The Modi sarkar has despatched peremptorily Rina Ray, secretary, school education and literacy, ministry of human resource development, to her parent UT cadre. The order issued by the appointments committee of the Cabinet, ministry of personnel, stated that the panel had approved the repatriation of Ms Ray, a 1984-batch IAS officer, to her parent cadre with immediate effect. Amit Khare, secretary of the information and broadcasting ministry, has been given additional charge of the school education department.
The repatriation of Ms Ray took many by surprise but those in the know say that she fell foul of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), which was reportedly “unhappy” with her performance (read: speed of delivery) and because of “behavioural issues” (read what you will!). But the removal of the senior IAS officer has most likely to do with her decision to withdraw permission to centralised kitchens run by private organisations to serve midday meals in rural schools earlier this year. When Ms Ray took over as the secretary in July 2018, she reviewed the permission to centralised kitchens in rural areas. Ms Ray is learnt to have questioned the rationale for allowing private organisations to operate centralised kitchens for preparing midday meals.
Any guesses who’s been hurt by her enthusiasm? That’s where the next story is!
Pvt train hits a ‘technical’ snag
The country’s first corporate-run train, between Delhi and Lucknow, may have been flagged off with great zeal, but rail babus are pointing out that its fare, which is higher than that of the Shatabdi Express and other trains, is in contravention of the law. The train is operated by the IRCTC, the catering and commercial wing of the railways, and is the first of 150 trains the government will run in private mode.
But rail officials say that according to the Railway Act, 1989, only the Central government is the competent authority to fix the tariffs and not the IRCTC. According to sources, while the Act clearly lays down that tariffs for goods and passengers will be decided by the Central government, it does not recognise privately-operated trains. Further, the government has not issued any order authorising private train authorities to decide the fares.
The issue has come up just after the railway board formed an empowered group of secretaries led by Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant to develop 50 railway stations to world standards and to permit private operators to run 150 trains.
Yet another case of babu lethargy causing a plan to be delayed? Or are we heading into unchartered territories here?
Another transfer controversy
The Supreme Court has directed the Centre and the Assam government to transfer 1995-cadre IAS officer Prateek Hajela to Madhya Pradesh within seven days. Mr Hajela was the coordinator of the National Register of Citizens of India (NRC) that has kicked up a fierce controversy after the final list of NRC released excluded names of over 19 lakh applicants. Mr Hajela had overseen this mammoth and sensitive programme.
Sources say that while the Apex Court has not disclosed the reason for moving Mr Hajela out of Assam, it is understood that the court felt a threat to the babu’s life if he stayed in the state. However, the babu has been accused of “playing with the sentiments” of the people of Assam by conducting a “faulty NRC”. Some politicians are insisting that the NRC coordinator should not be transferred until he explains how “each and every penny was spent”.