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Uttar Pradesh: Major administrative reform on the cards

A major administrative restructuring of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) Uttar Pradesh government has long been on the cards.

Back in 2017, after the formation of the saffron government in the state, deputy chairman of the NITI Aayog Rajeev Kumar had visited Lucknow on May 10. To improve the effectiveness of the Adityanath government, Kumar had recommended that the chief minister reduce the total number of departments in the state government. To examine this proposal, the chief minister formed a joint working committee under the chairmanship of then-health minister Siddharth Nath Singh, following which he constituted a committee for the reorganisation of departments under the chairmanship of then-additional chief secretary Sanjay Agarwal. This committee, in 2019, had suggested a restructuring of the 95 departments at the government level into 57.

In 2020, a new committee was formed under the chairmanship of Uttar Pradesh RERA (Real Estate Regulatory Authority) chairman and former chief secretary Rajive Kumar. This committee was asked for recommendations on the government’s systems of rationalisation, the effectiveness and efficiency of administrative workforces and an assessment of their objectives. In the first week of January, it recommended that the department-restructuring plan recommended by the Sanjay Agarwal committee be implemented as soon as possible.

The Rajive Kumar committee has also made several other important suggestions to improve state administration. It has recommended that the state Niti Aayog conduct policy research to boost ideological exchange between departments. Area-specific recommendations have also been made, including developing a system to manage the demand and supply of water resources across the state in an integrated manner. In this, basin water management authorities are to be constituted for the eight major rivers in the state; these will be formed in water management departments. The current recommendation is that officers be deployed in sub-basin authority units from the existing departmental strength.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, an official at the secretariat administration department says, “[Our] department will take action on the reorganisation of departments at the secretariat level and the merger of revenue and other departments. The integration of the departments of social welfare, backward classes welfare, minority welfare, department of empowerment of persons with disabilities, the minority finance development corporation and the backward classes finance development corporation will be done by the social welfare department. The department of finance will restructure and strengthen the directorate, project design and evaluation divisions. The mandate of the irrigation and water resources and water power departments will be re-determined by the irrigation and water resources department. The divisions under the planning department will be restructured by the planning department.”

A former state additional chief secretary says, “There are more employees than jobs in some departments and there is a shortage of employees at other places. The restructuring of departments will remove this discrepancy. The reorganisation will also help improve administrative and economic management. Expenditure is expected to decrease at many levels. The work will be done faster.”

In its report, the committee describes the workings of the social welfare, backward classes and minority welfare departments as almost identical. These departments will integrate into one. Similarly, the minority finance development corporation and backward classes finance development corporation will be integrated into the scheduled castes, scheduled tribes finance and development corporation. Other recommended reforms include restructuring the existing headquarters offices and directorates under the finance department, with adjustments in the number of district level posts in the treasury and other offices. Similarly, the directorate of savings has been asked to integrate with the treasury directorate, while the directorate of budget and directorate of physical planning and resources will merge, with a re-determining of tasks and responsibilities.

The financial statistical directorate has recommended a reorganising of posts in the treasury directorate and the local fund audit directorate and the chief audit officer cooperative societies via a merger. Also, since the personnel department is the nodal department for training of personnel in the state, there is a proposal to end the training works being carried out by the planning department and to bring that task under the control of the personnel department. Other integrations include the land use council, currently functioning out of the state planning department, being transferred to the state planning commission, the UP state bio-energy board being transferred to the department of alternative energy and the Giri development studies institute being transferred to the department of higher education.

The chief secretary’s office has sought opinions from additional chief secretaries, principal secretaries and secretaries of all the departments on the suggestions and recommendations of the committee. Officers have been asked to provide thoughtful and unambiguous data on the proposals by January 22. The speed at which this restructuring exercise is carried out may also have an impact on the Adityanath government’s cabinet expansion, in which several departments currently overseen by multiple ministers may be merged into each other.

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