Given the huge gap in numbers, the present administration’s working, particularly its efficiency is being questioned.
Srinagar, J&K —
The Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh are facing ‘acute shortage’ of IAS and IPS officers, as per Home Ministry which also sought urgent deployment from the cadre-controlling authorities.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has written letters to all cadre-controlling authorities to ‘provide the name(s) of suitable officer(s), eligible for deputation… and willing to serve in the Governments of UT of J&K / UT of Ladakh.’
MHA has sent requests to Railway Board chairman, Controller General of Accounts (CGA), Comptroller Auditor General of India (CAG), Ministries of Defence, External Affairs, Corporate Affairs, and Information and Broadcasting, Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) and Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC).
How ‘acute’ is the shortage?
The erstwhile State of Jammu & Kashmir had a stipulated cadre strength of 137 IAS officers but currently, only 58 serving officers are there in the cadre. Also, the former State had a stipulated cadre strength of 147 IPS officers but currently, only 66 serving officers are there in the cadre.
Given the huge gap in numbers, the present administration’s working particularly its efficiency is being questioned.
History of the ‘shortages’
The issue of shortage of officers in Jammu and Kashmir is not new. Sources in the J&K administration say that very few officers are sent to J&K every year through direct recruitment.
“Four to five officers should be allotted to J&K on average but, actually, not more than one or two are allotted,” they reveal on the condition of anonymity, saying that the phenomenon has been there for the last three decades.
The related statistics also paint a grim picture. From 1987 to 2010, only one to two officers were inducted into the cadre; From 2010 to 2015, four officers were allotted to this cadre annually, which was comparative acceptable; Since 2015, only one to two officers were inducted into the cadre. In 2019 as well, only one officer was allotted the J&K cadre.
Cadre selection induced shortage and insufficient allocation
The all-India services like Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS) and Indian Forest Service (IFS) are controlled through cadre. After being recruited by UPSC, training is provided by the Central government but their cadre is a specific State/UT.
Experts believe that there are two main reasons for the shortage of all-India Service officers in the erstwhile State, which include cadre selection induced shortage and insufficient allocation.
Except for home cadre (candidates from J&K), candidates give least preference to J&K cadre, given both its preference position while filing the detailed UPSC application form and the general uncertainties as far as governance in J&K is concerned.
Shortage of officers exacerbated after J&K’s Bifurcation
The erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir was bifurcated into two Union Territories – J&K and Ladakh – after being stripped of its special status (Article 370), resulting into two different administrative units but both of them being under Central government.
The new reality of two administrative units, with the division of the allotment of officers for two UTs, has exacerbated the shortage and worsened the things.
Can things be turned around?
As far as insufficient allocation is concerned, only the Central government can have a specific answer for this, given the issue is decades old. However, there is presently a general shortage of IAS officers throughout the country and even after recruitments, there is a process of rationing which results in fewer allocations. This macro-economic problem needs a long-term solution and regular recruitments could help alleviate the issue.
For the cadre selection induced shortage of officers, the Central government is already working on a proposal to merge the J&K cadre with AGMUT (Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Mizoram, Union Territories) in light of the reorganization of J&K. In the long-term, this will improve the preference of J&K among candidates as AGMUT cadre is well-known and preferred, given the fact that it includes the Union Territory of New Delhi as well.