The subterranean tensions between the two coalition partners in Jammu and Kashmir has had its most telling effect on the state’s officials.
If the Reserve Bank of India has been caught napping in the Punjab National Bank episode, one reason could be that the RBI does not have a full-time deputy governor to supervise banks. The last person to hold the post was S.S. Mundra, who retired in July.
For close to seven months, the government hasn’t found a replacement for Mr Mundra. Sources say the RBI has four deputy governors, including one from the banking sector. The three other deputy governors are Viral Acharya, B.P. Kanungo and N.S. Vishwanathan, all economists. Not having a DG supervising banks, a role that also includes inspection, is now a glaring loophole, which allowed the PNB fraud to go undetected by the bank.
Those in the know say that the government had initiated the process to appoint the fourth DG before Mr Mundra retired on July 30, but scrapped the panel of shortlisted candidates who had been interviewed. In December, over four months after interviews were conducted, the process was restarted with the government yet to shortlist a new set of candidates.
Trouble in paradise
The subterranean tensions between the two coalition partners in Jammu and Kashmir has had its most telling effect on the state’s officials. For chief minister Mehbooba Mufti it is the People’s Democratic Party government in the state supported by the BJP high command. The chief minister’s PDP has final say in all matters of governance in J&K.
Sources say that the general administration department that is headed by Ms Mufti has issued over 200 transfer orders of babus in the state without holding Cabinet meetings to avoid “interference” from any political quarters (read BJP) in the last two years. Even senior Indian Administrative Service and Indian Police Service officers were transferred in the last one year without discussion in Cabinet meetings. It is believed that 45 IAS and 20 IPS officers were prematurely transferred during 2016 and 2017. Few officials have been transferred three to four times in the last two years.
Though the government claims that the transfers were made “in the interest” of the state administration, apparently, the manner in which they were done are in violation of J&K’s transfer policy, which states that premature transfers shall be made only in “unavoidable circumstances”. Maybe that is the view in PDP circles as well.
MEA reshuffles envoys
The ministry of external affairs is witnessing the first changes under new foreign secretary Vijay Keshav Gokhale, who took charge in late January, succeeding S. Jaishankar. Among the first appointments was of senior diplomat T.S. Tirumurti as secretary for economic relations, the position Mr Gokhale held before taking over the post of foreign secretary.
Now, the MEA has effected a wider reshuffle and ambassadorial appointments. Sripriya Ranganathan has been appointed India’s new envoy to South Korea to replace Vikram Doraiswami, who is returning to headquarters. Joint secretary (South) Vinay Kumar has been named ambassador to Kabul while 1985-batch IFS officer Narendra Chauhan is the new envoy to the Czech Republic, replacing Krishan Kumar, who is moving to Norway as ambassador. Ravi Thapar, a 1983-batch IFS officer, has been named envoy to Serbia.
Sources say the MEA is also looking to appoint new ambassadors to Japan and Thailand, with chief of protocol Sanjay Verma, a 1990-batch IFS officer, reportedly the frontrunner for the Tokyo posting.