in an ambush in Nunumi village, it narrated. Gupta had been the first DC of the district.

An NCS officer, SB Chetri, the then ADC of Mokokchung, was immediately sent to replace the slain Gupta.

In March 1995, the then DC of Kohima, Dr. LV Reddy, another IAS officer, was shot dead in Kohima town. His immediate replacement, the NCSA pointed out, was the NCS officer Visutha Angami, followed by another NCS officer M Zhasa, after a few months.

“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,” the association stated.

It reminded that the 1990s were difficult years for administration in Nagaland. “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 of Zunheboto.”

The association stated that officers have disappeared even during the present Covid19 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 quarantine 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,” the statement read.

It went on to remind that 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.

“Doesn’t our state deserve more than a reluctant suitcase bureaucrat?” it asked.

The encadrement of all deputy commissioner posts in the state to the IAS may be true on paper, the NCSA stated, but not 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,’ it maintained.

By EMN Updated: Jul 26, 2020 8:11:49 pm