State Secretariats in India

State Secretariats in India

India has been made a federation and following the tradition of that federal system, State Secretariats have also been created in each of component states. The State Secretariats are the main administrative centers of the state governments.

The state secretariat conducts the different functions that come under the jurisdiction of the state government, co-ordinates the activities of different departments of the state government and carries the responsibilities of implementing the fiscal, administrative and other policies implemented or adopted by the state government.

According to Shriram Maheswari – “the expression secretariats is used to refer to the complex of departments whose heads, administratively are secretaries and politically are the ministers.” It should be remembered that a secretary is the secretary of the government of a state and not of any particular minster in whose department he belongs. They are the entire civil service cadre excepting the secretary of public works department, where the chief engineer of the department becomes the secretary. Generally a secretary of the state government has to look after the functions of different departments at a time and he is the chief of his subordinate departments as well as the principal adviser of the minister concern. The minister is the political chief of the department and the decisions he takes on different matters are to be implemented by the secretary concern. Moreover, the secretary of a department also acts as the representative of his department in different legislative committees formed by the state legislature.

In all the state government departments, the higher level of the bureaucratic set up generally consists of the secretary, the deputy secretary and the assistant secretaries. In the big departments there are two other secretaries—the additional secretary and the joint secretary. All of these bureaucrats have to work under fixed tenure system set by the government which means that they are appointed in that secretariat for a fixed time. They are thus appointed for a fixed period only and then transferred to other departments. But this term appointment is not applicable for the principal secretary or the chief secretary. Subordinate to these secretariat set up the real government office or department consists of the superintendent, assistants, a member of the upper division and lower division clerks, typists, stenographers, and the class IV staffs like the peon, jamadars, etc.

The rank of Principal secretary is above the other secretaries of various departments of the state.

Department of State Secretariats

There is no unanimity in the number of departments of the state secretariats and they vary from state to state. The number of such departments may vary from eleven to thirty-four, though in most of the states we generally find the existence of altogether twenty-two departments. These departments are— the general administration, home food and agriculture planning, Panchayati Raj, finance, law, public and water works, irrigation and power (electricity), education, industry, co-operative, transport, local self-government, prison, labour and employment, tax and tariff, fishery and animal husbandry, information, social welfare, forests etc. etc. It should also be remembered that the secretariat and the executive departments are not the same thing. The chief of the executive department is generally a specialist- person, but the secretary must always be an I.A.S. cadre. The head of the executive department performs his duties under the direct supervision of the secretary. Moreover, it is the duty of the secretariat to help the formation of all governmental policies, while the executive departments are responsible for implementing those policies into practice.

Functions of State Secretariats

Therefore the secretariat of a state has to do some specific and important functions.

  • First, the secretariat of the state determines the general program of activities of the state government.
  • Secondly, it prepares the annual budget of the state government after detailed discussion or consultation with the Finance Department of the state.
  • Thirdly, to implement the programs adopted by the political authority and the ministers, it is the duty of the secretariat to fix the policies and planning’s for the materialization of those programs and also to decide where and under what condition the loans or grants-­in-aids will be given.
  • Fourthly, it is the duty of the secretariat to observe and supervise the progress made in the formulation of those government policies.
  • Fifthly, the secretariat looks after if the money is spent in accordance with the term and conditions of the budget in each and every government departments.
  • Sixth, it is the duty of the secretariat to amend or modify the investment policy and programs of the government following the norms and classifications set by the Finance Ministry.
  • Seventh, the secretariat looks after the appointment, of the departmental heads of various departments, including their salaries, leave etc. and takes the necessary decisions thereof.
  • Eighth, it is the secretariat which gives the final shape to all proposed laws.
  • Ninth, the secretariat prepares and gives the documents of the questions to be answered by the ministers in the Legislative Assemblies and the Legislative Councils, where they are.
  • Tenthly, it is the duty of the secretariat to select the places and to provide spaces to the departments of the secretariat and to the departments associated with it for doing their internal day to day works and lastly, it is also the duty of the secretariat to select the representatives and delegates in the different central and state government seminars and workshops for training of different categories of employees.

In addition to these above mentioned jobs the State Secretariat has to do many other multifarious types of activities. It is true that gradually its work load and range of activities are increasing day by day. It cannot be denied that the secretariat is of great importance as the policy making institution of any state government, yet it is also true that the secretariats of the states nowadays are taking such an expansionist attitude that they are even interfering in the subjects which do not come under their purview or jurisdiction.

The parliamentary form of democracy is mainly responsible for such a massive growth of power of the state secretariat. The Ministerial responsibility to the Parliament, the minister’s obligation to answer different questions raised in the assembly floor, preservation of governmental documents etc. etc. everything requires the assistance and supervision of the State Secretariat. That is why the State Secretariat is being considered as the extended personality of the council of ministers.

However, to put some checks on this limitless expanding field of activities of the state secretariat, the Rajasthan Administrative Reforms Committee of 1963 recommended that the activities of the State Secretariat should be limited to three specific fields—viz., the general activities, the financial activities and the service matters. As regards the general activities, it should be kept limited within the works like providing assistance in the formation of general principles, policies and law making, coordinating the inter-departmental activities, making communications with the central government and other state governments, preparing the plans and programs, its formulation and amendments, to review the progress of the plans, preservation of the records of departmental enquiry and tours etc., participation in the All India and state level conferences, representing the state in different committees and in the legislature, delegation of power issuing notices about various law cases, to make declarations of appeals and corrigendum on behalf of the state government etc. etc.

Likewise as regards its financial activities the state secretariat is to examine and approve the departmental budgets, to examine and approve the decisions about investment and grants-in-aid, to pass the expenditure proposals, to approve these financial expenditures which the departmental head has no right to pass, to give permission to spend from the consolidated fund, to adjudicate and consider grievances about the office of the departmental heads etc.

In service matter the committee recommended that the secretariat should approve the rules and regulations of different services, look into the appointment of higher officials, their promotions, maintain the documents related with various disciplinary actions, the appointment and punishment of the employees appointed by the state civil service commission, creating of the posts which do not come under the jurisdiction of the departmental heads, their development, dismissal, reappointment special pay, old age pension etc. etc.

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