As the head of the state administrative machinery, it is the duty of the Chief Secretary to coordinate the activities of all the departments and agencies of the state government. He is expected to resolve conflicts, mitigate overlapping of work among various government departments and bring about cooperation and teamwork among his colleagues and subordinates.
In the words of Mangat Rai: “The Chief Secretary is a coordinator to other men’s work, the grain destined for palatable or inedible movement between the upper mill-stone of the politician and the more substantial millstone of the civil services.” There are three levels at which such coordination has to be achieved. These are:
(a) Between the Centre and the state.
(b) At the inter-state level.
(c) At the intra-state level.
We are taking the first two levels together because these two explain his links and role outside the boundaries of his state.
(a) Centre-State and Inter-State Coordination:
The Chief Secretary is a major channel of communication between the Centre and the state governments. In matters like planning, financial and personnel management, the activities of the two are closely interlinked.
For this purpose, he keeps regular contacts with the Central level functionaries such as the Cabinet Secretary, the Home Secretary, the Personnel Secretary and the Planning Secretary through both formal and informal channels. His contacts with these senior officers helps him in securing financial and other resources for the state such as allocation of food grains, power, water etc.
There is also a network of conferences called and councils set up by the Central government, which is used for the purpose of bringing about greater coordination. The following are examples of such conferences and councils.
The Chief Secretaries Conference:
This conference is attended by the Chief Secretaries of all the states and is presided over by the Cabinet Secretary of the Government of India. It is held annually in New Delhi.
The agenda is decided upon by the Central and state governments. It is an open-ended conference and all subjects concerning state administration can be discussed in it subjects of common importance sister of the states, one nominee of the Planning Commission, the Chief Secretaries of all the states in the zone and the Development Commissioner of each member-state.
The secretary ship of the Zonal Council is assigned by rotation to the Chief Secretaries of the member-states. These councils provide sub-federal links between the Centre and the states. More specially, they: sub-federal links between the Centre and the states. More specially, they:
(a) Promote cooperation among states in the execution of development projects;
(b) Enable the Centre and the states to exchange ideas and experiences to facilitate the formulation of uniform policies; and
(c) Help the states in solving their disputes with one another. It may be pointed out that these councils do not meet as regularly as they should and, thus, have become almost defunct bodies. Nevertheless, through such conferences and councils, the Chief Secretary can bring about better coordination between the state and the Centre and also among the states themselves.
The Chief Secretary also acts as an important coordinating link in inter-state disputes relating to boundaries, sharing of electricity and river-waters. These matters are thrashed out at his level first and then referred to the Chief Minister and the cabinet.
(b) Intra-State Coordination:
The Chief Secretary, by virtue of his position and status, is able to bring about effective coordination in the state administration. To begin with, he is the head of the secretariat administration, comprising several departments, each headed by a secretary. The Chief Secretary is the de-facto leader of this team of secretaries.
As head of the secretariat, he supervises all the major activities of the departments, resolves inter-departmental differences and promotes inter-agency coordination. In fact, as the Secretary to the Council of Ministers promotes inter-agency coordination. In fact, as the Secretary to the Council of Ministers, the Chief Secretary represents the entire administration. All papers of different departments reaching the Council/cabinet are routed through him.
For instance, in Madhya Pradesh, all cases requiring inter-departmental coordination are sent to the Chief Minister and to the cabinet through him. In this respect, the Rajasthan Administrative Reforms Committee had commented: “The Chief Secretary should be in a position to effectively coordinate the work of different secretariat departments and ensure that there is a certain degree of uniformity in the policies adopted by the state government with respect to different departments.” Accordingly, it recommended that all important cases involving new projects, new schemes, appointments, confirmation, postings, transfers and promotion of deputy heads of departments and above as well as matters requiring any deviation from the existing rules should be sent to the concerned ministers through the Chief Secretary.
The Chief Secretary further acts as coordinating authority by presiding over the meetings of the secretaries of various departments and helps resolve inter departmental issues. As already mentioned, he is also the chairman of all the Planning and Development Coordination Committees, wherever such committees function.
In these committees, the heads of all the departments and corporations get together to discuss problems of mutual concern. In Rajasthan, periodical meetings of these committees have proven to be important means of inter-agency coordination.
In order to provide effective coordination at the regional and district levels, Senior Officers Conferences are held annually, as for example in Rajasthan, at the state capital and are attended by the Divisional Commissioners, District Collectors, heads of the departments and Superintendents of Police.
Such meetings give the Chief Secretary first-hand knowledge of the progress and problems of the concerned districts. Secretaries to the Government are also invited to attend these conferences.