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Evolution of Central Secretariat:

What was earlier known as the office of the Governor General in British India has over the last two hundred years grown into a mammoth complex in keeping with the changes in the character, objective and nature of the Central government in India.

The Central government of Governor-General and three Councillors had a Secretariat of four departments at the end of the eighteenth century. Each department had a Secretary and a Chief Secretary was the head of all of them. A big change came after the First World War in 1919 when the Governor-General and seven members had nine secretarial departments.

This number remained the same for about twenty years. When the Central and Provincial Governments became responsible for both policy and administration, the role of Secretaries also changed. The Secretariat was transformed from policy formulation, supervision and coordination center to an executive hub. The process was accelerated by provincial autonomy in 1937 and outbreak of Second World War and there was four fold increase in the strength of the Central Secretariat.

A real qualitative change came with Independence of India in 1947. After partition of the country when the government was facing enormous problem of rehabilitation of refugees from Pakistan, India was subjected to external aggression in Jammu and Kashmir. While the government was already under tremendous pressure on account of integration of princely states and shortage of essential articles, the departure of many Muslim officers to Pakistan and British officers to Britain created serious shortage of personnel.

Urgent steps to manage the problems led to marked increase in the number of departments. Later, endeavors to move towards a welfare state, establishment of public sector units paved the way for manifold increase in the administrative set-up. Thus, the number of departments (10 in 1939, 18 in 1947) had risen to 74 by 1994. The number of persons working in them has also multiplied accordingly.


Two vital principles of Central Secretariat system are:

  1.  The task of policy formulation should not be mixed with to policy implementation.
  2. Maintaining Cadre of officers working on a tenure system.

These principles limit and define the work of the Central Secretariat to a policy making body only, barring exceptions necessitated by circumstances. The basic functions of the Secretariat include assisting the minister in policy-making by providing relevant data and other required information. It prepares budgets of the ministries and controls its expenditure.

The Secretariat also assists in discharge of the legislative business. Various legislation’s, rules and procedure, of the ministries are framed by the Secretariat. The Secretariat supervises execution of the policies and takes steps to ensure efficiency and economy in implementation. Coordination and communication of a ministry with other Central agencies is done by its Secretariat.

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