Shuffling The Deck
Just ahead of his departure for Brazil to attend the BRICS summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi carried out his Government’s first real reshuffle of his top bureaucracy. The Appointment Committee of Cabinet (ACC) headed by the Prime Minister, with Home Minister Rajnath Singh as member, cleared 10 files including transfers, additional charges and bringing at least four senior bureaucrats from State cadre to the Centre. The secretary-level changes include the naming of Rakesh Garg as the new Telecom Secretary, Sanjay Kothari as the new Secretary of the Department of Personnel and Training, and Enforcement Directorate Chief Rajan Katoch as the new Secretary of the Department of Heavy Industry, among others. Also, the ACC approved the central deputation of Gujarat cadre IAS officer Hara Krushna Dash as Secretary, Inter State Council Secretariat (ISCS) under the Ministry of Home Affairs. Then Vinay Sheel Oberoi, who has done a stint in Paris as India’s permanent representative at UNESCO, has been appointed Secretary in the Ministry of Women and Child Development. Clearly, the Government wishes to breathe new life into the system with babus it can trust.
Paving The Path
In some places, such as slippery slopes, it’s best to trust sherpas to lead the way. The Modi sarkar is taking no chances with his high-octane BRICs outing. For those wondering about this expedition it’s worth noting that Sherpa in bureaucratese denotes the personal representative of a head of state who does ‘ground work’ ahead of a summit. For Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Brazil for the BRICS summit, 1980-batch Indian Foreign Service officer Sujata Mehta, the Secretary in charge of Economic Relations in the Ministry of External Affairs has been handpicked by Foreign Secretary Sujata Singh. Incidentally, BRICs meets have also previously featured the Secretary Economic Affairs in the External Affairs Ministry as sherpas. Mehta worked with her counterparts from BRIC nations to work on the declaration ahead of Modi’s arrival. Mehta has done stints at the United Nations, worked as Joint Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office and is a former Ambassador to Spain, among other prestigious assignments. Veteran observers noted with some satisfaction that such assignments have reverted to the diplomatic corps in the Modi dispensation. Not many know that during the 10-year Manmohan Singh Government, this pivotal role was performed not by a career diplomat but very often by Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Dr Montek Singh Ahluwalia!
The Kerala Government has gone against its own decision not to send IAS officers for Central deputation by recommending four senior IAS officers of the State cadre. Apparently the applications of two other senior IAS officers, Aruna Sundararajan and A.K. Singh, are under consideration. The four babus who will now move to New Delhi include Raju Narayanaswamy, who has been in the news for an ongoing public spat with State Chief Secretary Bharat Bhushan. He is reportedly taking over as Chief Vigilance Officer of Central Public Undertakings. His fellow cadre officers are W.R. Reddy, K.S. Srinivas and K. Elangovan. Babu-watchers say that with the exodus of these babus, Kerala will now have as many as 45 IAS officers and 28 IPS officers on Central deputation. The babu crunch in the State, they fear, will only worsen. The State Government, of course, has not enlightened the public why it has gone back on its own decision. Meanwhile IAS officers in Kerala are preparing to shoulder additional responsibilities.