Singhal has been serving as resident commissioner of the Andhra Pradesh government in New Delhi.
Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu’s decision to appoint AP-cadre Indian Administrative Service officer Anil Kumar Singhal as the executive officer of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams has riled many Telugu officers who were vying for this prestigious post. Mr Naidu, however, is unruffled by the undercurrent of resentment about appointing a “North Indian” even if he belongs to the state cadre.
Sources say that Mr Naidu was keen to appoint Mr Singhal after the previous incumbent EO D. Sambasiva Rao’s tenure came to end last December, but took time to sense the mood of babus. In the end, he decided not to be swayed by others’ opinion on the issue. Mr Singhal has been serving as resident commissioner of the Andhra Pradesh government in New Delhi.
By appointing a “North Indian”, Mr Naidu has broken a decades-old custom, even if not the law. But “southern” sentiments have been hurt and cannot be assuaged easily. Many feel that the post should have gone to a Telugu or at least a South Indian, for ethnic and cultural reasons, if not religious.
Tea board chief after long wait
Another Indian Administrative Service bastion has fallen. After a gap of four years, the Centre has appointed well-known tea planter Prabhat Kumar Bezboruah as full-time chairman of the Tea Board of India. An industry insider, Mr Bezboruah is the first non-IAS to be at the helm of the Kolkata-headquartered Tea Board.
The last full-time chairman of the board was M.G.K.V. Bhanu, a 1985 Assam cadre IAS officer, whose term lasted from November 2011 to December 2013. Since his exit, the board did not have a full-time head until now. Siddharth, a career bureaucrat, took over from Mr Bhanu as the temporary chairman, followed by Santosh Sarangi, a joint secretary in the commerce ministry, in June 2015.
However, last year the Centre had tweaked the rules under which all agricultural boards under the commerce ministry would be headed by a non-IAS and industry persons, while only the vice-chairman would be an IAS and have the executive authority. So Mr Bezboruah is likely to play more of a non-executive advisory role to deputy chairman Sarangi.
Beyond red beacons
VIP culture runs deep in the Indian psyche. Though red beacons may have become a thing of the past, officially at least, there are many other symbols of this elitist culture that continue to irk. But some within babudom are aligned with the new radical thinking and have more suggestions for the government.
Recently a Facebook post by Air India chairman and managing director Ashwani Lohani caught the attention of many, including no doubt his peers in the bureaucracy. The 1980-batch Indian Railway Service of Mechanical Engineering (IRSME) officer argued that besides red beacons, the culture of officials accepting and expecting “bouquets, special arrangements, protocol, slew of subordinates to receive and see off and to top it all with gifts and freebies” must also end.
Mr Lohani, who recently won kudos after he stood up for his own Air India staffers in the ugly scene with Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad, said that such acts are a relic of the Raj era and divert focus from work. Good thought, and one which is aligned with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s views. But will babus pay heed?