As at the Union level, each state has a secretariat of its own which is the highest echelon of the state administrative structure-offering locus for the exercise of authority by the state government.

The expression “secretariat” is used to refer to the complex of departments whose political heads are ministers while the administrative head are Secretaries to the Government. The entire administrative machinery of the state is divided into several departments.

The ministers are in charge of these departments and are answerable to the legislature for the activities therein. Below the ministers are posted in each department several career civil servants who carry out the orders of their political bosses, advise them and help them by providing necessary information required for facing the legislature and its committees.

A secretariat department is different from an executive department. The latter is the executive organization of the government and has at its top a functionary, generally known as the head of the department.


The Agriculture Department in the secretariat, for instance, is headed by the Secretary, Agriculture, but has the Director of Agriculture as its head of the department.

The latter is subordinate to the former. Not all secretariat departments have ‘executive departments’ attached to them, as some of them are engaged in an advisory and controlling capacity. Departments of Finance, Personnel, Planning, Administrative Reforms, Law, etc. come under this category.

The head of the department is generally a specialist and the secretary is a generalist civil servant, though there are a number of executive departments, which are headed by generalists and, conversely, a few (in fact, very few) secretariat departments are headed by specialists.

The number of secretariat departments is usually more than the number of secretaries. The normal practice is to entrust more than one department to the charge of one secretary though, in the case of major departments like Finance and Home, the secretaries have only single charge.


To assist the Cabinet in the dispersal of day-to-day work, there exists a Cabinet Secretariat at the state level also. It is called the State Secretariat. This was set up in different states at different times. The Chief Minister is the political head of the Cabinet Secretariat. Below him is the Chief Secretary who functions as the Secretary to the Council of Ministers. He is assisted by a special secretary of the IAS cadre.

A secretariat department has been defined as an organizational unit consisting of a Secretary to the Government, together with a part of the state secretariat under his administrative control to which responsibility for the performance of specified functions has been assigned under the Rules of Business framed for this purpose. As mentioned already, the secretariat is divided into a number of departments.

The exact number of departments varies from state to state. For instance, Sikkim, as of 1989, had only 15 departments, while most of the other states have 30 to 40 departments. But, there are a few departments which are common to all states, viz., General Administration, Personnel, Home, Finance, Agriculture, Public Works, Industries, Irrigation, Health, Education, Law, Medical, Planning, Information, Rural Development, Transport, Revenue etc.

Each state has experimented from time to time with new departments according to the needs of the time. Some have survived some have not. For instance, Sikkim, before its merger with the Indian Union in 1975, was under the Chogyal, who was also the religious head of the state. Hence, there exists even today the Ecclesiastical Department. It deals with the monasteries and all related matters.


During the Chogyal period, the Secretary for Ecclesiastical Affairs was functioning under the Chogyal. Now, it has its independent ministry under Ecclesiastical Minister. The state of Orissa too made and innovations, keeping in mind the tremendous growth in the sphere of state corporations. At one time, the state government had a Department of State Public Undertakings and Corporations with a view to bring the control and supervision of all these undertakings under a single specialized department of free the corporations from their primary linkage with the administrative departments. Consequently, this department was abolished.

Amalgamations, bifurcations, trifurcations and again mergers are a continuing process of departmentalization in India at the Union as well as the state levels.

Unlike in the USA, where such adjustments cannot be made without legislative approval, in India, the political executive is at liberty to design and redesign its administrative system. In Rajasthan, for instance, the Department of Education was bifurcated into two – one Department for Primary and Secondary Education and the other for Higher and Technical Education. This was done as late as 1993.

In states like Punjab and UP, separate departments have existed since long for different categories of education like School, Higher and Technical Education. Likewise, in Rajasthan, the Department of Personnel and Administrative Reforms has been split into two, the Art and Culture Department has evolved out of the Education Department, and Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Department co-exists with Special Schemes and IRD Department.


Besides the functionally specialized departments, there exist, in the secretariat, crucial organizations in the form of the Chief Minister’s Secretariat, Cabinet Secretariat and the office of the Chief Secretary, which, collectively, are the critical centres of policy making, control and coordination.

The basic pattern of organization in departments is broadly similar. The secretary is the official head and he is assisted by one or more additional/joint/special, deputy and under/assistant secretaries, depending upon the size of the department Nomenclatures of these officials differ from state to state.

In Rajasthan, for instance, the hierarchy comprises secretary, special secretary, deputy secretary and assistant secretaries, while in UP there are also joint secretaries who are above the rank of deputy secretaries. In Rajasthan, the designation of special secretary is given to an IAS officer who is of selection scale, while in Maharashtra; it is accorded to vary senior IAS officers in the super-time scale. Such differences are very common in the cross-state context. Further, a number of deputy and assistant secretaries belong to the state secretariat service.

Most of the secretaries to the Government are IAS officers. Only a few belong to the specialist services. For instance, in Rajasthan, the PWD secretary is an engineer. For a few years, even the secretary, Irrigation was an engineer. Each department is divided into a number of sections with the section officer as in charge. He is assisted by assistants, clerks, typists etc.