The Structure of a Department

In this article, you can read about the structure of a department under the Indian Government. This is a useful topic for polity and governance in the UPSC syllabus.

The work of the Government of India is distributed into different Ministries/Departments. A Department has also been defined in the General Financial Rules as follows:

“ Department –

(1) A department is responsible for formulating policies of the government related to business allocated to it and also for the execution and review of those policies.

(2) For the efficient disposal of business allotted to it, a department is divided into wings, divisions, branches and sections.

(3) A department is normally headed by a secretary to the Government of India who acts as the administrative head of the department and principal adviser of the Minister on all matters of policy and administration within the department.

(4) The work in a department is normally divided into wings with an Additional Secretary/ Special Secretary/Joint Secretary in charge of each wing. Such a functionary is normally vested with the maximum measure of independent functioning and responsibility in respect of the business falling within his wing subject, to the overall responsibility of the Secretary for the administration of the department as a whole.

(5) A wing normally comprises a number of divisions each functioning under the charge of an officer of the level of Deputy Secretary/ Director/Joint Director. A division may have several branches each under the charge of an Under Secretary or equivalent officer.

(6) A section is generally the lowest organisational unit in a department with a well-defined area of work. It normally consists of and assistants supervised by a Section Officer. Initial handling of cases (including drafting and noting) is generally done by, assistants and clerks who are also known as the dealing hands.

(7) While the above represents the commonly adopted pattern of organisation of a department, there are certain variations, the most notable among them being the desk officer system. In this system, the work of a department at the lowest level is organised into distinct functional desks each manned by two desk functionaries of appropriate ranks e.g. Under Secretary or Section Officer.

Each desk functionary handles the cases himself and is provided adequate stenographic and clerical assistance.”

The secretary is the administrative head of a Department and in a Department, the structure may comprise special secretaries, Additional secretaries, Joint secretaries, Directors, Deputy secretaries, undersecretaries and section Officers. The functions of each of these are spelt out in the central secretariat Manual of Office Procedure as follows:

Functions of various levels of functionaries:

(a) Secretary – A Secretary to the Government of India is the administrative head of the Ministry or Department. He is the principal adviser of the Minister on all matters of policy and administration within his Ministry/ Department, and his responsibility is complete and undivided.

(b) Additional Secretary/Joint Secretary/ Special Secretary – When the volume of work in a Ministry exceeds the manageable charge of a Secretary, one or more wings may be established with Additional Secretary/Joint Secretary/Special Secretary, in charge of each wing. Such a functionary is entrusted with the maximum measure of independent functioning and responsibility in respect of all business falling within his wing subject, to the general responsibility of the Secretary for the administration of the wing as a whole.

(c) Deputy Secretary/ Director –Deputy Secretary/ Director is an officer who acts on behalf of the Secretary. He holds charge of a Secretariat Division and is responsible for the disposal of Government business dealt within the Division under his charge. He should ordinarily be able to dispose of the majority of cases coming up to him on his own. He should use his discretion in taking orders of the Secretary/Joint Secretary on more important cases, either orally or by submission of papers.

(d) Under Secretary – An Under Secretary is in charge of the Branch in a Ministry consisting of two or more Sections and in respect thereto exercises control both in regard to the despatch of business and maintenance of discipline. Work comes to him from the sections under his charge. As Branch Officer he disposes of as many cases as possible at his own level but he takes the orders of Deputy Secretary or higher officers on important cases.”

Each Department may have one or more attached or subordinate offices. The role of these offices are: “Attached and Subordinate offices –

(1) Where the execution of the policies of the government requires decentralisation of executive action and/or direction, a department may have under it executive agencies called `Attached’ and `Subordinate’ offices.

(2) Attached offices are generally responsible for providing executive direction required in the implementation of the policies laid down by the department to which they are attached. They also serve as repository of technical information and advise the department on technical aspects of question dealt with by them.

(3) Subordinate offices generally function as field establishments or as agencies responsible for the detailed execution of the policies of government. They function under the direction of an attached office, or where the volume of executive direction involved is not considerable, directly under a department. In the latter case, they assist the departments concerned in handling technical matters in their respective fields of specialisation.”

Besides, the attached and subordinate offices there are a large number of organizations which carry out different functions assigned to them. These may be categorized as follows:

“1. Constitutional Bodies: Such bodies which are constituted under the provisions of the Constitution of India.

  1. Statutory Bodies: Such bodies which are established under the statute or an Act of Parliament.
  2. Autonomous Bodies: Such bodies which are established by the Government to discharge the activities which are related to governmental functions. Although such bodies are given autonomy to discharge their functions in accordance with the Memorandum of Associations etc., the Government’s control exists since these are funded by the Government of India.
  3. Public Sector Undertakings: Public Sector Undertaking is that part of the industry which is controlled fully or partly by the Government. These undertakings have been set up in the form of companies or corporations in which the shares are held by the President or his nominees and which are managed by Board of Directors which includes officials and non-officials.”

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