Call it a classical case of poor planning or government’s indifference, but if the backbone of the state’s administration — the Gujarat Administrative Service (GAS) cadre — is grappling with more than 30% vacancies, something is rotten in the state (of affairs) in Gandhinagar! Even as the state government tom-toms the Gujarat model of development, the government seems to have failed to put its own house in order. What is worse is that situation is set to get worse in the coming years if immediate measures to rectify the situation are not initiated.
The sanctioned strength of GAS cadre is 580, of which 165 posts are lying vacant. The cadre strength will shrink further as the around 60 – 70 officers will either retire or be promoted to the IAS cadre in the next two years.
“The GAS cadre is the most important cadre in the state administration after IAS. There are 30% vacancies even in IAS cadre, but it continues to get new blood every year. In the case of GAS, there has not been direct recruitment for over a decade,” said a senior official.
The direct recruitment of deputy collector grade officers last took place in the state in 1998, a full 15 years ago. The government didn’t recruit deputy collectors all these years citing excess strength of the cadre. However, things seem to have come to a boil now as the cadre is functioning at just about 70% strength. “GAS is the cadre that runs the show, but it is also the most neglected. Promotions are inevitably delayed and there is no meritocracy. Whims and wishes of the government rule the roost,” rued an officer.
In absence of direct recruitment, the government has kept the GAS cadre going by promoting mamlatdar-grade officers. Around 20 such officers are promoted every year, but the number is grossly inadequate. More officers cannot be promoted as it would lead to a skewed or imbalanced cadre.
GAS cadre is divided into four scales – deputy collector, additional collector, selection and apex.
The sanctioned strength of deputy collector grade is 350 of which 94 are vacant. Sanctioned strength of additional collector grade is 174 of which 55 are vacant. Similarly, in the case of selection grade, sanctioned posts are 56 of which 16 are vacant.
“There are 14 sanctioned posts in apex scale, but not a single officer has been promoted to this grade,” said another GAS official.
GAS officers have a wide range of postings, of which the most common are as sub divisional magistrate, land acquisition officer, district supply officer, stamp duty, resident additional collector, among others. The much touted Apno Taluko Vibrant Taluko (ATVT) is also about key responsibilities to GAS officers. Many officers also serve as secretaries to ministers. “The state cadre has been constantly ignored. Forget about filling vacancies, even promotions are given after long delays,” said another officer.
The state’s General Administration Department (GAD), however, is set to rectify the past mistakes and is giving final touches to a five-year recruitment programme.
“A recruitment drive, unprecedented in scale for any government in the country, is being planned to bridge the shortfall. The number of vacancies across cadres that will arise in the next five years is being ascertained as part of this drive,” said a GAD official.
Direct recruitment of deputy collector grade officers last took place in the state way back in 1998.