ARUNACHAL: The Services and Disservices

[ Ninong Ering & Abhishek Ranjan ]

“Public employees in a very real sense put the flesh on the bare bones of government”. -Richard Rose

An offshoot of the colonial civil service (an inherently elite regime with meager ties with the public of India), the present day Indian Civil Service has evolved into a more citizen-centric institution – one that realizes its basic purpose is the service of the Indian people. The relationship that civil servants should have with the people they serve cannot be overemphasized, and in that thread, in the land of the “Dawn-lit Mountains”, the administration needs an immediate overhaul.
Arunachal Pradesh was declared the 25th state of India in 1987. Being home to many ethnic tribes and at least 50 distinct languages (in addition to innumerable dialects and sub dialects), Arunachal Pradesh is known for its rich culture and diverse traditions. However, for administrative purposes, it is part of the AGMUT (Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Mizoram and Union Territories) cadre for allocation of the All India Services (IAS, IPS and IFS).
As a result of being clubbed in a joint cadre, Arunachal Pradesh ends up sharing the precision and expertise needed for its individual administration with disparate territories such as Goa and New Delhi, which neither have any socio-economic semblance with the state, nor any spatial continuation or cultural connection.
Owing to its regional and cultural uniqueness, Arunachal Pradesh should not be governed by the same officers as those in other components of AGMUT, given that the most important administrative skills are developed by IAS officers over time, with prolonged local presence and experience in a particular region, and are not easily transferrable to esoteric states like Arunachal.
The problem of governance in Arunachal Pradesh is further compounded by its being considered a ‘hard posting’ or ‘punishment posting’ within the AGMUT cadre, due to which many civil servants develop a reluctance towards the idea of being stationed in the state, thus stunting efficient administration and long-term development plans for AP. Even if some civil servants are driven to work for the state’s development, most of them remain posted in AP for average periods of two to three years before being transferred to a completely new region within the scope of AGMUT. The lack of a dedicated bureaucracy in Arunachal Pradesh is one of the biggest hurdles the state faces today, and perhaps the only workable solution to this problem is to allocate a separate cadre to it.
A separate cadre will ensure better administration, smoother enforcement of policies and enhanced development initiatives within the state.
I have also introduced a bill in this regard of separate cadre for Arunachal in the Lok Sabha in 2016 and it’s still pending. It will boost the trickle-down effect of benefits from governmental schemes to the grass-root level, which has remained a problem so far due to the peripatetic nature of bureaucracy that has governed the state so far. Added to this, the officers’ lack of adequate training and knowledge in matters specific to Arunachal is one of the biggest blockages in the state’s bureaucratic machinery. Awarding an individual cadre to Arunachal would not only ensure that officers are endowed with the best regional training and local experience, it would also create transparency in the system, and bring the people of Arunachal closer to their bureaucracy.
While it is clear that the removal of Arunachal from AGMUT carries innumerable benefits, it should also be kept in mind that AP’s uniqueness also means that there are no clear precedents for the best possible governance of states exactly like it.
In initiating the process for creating its own individual cadre, policymakers must remember to keep in mind factors such as number of officers to be allocated to AP, what criteria to be developed for selection, how best to train them in regional administration, and how to incentivize their deployment. A consultative process that acknowledges and scrupulously investigates the opinions of relevant stakeholders is necessary for providing Arunachal the administrative reforms it deserves. With these factors in mind, the era of a better-governed Arunachal is not too far! (Ninong Ering is MP, Arunachal East and Abhishek Ranjan is Policy Analyst. They can be reached at [email protected] and [email protected] respectively)