What is the relation between executive agencies and the secretariat of India

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The existence of Secretariat as an entity separate from the executive agencies is based on the belief that the task of policy-making needs to be separated from that of its execution development administra­tion must necessarily move towards decentralization which means that effective power and authority must be possessed by the executive agencies.

Though the number of executive agencies has steadily risen over the years, there has not been an increase in their power corresponding to their responsibili­ties.

It is common knowledge that the Secretariat performs a lot of policy-executing tasks of an original nature which could readily be passed on to the executive agencies. However, what need to be noted is that the relations between the Central Secretariat and the executive agencies have been quite strained and tension-ridden instead of gradually becoming cooperative and amiable.

There are six principal pat­terns of relationship developed at the Central level, between the secretariat and the executive agencies. These may briefly be discussed here:

(1) There is complete merger between the ministry and heads of executive departments. The examples are the Railway Board and the Ministry of Railways, the Posts and Telegraphs Board and the Ministry of Communications. This pattern is most suitable for organisations undertaking work of an opera­tional or commercial nature.

(2) In the second pattern, a senior officer of the ministry concurrently operates as head of the executing department. In this way he becomes responsible both for formulation of policies and for its implemen­tation with the assistance of the common office located in the Ministry. The Additional Secretary in the Department of Agriculture is the Director-General of Food. But the main disadvantage of this pattern is that the system completely blurs the functions of the Secretariat and the head of an execu­tive department.

(3) The ministry's Office is merged in the office of the executive department. The common office serves both the Secretariat offices and the officers of the executive office. The advantages of this arrangement are that any administrative proposal is examined only once, thus, expediting the disposal of cases, and, secondly it results in sizeable economy - office maintenance be­comes more economical.

(4) The ministry and the executive department continue to have separate officers but have com­mon files and common file bureau, all located in the organisation of the executive agency. This pattern has significant advantages but it does not do away with the problems of separate offices with duplicate staff and double scrutiny. A good example is the Ministry of Defence and the Air Force Headquarters.

(5) The ministry and the executive departments continue to have separate offices and separate files but the head of the Executive Office is given an ex-officio Secretariat status. Thus, the Textile Commissioner is the ex-officio Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Commerce.

This pattern has the following advantages:

Under this arrangement, there is considerable saving of time as well as the paper work, as every matter does not travel up to the Secretariat for finalization. Also, the accepted policy is implemented in a more efficient manner, as the head of the office, because of his secretariat status is fully aware of the background in which the policy was framed. Its major drawback, however, is that it goes against the fundamental principle of secretariat system, namely, policy-making must remain separated from policy I implementation.

(6) Both the Ministry and the executive agency have separate and distinct offices and files of their own, and consultation between them occurs through self-contained letters. This is the standard pattern both at the Centre and in the States.

This pattern is based on the dichotomy between staff and line. The ministry is Staff: the executive office is Line. An example is the Directorate General of All India Radio in relation to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. In other words, in this pattern, a wider perspective is brought to bear on the examination of a proposal. Secondly, it is always desir­able to have a specialist's scheme scrutinized by a layman.

Thirdly, this arrangement provides for a division of work between the Secretariat and the executive agencies. The former concentrates on policy-making and the latter on the execution of the policy. The disadvantage of this arrangement is that, this scheme is processed twice in two different offices. This involves duplication of work and cause delay.

Each pattern has thus advantages as well as disadvantage. No hard and fast rules can be laid down regarding the pattern of relationship which could be appropriate to a particular sphere of governmental activity. The pattern has to be so tailored as to suit the nature of activities or the past experience of the organisation. Nevertheless, neither absolute separation nor absolute merger of both is normally desir­able.

Subordinate offices

A Subordinate Office functions as the field establishment or as the agency responsible for the detailed execution of the decisions taken by the Government. A Subordinate Office normally functions under an Attached Office. But where there is no Attached Office under a ministry, it operates directly under the ministry.

The criteria of classifying a certain organisation as the Attached Office and another one as the Subordinate Office are neither well defined nor consistently followed. Although it is the Subordinate Office, which is responsible for the execution of the policy or decisions of the Government, it has been accorded a distinctly inferior status, as is indicated by the label, 'Subordinate'.

The pay scales of personnel in the Subordinate Offices are the lowest; and their future prospects are not bright. The employees in these offices very often do the same type of work and possess the same qualification as the Secretariat personnel. Despite that, the Subordinate Offices continue to be accorded an unreasonably lower status.


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