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Dilli Ka Babu: Lateral entry — MEA tried it first

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Published : Jul 8, 2018, 12:54 am IST
Updated : Jul 8, 2018, 1:53 am IST

Almost all of India’s ambassadors in major world capitals are from the Indian Foreign Service.

Congress MP Shashi Tharoor
 Congress MP Shashi Tharoor

The Centre’s recent decision to enable lateral entry into senior positions in the government has set off a debate. But few may recall that the ministry of external affairs (MEA) had already tried this, in a limited manner, a few years ago. The ministry hired some 12 officials as subject experts in the policy planning and research division. However, the difference is that these officials do not have decision-making or administrative powers. This, some say, defeats the idea of lateral entry. Almost all of India’s ambassadors in major world capitals are from the Indian Foreign Service (IFS). A noted exception is the Indian envoy to Saudi Arabia. Ahmad Javed belongs to the Indian Police Service (IPS).

Interestingly, the ministry allowed this “lateral entry” following a suggestion by a parliamentary committee headed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor. The panel had called for expanding the foreign service as the staff shortage was hampering India’s diplomatic outreach. Reportedly, Brazil has 1,200 people in foreign service, China 6,000 people, and the US 20,000. India, on the other hand, has a mere 800 diplomats against a sanctioned strength of 912.

Ex-babu quits IOC
Former Union petroleum secretary Vivek Rae’s resignation as an independent director from the board of Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) raised eyebrows in the capital’s babu circles. Though ostensibly Mr Rae resigned due to personal reasons, sources say that former IAS officer quit due to differences with the company management. He was appointed as an independent director on the board of IOC in September 2017. His tenure was scheduled to end in September 2020.

It is believed that Mr Rae differed with the IOC management on several issues, which eventually led to his decision. Apparently, Mr Rae did not agree with the way proposals were brought to the board, particularly those relating to projects where a decision would already be taken and the board’s nod was just a formality. IOC itself, however, has not given any reasons for his resignation.

Before this assignment, Mr Rae, a 1978-batch IAS officer of the UT cadre, was petroleum secretary in 2014 and did a stint as member of the Seventh Pay Commission. Will he get another assignment from the Narendra Modi sarkar or is this the end of the road for the veteran babu?

Babus turn netas
While babus becoming netas by joining a political party is not new, it’s not often that babus get together and turn their campaign for good governance into a political party. Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, of course, is the most stellar example of a former bureaucrat who formed the Aam Aadmi Party and is now a formidable political leader.

Now retired IAS officer Vijay Shankar Pandey, once known as a crusader against corruption for conducting a ballot to identify three most corrupt IAS officers of Uttar Pradesh cadre, has taken the electoral plunge. He will be contesting the 2019 general election under the newly formed Lok Gathbandhan Party (LGP).

In Mr Pandey’s case, reportedly, he has been joined by former chief justices, former state police chiefs, retired and serving bureaucrats and social activists as members, many of whom were part of the nationwide campaign India Rejuvenation Initiative. Interestingly, Mr Pandey has announced his plan to contest from Faizabad parliamentary constituency, where he had served as district magistrate.

Sources say that other babus who are likely to contest in the 2019 elections are retired ADG police, S.N. Singh, former director of IIT Kharagpur, S.K. Dubey and some other retired bureaucrats.

Tags: indian foreign service, ministry of external affairs