The appointment of Vineet Chawdhary as chief secretary of Himachal Pradesh by the BJP has, once again, focused attention on the appraisal system.
The Modi sarkar’s 360-degree appraisal system for babus introduced in 2015 has often come in for flak, including from a parliamentary standing committee, which last year labelled it as “illegal, arbitrary, non-transparent and susceptible to manipulation”. The appointment of Vineet Chawdhary as chief secretary of Himachal Pradesh by the BJP has, once again, focused attention on the appraisal system.
In August last year, after being denied a secretary-level position in the Union government, the 1982-batch IAS officer filed a case with the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) challenging the system. CAT directed the Cabinet secretary to explain the government’s position on the matter by November in a “speaking order”, which requires the government to take a decision and explain the reasons for it. But Mr Chawdhary has not been made secretary in the Union government so far and the appraisal system continues to be applied.
Curiously, despite being denied his promotion to secretary, Mr Chawdhary was chosen in December to be HP chief secretary. Sources say that his current appointment as chief secretary in HP is technically possible as regulations permit even those officers who are denied empanelment for senior positions in the Union government to be appointed to top bureaucratic positions in states.
Still, the episode has only sharpened opinions among babus about the 360-degree appraisal system, both for and against it.
The great cabinet kursi race
With Cabinet secretary P.K. Sinha’s extended tenure ending in June, the buzz has begun on who PM Narendra Modi will select as Mr Sinha’s successor. The guessing game is on about finance secretary Hasmukh Adhia and senior officers like petroleum secretary K.D. Tripathi, information and broadcasting secretary N.K. Sinha, UP chief secretary Rajive Kumar, civil aviation secretary Rajiv Nayan Choubey and school education secretary Anil Swarup among others.
Since unpredictability has been the hallmark of the Modi sarkar, some are even saying that Mr Modi may just give the nation our first woman Cabinet secretary. Observers say that commerce secretary Rita Tewatia possesses all qualifications to be P.K. Sinha’s successor. She is due to retire a month after P.K. Sinha completes his tenure. More importantly, she is from the Gujarat cadre, which might go in her favour given Mr Modi’s penchant for babus from his state. Haryana cadre IAS officer Anuradha Gupta is yet another name doing the rounds. Though it’s early days and the possible contenders for the nation’s top babu post may change, it would be quite a coup if Mr Modi proves these whispers true.
The transfer curse
Ashok Khemka, the Haryana IAS officer, who happens to be India’s most transferred officer (51 times in 24 years), is not alone in suffering from the pervasive transfer malaise. Of course, his cadre state happens to be the most transfer-happy state in the country, with the IAS babu spending an average of 11 months in a posting. But babus in other states too seem to be catching up.
In Maharashtra, things are only marginally better. An instance has come to light of Tukaram Mundhe, who was serving as chairman and managing director of Pune Municipal Transport Corporation Limited, and who has now been posted as the municipal commissioner of Nashik. Usually, the tenure of a government officer is three years. This is Mr Mundhe’s third transfer order in the past four years and comes just 11 months after he was shifted from the post of Navi Mumbai municipal commissioner. An IAS officer from the 2005 batch, Mr Mundhe is said to have been transferred 10 times in as many years.
And like Mr Khemka, Mr Mundhe’s rapid transfers have a direct bearing on his ability to rub powerful politicians the wrong way during the course of discharging his duties.