Creation of the departments in the State Government has not always followed administrative logic. While there are 77 departments in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra manages with just 29 and Andhra Pradesh with 30.
Small states like Himachal and Uttarakhand have more than 40 departments each.
Though, from time to time many states have constituted their own Reforms Commissions and Committees to suggest improvements in the functioning of the secretariat, the system has remained by and large immune to change.
As the Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC) in its 15th report has said, “The overall impression of the Secretariat is of an unwieldy, slow-moving organization with an in-built propensity for delays”.
A state government consisting of too many departments suffers from the following inherent disadvantages. There is diffusion of responsibility and accountability among the large number of functionaries working under different vertical structures.
Coordination becomes a major issue and decision making becomes difficult and time consuming. It leads to needless expansion of the bureaucracy. Its own management takes a major part of the government’s attention. The structure often, becomes more important than considerations of efficiency, responsiveness and service to people.
The Secretariat is at the apex of the State administration and its main function is to assist the political executive —the Chief Minister and other Ministers.
The political executive is elected for a fixed tenure, but the Secretariat consists of civil servants and others who are permanent employees of the government. Hence the Secretariat provides continuity to government policies and programmes.
The 15th report of the ARC which has examined the problem of growing number of state departments has said, “Often, an activity which is insignificant in terms of both functions as well as budgetary allocation is converted into a full-fledged department”.
According to the ARC, the emergence of a large number of regional parties during the last four decades has led to a situation in which coalition governments and hence large sized Council of Ministers in States have become regular features of the Indian polity. “The large number of Ministers has in turn led to creation of new departments or splitting up of the existing ones”, the report said.
The 15th report has recommended that each of the Secretariat departments should ideally deal with a particular segment of administrative activities which are inter-related and are more or less homogenous. It should also provide an in-built mechanism for coordination of policies and programmes. The ARC is of the view that “a small and compact Secretariat in which all related activities and functions are kept together in one department with more responsibilities devolved on local governments and executive work (not related to policy making and broader monitoring), hived off to executive agencies, is a sine qua-non for good governance at any level of public administration. Hence, there is need to rationalize the number of Secretariat Departments in the State Governments”.