There is a Babu Crisis brewing in Rajasthan, which has pitted the Rajasthan Administrative Service (RAS) officers against the Ashok Gehlot government. Apparently over one-third of the total of 296 sanctioned IAS posts are lying vacant in the state. The situation is likely to worsen when more than a dozen officials retire this year. But the reason why many state cadre officers are seen red is the perceived reluctance of the government to promote RAS officers to the IAS. Sources say that not a single RAS officer has been promoted to the IAS level in the last 17 years!
The state chief secretary C.K. Mathew has reportedly requested the Centre to expand the state cadre of IAS, but nothing has resulted from his efforts. Then there is the IAS itself. Sometime ago, when the government promoted six RAS officers as district collectors, the IAS Association forced their removal from the posts. It seems they are happier holding multiple responsibilities than with state cadre officers moving up the babu ladder!
A turf war has erupted over a proposal of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to create a new secretary-level position in the ministry specifically to handle public diplomacy. The MEA, manned by Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officers is one ministry where the otherwise powerful IAS lobby cannot assert itself. But it surely can try! So the IAS lobby has reportedly turned down the MEA’s proposal, even though it is backed by External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna. Apparently, the minister planned to name P.R. Chakraborty, a 1977-batch IFS officer and presently the special secretary for public diplomacy at MEA, to the post.
According to sources, Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth has opposed the proposal, upsetting the IFS mandarins who claim that the IAS lobby is encroaching on their turf. They are unlikely to give up, despite Seth’s thumbs-down!
While all the excitement seems to revolve around finance minister Pranab Mukherjee’s eventual move to Rashtrapati Bhavan, talk in North Block is about the expected reshuffle in the top team. The buzz is that expenditure secretary Sumit Bose may end up being entrusted with more responsibilities. As it so happens, the Chief Economic Advisor Kaushik Basu is probably returning to the world of academia from where he had been summoned to help Pranab Da run the store. A hunt for a successor to Basu, who brought a fresh approach to the finance ministry, is already underway. Similarly, Economic affairs secretary R Gopalan, who was on three months’ extension, is widely expected to leave for the Asian Development Bank in Manila. Of course, some key members of Mukherjee’s team may also be heading for Raisina Hill. Depending on who runs the ministry (if as rumored Prime Minister Manmohan Singh adds finance to his responsibilities), expect widespread changes ahead.