There is an air of gloom in the Ministry of External Affairs. One of the plum diplomatic postings, of the Indian High Commissioner to Canada, has been wrested away from the IFS, despite Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna’s intervention. Apparently the Minister had recommended Basant Gupta, a senior IFS officer as India’s new envoy to Canada. But the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) apparently had other thoughts and has cleared the name of former Navy Chief Admiral Nirmal Verma for the position. According to sources, Verma’s name was recommended by former Foreign Secretary and present National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon.
Interestingly, while IFS officers scramble for such postings, they are extremely reluctant when it comes to serving in Africa or South America or other places. Foreign Secretay Ranjan Mathai, it is reported, is worried on how to fill at least 35 diplomatic missions because of the reluctance of IFS officers to serve in what are termed as “hardship” postings. Clearly they see no career advancement in doing time in such places.
Given the acute shortage of IAS officers, the Central and State Governments, seem to have woke up to the situation where IAS officers who go abroad on deputation often do not return after the end of their tenure. Sources say that the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) is now contacting State Governments to solve this problem. At least six babus are overseas despite their assignments having got over long ago.
They include J. Radhakrishnan (Tamil Nadu, 1992), Namita Dutta (UT, 1991), Sanjay Agarwal (Maharashtra, 1996), Jyotsna Verma (Jharkhand, 1992), K.C. Mishra (Bihar, 1977) and Prashant (West Bengal, 1988). While apparently Mishra has at least requested the Bihar Government for an extension which is under consideration, but the remaining officers have not bothered to do even that with their respective Governments. What the Government proposes to do with the “errant” babus remains to be seen.
The contrast is stark. Ever since P Chidambaram took over at the Finance Ministry, there is a distinct change in the work culture. In a break from the past, even as the Government announced crucial policy decisions, there was complete silence in the Ministry. There was no statement or comment from any senior official, unlike in Pranab Mukherjee’s time when not just the Minister but also his babus like R Gopalan, R.S. Gujral et al frequently talked to the media.
Observers say that Chidambaram has instructed his officials not to speak or comment on any issue. Consequently, these days it’s either PC or Economic Affairs Secretary Arvind Mayaram who issue statements. The others presumably are strictly keeping their nose to the grindstone!