Though perhaps not the first time, no Indian Administrative Service (IAS) official will serve in Rashtrapati Bhavan during President Pranab Mukherjee’s tenure. Most Presidents choose their own loyal and trusted officials to assist them in performing their duty. But Pranab’s chosen three are not from among the heaven-born. It was always known that Omita Paul, his Advisor in the Finance Ministry, would accompany Pranab Babu to Raisina Hill as Secretary. She happens to be a retired Indian Information Service officer.
Similarly, Pranab’s other two choices are non-IAS officers. Pradeep Gupta belongs to the Indian Ordnance Factories Service and will be Pranab’s Private Secretary. His choice for Press Secretary is Venu Rajamony, a 1986 batch Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer currently working as a Joint Secretary in the Finance Ministry. Even his Social Secretary comes from the IFS. Can’t say that the mighty IAS officers lobby is pleased with development, but obviously cannot do anything about Pranab Babu’s choices.
Not enough men
There were concerned faces in government even before Sushil Shinde took charge at the Home Ministry, since the Special Protection Group (SPG) is facing an acute shortage of senior officers. This elite force is responsible for the protection of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi and other ex-Prime Ministers in India. The SPG recruits officers and cops from all streams of the forces like military, frontal police organisations, but it doesn’t absorb them. These officials join the SPG on deputation and return to their parent organisation after their tenure.
But given the present paucity of officers, the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet has had to further extend the tenure of three senior IPS officers, Ram Phal Pawar of the West Bengal cadre, Sudeep Lakhtakia of Andhra Pradesh cadre and S.L. Thaosen of Madhya Pradesh cadre. All three have served in the SPG since 2005, and were given an extension last year on the condition that ‘no further extension would be considered’. Sources say that the Cabinet Secretariat has been instructed to speed up the selection process.
Babu bashing in AP
Babu-bashing is a popular pastime for netas, but it touched new depths when an Andhra Pradesh Minister T.G. Venkatesh publicly stated that officials who did not perform their duty should be shot. The expected uproar followed and seething babus took up the matter with Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy. A delegation of the IAS Officers’ Association led by its President Prashant Mahapatra and Secretary J. Raymond Peter met Reddy to protest his mantri’s ‘inflammatory remarks’.
So far the Minister has refused to retract his statement. Sources say that the babus are agitated and will not relent until the mantri apologises. There is a view that he be prosecuted under the Indian Penal Code. Apparently, Reddy has deputed newly appointed Chief Secretary Minnie Mathew to settle the matter. Certainly, it is a tough challenge for Ms Mathew.