The Economic Advisory Council will report directly to the PM on issues of “macro-economic importance”.
It has been termed as a routine reshuffle, but the view among babus in Punjab is that senior IAS officer K.B.S. Sidhu, of the rank of special chief secretary, has been sidelined by the state government. In a recent reshuffle involving 20 IAS officers and 15 state service officers, Mr Sidhu was relieved of the charge of revenue and rehabilitation department and transferred to the department of social security. Sources say that the post he has been transferred to is usually given to officers of lower rank of secretary or principal secretary.
However, some believe that the 1984-batch IAS officer’s “downsizing”, reportedly at the behest of chief minister Amarinder Singh, may be due to the ongoing Vigilance investigation into the alleged irrigation scam. Mr Sidhu was divested of the charge of irrigation department as recently as June this year. The charge of revenue has been given to additional chief secretary Vini Mahajan, who is already looking after the housing and urban development department.
PM Modi’s new crack team
By reviving the Economic Advisory Council he had disbanded in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have signalled that the present troubles of the Indian economy merit his personal attention than just confining it to the finance ministry. It is a power-packed panel of economists and a bureaucrat, with Bibek Debroy as chairman and Surjit Bhalla, Rathin Roy and Ashima Goyal as members. Former finance secretary Ratan Watal is the member secretary. The council will report directly to the PM on issues of “macro-economic importance”. Both Mr Debroy and Mr Watal will however continue as Niti Aayog members.
There is some reason to believe that this is more than just another cosmetic exercise, though some would say it is coming rather late. The effects of last year’s demonetisation and the haphazard rollout of the Goods and Services Tax have led to really very sluggish growth and a situation where the government is thinking in terms of an economic stimulus. The advice of eminent economists such as Mr Debroy and co. should be welcome in this context. It will be equally if not more interesting to watch the dynamics between the powerful PMO, the newly-revived Economic Advisory Council, the finance ministry and of course the Niti Aayog’s new leadership. Hope it’s eventually going to be more of “all hands on deck” rather than the depressing “too many cooks” scenario.
A Considered decision
Chairman of State Bank of India Arundhati Bhattacharya, who retired on Friday after the end of the one-year extension, has left India’s largest public sector bank during a challenging transition — the merger of its associate banks. Her successor is SBI managing director Rajnish Kumar, who has been appointed for a three-year term. This too is a welcome change. Twice in the past, SBI has had interim chairmen before the appointment of a full-time incumbent.
The announcement ends the long suspense over the appointment. Apparently, the Banks Board Bureau had conducted interviews of four candidates back in June. The other three, also from SBI, included B. Sriram, P.K. Gupta and D.K. Khara. But since then the government’s lips were sealed, until now.
During Modi sarkar’s tenure, Dilli has come to accept delays in appointments of chief executives of public sector banks. There are several crucial positions that have stayed vacant due to the government’s slow and deliberate approach. The post of a deputy governor at the Reserve Bank of India, for example, has not been filled, though S.S. Mundra retired in July. This sets a new mark of efficiency and respect for institutions that need continuity in management.