APCS officers submit casual leave applications over failure to conduct DPC meeting, defers agitation after govt’s intervention

[ Amar Sangno ]

ITANAGAR, 30 Nov: Anger over repeated cancellation of and refusal to hold departmental promotion committee (DPC) meetings, allegedly by the chief secretary, which had been simmering for a month, spilled over on Tuesday with hundreds of Arunachal Pradesh Civil Service (APCS) officers submitting applications for casual leave for two days.

The mass submission of applications for casual leave was part of the Arunachal Pradesh Civil Service Officers’ Association’s (APCSOA) agitation against Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar for not convening DPC meetings on time.

The APCSOA had on 9 November served an ultimatum to the chief secretary to conduct the DPC meeting within two weeks. The officers accused Kumar of showing a lackadaisical attitude towards their issue, depriving them of promotional avenues and career progression.

After the expiry of the ultimatum, the APCSOA on Sunday resolved to go on a two-day mass casual leave from 2 to 3 December.

Accusations have been made against the CS of deliberately not holding DPC meetings and ignoring the officers’ issue, thus depriving around 30 APCS officers whose promotions are due.

It is also alleged that no DPC meeting has been convened over the last one year. It is claimed that the chief secretary postponed the DPC meeting five times in three months – two times despite widely circulating information that it would be held, and three times after the dates had been fixed verbally.

A circular for holding a DPC meeting was issued on 4 September this year, scheduling the DPC meeting on 27 September at the chief secretary’s office. However, that did not happen, and later a circular was floated on 10 November, fixing the DPC meeting on 23 November, which also eventually did not happen, without any justification.

Unverified sources informed that around 30 proposals have been sent for DPC meetings for various grades, including three for senior administration grade, nine for administration grade, and seven for senior grades. The state has 483 sanctioned state civil service posts.

Ironically, the chief secretary has been harping on holding DPC meetings on a regular basis for filling up the vacancies occurring during the course of the year and to avoid denial of career growth of the eligible officers.

In an order issued on 8 July, the chief secretary reminded the heads of the departments regarding timely holding of DPC meetings in their respective departments, including submission of annual performance appraisal reports (APAR), vigilance clearance, seniority list, etc. It further warned the officers concerned that non-compliance with the instruction would invite disciplinary action.

Another order, issued on 26 August, 2020, states that “many genuine incumbents are being deprived of their career progression and promotion on time.”

“The delay in timely conduct of department promotion committee meeting is a gross negligence of official procedures and breach of the official position. Therefore, the departmental head shall be held responsible for delay in conduct of DPC,” the order reads.

The APCS officers argued that obtaining an NOC or vigilance clearance and annual property returns is a Herculean task. Once obtained, they have a validity of six months, they claimed.

“When all required documents have been submitted by the personnel department, why is there delay in convening DPC meeting?” asked an APCS officer who did not wish to be named.

“The chief secretary himself has been reminding every department on timely holding of DPC meetings. Now he is deliberately avoiding or ignoring our DPC. Isn’t this the biggest irony?” he said.

Another civil service officer accused the authority of “unnecessarily creating a gridlock which causes disproportionate avenues at higher grades.”

This daily contacted the chief secretary for his comment. However, he did not make any specific comment and denied the APCSOA’s accusation.

It is also alleged that some officers are responsible for not submitting the APARs, NOCs and annual property returns on time, causing delay in convening DPC meetings. However, in the current case, it is claimed that all documents have already been submitted.

Jolted by the bureaucrats’ action, the state government reportedly stepped in to pacify the agitated APCS officers. It is learnt that Home Minister Bamang Felix held a roundtable meeting with representatives of the APCSOA and pleaded with them to reconsider their mass casual leave agitation.

With Felix’s intervention, the government has rescheduled the DPC meeting on 7 December, 2021. Subsequently, the APCSOA has temporarily suspended its protest and asked the officers to recall their casual leave applications.

When contacted by The Arunachal Times, the APCSOA refused to comment on the latest development.