The Bureaucratic Divide


The recent divide within the bureaucracy of Assam is neither a healthy sign nor conducive to efficient administration, though most observers would concede that such ‘caste systems’ are inevitable where there are two different sets of bureaucrats obliged to work within the same framework of the administrative system. Much of the present conflict within the administration in Assam stems from the fact that the administration has officers both from the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) as well as the Assam Civil Service (ACS). Much of the trouble arises from the fact that the IAS officers (though much fewer in number) regard themselves as a class apart and much superior to the ACS officers. This is mainly because the Indian Civil Service or ICS of the British days got rechristened as the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) after Independence. The fact that there was a vast difference in standards between the ICS and IAS examinations and therefore between those who succeeded in getting into the two services was never formally acknowledged by the Indian bureaucracy. As a result, those who got into the IAS continued to believe that they were as good as the people who had earlier become ICS officers. This was quite a good distance away from the truth. Thereafter, something else happened to make the difference between the ICS and the IAS even more pronounced. Year after year, the standards set for the IAS examinations declined to make it easier to get into the IAS. Quite expectedly, the laissez faire principle, so popular in India, was inducted into the selection mechanism designed for the IAS and the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) as well. So we now have a whole lot of people in the IAS whose IQ levels as well as their language proficiency (so vital for all administrative officers) is now open to question.
Be that as it may, our administrative framework has to manage with two different selection procedures geared for two separate administrative (or civil) services. One is the IAS and the other the ACS. Besides, one cannot overlook the fact that IAS officers are in short supply in Assam because not many young men and women of the State are clearing the IAS examinations and not many IAS officers from other States are opting to serve in Assam. So there will always be a shortage of IAS officers in Assam, and the State will always have to bank heavily on ACS officers. This is a fact of life that the IAS officers posted to Assam must always bear in mind in order to be in a better frame of mind to ensure that the State administration is run as efficiently as possible even with its very limited number of IAS officers and a much larger number of ACS officers. This objective is certainly not achieved by planning for the welfare of IAS officers rather than the welfare of the State. The objective is not achieved by scheming and plotting to keep the ACS officers out of the top plum posts of the administration. Unfortunately, this is what seems to be on the cards now. The IAS officers of Assam are doing everything possible to ensure that ACS officers cannot rise to the top positions of the administration within the same number of years as an IAS officer can. Besides, one cannot have an efficient democratic system or even an efficient bureaucracy in a system where one section of the bureaucracy is busy plotting to keep the other section out of the top positions or to make sure that it takes much longer for an ACS officer to get promotions needed to get to the top. If IAS officers imagine that they are a very special kind of species or that the State’s administration cannot run without them, they are wrong on both counts.