It’s quite understandable that the nation’s premier intelligence agency does not make it into the news. But, of late, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) has crept into the headlines. Currently, the buzz surrounds the release of a book by former RAW chief Vikram Sood, who has some advice for the powers that be on how to improve the functioning of RAW. Among his suggestions, Mr Sood seems to lay particular stress on having fixed tenure for chiefs of intelligence agencies.
According to Mr Sood, seven officers heading RAW between 1990 and 1999 is not a good trend, and instead calls out for continuity and cautions that intel chiefs should be chosen with great care and not by applying the seniority rule that is sacrosanct in Indian bureaucracy. According to him, intel chiefs should be appointed for at least a five-year term. This should certainly get some heads talking within the government, since of the sore points is the preponderance of IPS officers in these positions over others from their dedicated cadres. The current chief of RAW, Anil Dhasmana, too is a 1981-batch IPS officer from the Madhya Pradesh cadre.
Earlier, a book by ex-RAW chief A.S. Dulat, co-authored with none less than his ISI counterpart Asad Durrani, created waves in the capital. Mr Dulat also wrote about his experiences, vision and perception on a variety of burning controversial issues.
All this attention has now been rekindled, as the government seems to be taking steps to improve the performance of our intel agencies. Sources say that RAW has sacked four joint secretary-level officers for “non-performance” in the past one year. Sources say that the decision was based on a rule of the department of personnel and training (DoPT), which allows the government to compulsorily retire non-performing officials after 50 years of age or 30 years’ service.
The Narendra Modi sarkar has been trying to implement this rule more vigorously, though with modest success. In September 2015, the DoPT had sent out an order that services of employees can be terminated prematurely in public interest and after considering the entire service record of the officer. The department cited a Supreme Court verdict upholding compulsory retirement to explain that this rule can also be used for the sacking of officers with doubtful integrity if there is not enough evidence to initiate punitive disciplinary action for removal from service.
Apparently, between July 2014 until October 2017, the government has invoked this rule in case of 53 Group “A” officers and 123 Group “B” officers of Central Civil Services.
Kerala’s new Chief Secretary
The Kerala government recently named Tom Jose as the next chief secretary of the state, succeeding Paul Antony who retired last month. Mr Jose, a 1984-batch IAS officer, will have a two-year tenure in the position. Before his elevation, Mr Jose was additional chief secretary of labour and skills, water resources and taxes (excise only) department. Prior to this, he was posted as the managing director of the Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation and Kochi Metro Rail Limited.
According to sources, Mr Jose was chosen for the top position since Aruna Sunderraj, A.K. Dubey and Anand Kumar, who are the senior-most IAS officers in the Kerala cadre, are on Central deputation. Teeka Ram Meena who was principal secretary and chief electoral officer in the department of election has replaced Mr Jose.
Earlier in April last year, a 1981-batch IAS officer, Nalini Netto, who had been serving as the additional chief secretary of home and vigilance and principal secretary to the chief minister, was elevated to the post of chief secretary. Ms Netto retired four months later in August, after which K.M. Abraham replaced her. Mr Antony, a 1983-batch IAS officer, replaced Mr Abraham in December of the same year after the latter retired from service.
But Mr Jose is set to enjoy a long term since he is slated to retire only in 2020.