The premature repatriation of the chairman of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) Deepak Kumar to his parent cadre (Bihar) has set off murmurs that he could be named the next chief secretary of Bihar.
The sudden exit of Mr Kumar is significant as the NHAI was aggressively monetising public highways through auctioning. Union road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari had earlier said that the Centre would monetise 105 highway projects in various phases that could eventually fetch Rs 1.5 lakh crore. In October last year, nine stretches of roads, spread over five highways, were auctioned and monetised. Those were located in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat. A large chunk of the remaining was to take place anytime soon. This task will now fall upon Mr Kumar’s successor, Yudhvir Singh Malik, who also holds the charge of secretary, ministry of road transport and highways.
It is being suggested that Mr Kumar could be the next Bihar chief secretary since the three-month extension given to incumbent chief secretary Anjani Kumar Singh, a 1981 batch IAS who turned 60 years in February, is ending this month.
Despite the recent Cabinet reshuffle, which saw the I&B portfolio being taken away from Smriti Irani and handed over to her erstwhile deputy Rajyavardhan Rathore, the tussle between the ministry and public broadcaster Prasar Bharati refuses to end. In a new development, a senior official, Sai Srinivas, has resigned since the ministry refused to accept his extension. Sources say that Mr Srinivas, an adviser to the Prasar Bharati chairman A. Surya Prakash, put in his papers after the ministry sent a dissent note on his extension request.
One of the major bones of contention, sources say, is the ministry’s desire to trim the size of the high-paid staff in line with the government’s policy to cut the operating cost of the public broadcaster. Officials said “right-sizing” of the public broadcaster was also one of the issues in a recent board meeting and this would continue further.
This is not the first time that a tussle has taken place between the public broadcaster and the information and broadcasting ministry. Earlier, the Prasar Bharati had turned down the ministry’s request for the appointment of two senior journalists as head of TV News verticals. It remains to be seen if the change at the top will make a difference in the ministry’s relations with the Prasar Bharati.
UP cops upset
The Uttar Pradesh government’s direction to district police chiefs to take the approval of district magistrates before posting station house officers (SHO) has not gone down well with the IPS association, which sources say, is “disappointed and angered”. The association has reportedly urged chief minister Yogi Adityanath to withdraw the order. So far he’s not even responded.
According to the IPS Association, the order is in conflict with the law laid down by the Supreme Court as well as the high court. It displays distrust in police leadership and demoralises SPs.
Further, IPS officers are saying that the order undermines the authority of SPs and SSPs and breaks the chain of command since sub-inspectors or inspectors wouldn’t be obliged to obey their superiors if their transfers and postings were subject to the approval of the district magistrates. The SPs and the SSPs will no longer be able to command the police force in their districts if the district magistrate is given these powers.
It may be recalled that the state government set into a path of confrontation with IPS officers last year in September when chief secretary Rajive Kumar issued a letter directing district magistrates to chair all law and order meetings in their respective districts.