Manipur’s tryst for a native Chief Secretary

Michael Lamjathang Haokip

The appointment of Chief Secretary had never been such sensationalised big news as with the present one, thanks to the unusual degree of interest taken by some student organisations over the appointment of the current Chief Secretary, Dr J. Suresh Babu.

 

To put into perspective, let’s take a look at some facts. At present in Manipur, with the retirement of Shri RR Rashmi, IAS on 31stMarch, 2018, there are eight IAS Officers with “Level 17 in the Pay Matrix”, which is the highest apex pay scale for an IAS officer. Out of that eight IAS Manipur cadre, three are from native Manipur namely Shri AmeisingLuikham, Shri RamnganingMuivah and Shri O. Nabakishore Singh. The remaining five are Non-native Manipuri viz. Shri Ajay Narayan Jha, Shri NikhileshJha, Shri Shambhu Singh, Dr.SuhelAkhtar and Dr J. Suresh Babu.

 

Currently, five of the officers are on central deputation including two native officers viz. Shri AmeisingLuikham and Shri RamnganingMuivah. The other three non-native Manipuri officers who are on central deputation include Shri Ajay Narayan Jha, Shri NikhileshJha and Shri Shambhu Singh. One native officer, who was also the former Chief Secretary of the state, is Shri O. Nabakishore Singh, whose name was unfortunately embroiled in the infamous multi-crore rupees MDS scam of the previous government and hence been shunted from the post of Chief Secretary. Therefore, the only two available most eligible candidates for Chief Secretary of the state are Dr.SuhelAkhtar and Dr J. Suresh Babu, both of 1986 batch.

 

Of the two most eligible officers, considering the potential to deliver best governance in an efficient manner in his government, Hon’ble Chief Minister, in his good wisdom, might have chosen Dr. J. Suresh Babu. It may also be prudent and sensible that amongst all the officers with same years of experience in different expertise, selecting Tom, Dick or Harry is not a problem for the people of Manipur.

 

The desire to have a native person as Chief Secretary, as drummed up by some leading student organizations in the state, is indeed not a bad idea within its limited domain. But, to politicise it and trying to make it an issue; threatening the government and forcefully pursuing for native Chief Secretary, will only amount to rise in communal disharmony for IAS being an all India Service is not confined to Manipur state alone unlike the Manipur Civil Services. It will also amount to violation of the sanctity of the Indian Constitution. At present, as discussed, it is pertinent to note that a native Chief Secretary could only be referred to Shri AmeisingLuikham and Shri RamnganingMuivah only, both of whom are on central deputations.

 

Seniority, of course, is a part of the eligibility criteria for the appointment of Chief Secretary. But, originating from the same state is never the lone criteria, deciding factor and only eligibility to become a Chief Secretary. This is what few leading student organizations/individuals who are demanding for a native Chief Secretary should bear in mind.

 

It is now clear that the post of Chief Secretary in Manipur has been already politicized due to the direct involvement of certain student organizations. Urging for a native Chief Secretary is one thing, but politicising the post of Chief Secretary is quite another. Even as it may be desirous to have a native Chief Secretary, launching intense agitations for the said post seems to have gone a little too far than desired. It can only adversely affect the career of the other two senior officers of native origin.

 

In this fast developing and changing global world, Manipur too need rapid development even in respect of student community. It is believe that there are many bigger, higher and challenging issues which our student community can focus than that of the post of Chief Secretary to be a native inhabitant.

 

Whoever is appointed as the state’s Chief Secretary, it should be accepted in good faith and should there be any criticism, it should be based on the performance of the officer and not on their nativity or race. It would be wrong, unfair and unjust to form an assumption that a non-native Chief Secretary will be unjust, inefficient or incapable of serving the native communities.

 

Whoever is appointed as the state’s Chief Secretary should be accepted and allowed to function most effectively, and any criticism or objection should be based on the performance and merit of the officer and purely public interest, not on their nativity, ethnicity or race. It would be wrong, unfair and unjust to form an assumption that a non-native Chief Secretary will be unjust, inefficient or incapable of serving the native communities.

 

This is not the first time the state has a non-native IAS officer as Chief Secretary. There had also been non-native Chief Secretaries during previous governments. It is most likely that it will not be the last time either. Unless there is a very strong case for objection in public interest on grounds of misconduct or breach of business rules, the appointment of the Chief Secretary is better left to the business of the government as usual.