Odisha endorsing Spoils System in bureaucracy, Centre should intervene to rectify the 'blunder'

Government's decision to appoint a Principal Secretary to Government on contract is a clear endorsement of Spoils System that could have far reaching consequences and compromise political neutrality of state’s bureaucracy.

Odisha endorsing Spoils System in Bureaucracy

It was as early as 1858 when India adopted a permanent civil service appointed through competitive examination. UK adopted a similar system twelve years later and USA opted for such a system only twenty five years later. USA had been manning government posts by people picked up as political patronage. The pernicious system, known as Spoils System, started during the administration of President Andrew Jackson in 1829 and continued till it was abolished by a law known as the Pendleton Act in 1883. The merit system of recruitment commenced in India since 1858, and continued after India attained independence in 1947. Indian Civil Service (ICS) was considered one of the finest public services of the world and it became a model for other countries. The system insulated recruitments from political patronage and ensured neutrality of the civil service - so essential in a pluralistic society and a polity that has opted for a parliamentary democracy and a multi-party system. Spoils system was never the preferred option in India for manning government posts.

It is relevant to recall Odisha Chief Minister’s stand on contractual appointments. On October 14, 2022, Chief Minister said to the media, “I am delighted to announce that the State Cabinet has decided to abolish the contractual system of recruitment permanently – the era of contractual recruitment has come to an end. The Chief Minister further said, “In 2000, with the blessings of all of you I got an opportunity to serve mother Odisha. The post-Super Cyclone situation and the fragile financial conditions then were biggest challenges for me……. It was indeed a black period for the Odisha economy. The state exchequer was empty. There was tremendous pressure on our economy. We were lagging behind in various fields including health, education, infrastructure, agriculture, irrigation and many others. Our priority then was to bring improvement in all these sectors within our limited resources,” he added, “Under the circumstances, the government was forced to abolish regular posts. It was a difficult decision and very painful for me. The youths of my state were running from pillar to post for employment. The only thing that was on top of my mind was – when would the situation improve? When would our children get regular recruitment in state government?..... Now our economy has improved significantly. Odisha has created a new identity for itself in the field of development in the country.”