Kohima, July 27 (NEx): The Nagaland Civil Services Association (NCSA) in a statement issued today, July 26, 2020, said that the Nagaland Civil Service officers were not posted as Deputy Commissioners because they asked for the post; they were posted by the State Government. Their postings as Deputy Commissioners are rooted in the historical circumstances of the State and not out of parochial or personal ambition, said the President, Honje Konyak, in a statement.
NCSA mentioned that, two tragic incidents- ambush of DC Zunheboto (1974) and DC Kohima (1995), greatly shaped bureaucracy in Nagaland, which 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. Perhaps, the era of the reluctant suitcase bureaucrat is not yet over in Nagaland, it added.
Looking back to the 70’s and 80’s, the NCSA said that Regular Recruit (RR) IAS officers were thin on the ground, the IAS officers serving in the State were mostly those inducted from the Indian Frontier Area Service and Nagaland Civil Service; who held not only the posts of Deputy Commissioner but some even went on to become Chief Secretaries of the State.
Referring to the 90’s, the association said that the years were difficult for administration in the State. 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 Zunheboto’.The district was left to the charge of ADC Ms. Tovili Sema, NCS till the Government realised that the officer wasn’t coming back and posted Mr M.I. Borah, NCS as Deputy Commissioner Zunheboto.
The association further apprised that the State has seen officers disappearing during emergencies even during the present COVID-19 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. Some 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.
Questioning the premium placed on the life and liberty of IAS officers in the State, the NCSA agreed to the quotation- “DCs/DMs are the lynchpin of administration, whether it be law and order or development schemes…”, and said this was as true 30 years ago as it is now, or perhaps even more so, as back then death-threats were given regularly as were house and office visits, irrespective of the service or the department. When the IAS officers availed their legal or illegal options to stay away from the State fearing for their lives and personal security, the NCS officers were sent in their place as Deputy Commissioners.
‘There have been times when NCS officers have been placed in situations where we have had to act against our own people, sometimes at great personal cost. Insurgency isn’t the only issue that has afflicted our State; we have also witnessed bitter violence on inter-tribal and land issues. Our officers have faced death threats and some of us have narrowly escaped with our lives on occasions’, added the association.
Despite the DoPT notifications that State otherwise, NCS officers have occupied the DC posts in the State from as early as 1973 when Mr I. Imkongmar Aier was posted as DC Phek. NCS officers rise to the rank of DC after almost 20 years of service, unlike IAS officers who are eligible in 4 years (inclusive of 2 years of training). This explains to some extent the dereliction of duty by these officers who are perhaps not mature enough to handle the challenges of the job, stated NCSA.
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 (RR) 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. The association alleged that they return to Nagaland for their cooling period and leave as quickly as they can after.
The office of the Deputy Commissioner is crucial, not only as an administrative office but also because the Deputy Commissioners oversee all developmental works executed in the districts. It is a full time assignment that requires an officer to be always present. It is difficult to accept that officers who are unwilling or unable to be in station even during emergencies will be present and functioning during peaceful times. NCSA further questioned, ‘Doesn’t our State deserve more than a reluctant suitcase bureaucrat?’
The encadrement of all Deputy Commissioner posts in the State to the IAS may be true on paper but it is not true 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, added NCSA.