Central secretariats in states? Good idea if they only monitor central schemes and do not get politicised

By: | Updated: October 24, 2018 2:37 AM

The Centre is planning to establish secretariats in each state capital in a bid to streamline interactions between Central and state government authorities and improve performance of central schemes.

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The Centre is planning to establish secretariats in each state capital in a bid to streamline interactions between Central and state government authorities and improve the performance of central schemes. As per a report in The Economic Times, the planned facilities will have space to hold meetings, house accommodation for those officers waiting on state-provided accommodation and, crucially, will serve as platforms from which central government officers interact with the local population, especially on implementation/delivery-related grievances.

The move follows a detailed discussion in the Cabinet at which the requirement for centralised offices for all government programmes and functions was underlined. Currently, Central government offices in states are scattered across cities and some still have not even found space. The Centre is moving on the proposal with haste, evident from the fact that the Prime Minister’s Office has already sent the proposal to the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) for the identification and collation of available lands for the construction of the secretariats.

As far as monitoring implementation of central schemes by state governments and improving interaction/coordination with the state governments are concerned, the proposal is a sound one. Where it becomes fraught with risks for India’s federal structure is when the secretariat assumes a sounding-board role for public grievances.

In India’s federal democracy, the Union and the state governments have clearly demarcated duties and functions. These duties are apportioned on the basis of division of power between the two administrative authorities such that the demands of the local population are met through state governments while the Union handles critical governance subjects like national security and other larger functions. The central secretariat becoming a spokesperson for the people in a state risks the politicisation of the office, especially in states where an opposition party at the Union level is in power. No doubt, the Centre’s officials holding meetings and dialogues with their state counterparts is a necessity for improving performance of key initiatives; therefore, the central secretariats’ role should remain limited to that.

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