The recent secretary-level reshuffle effected by the Modi sarkar was a routine one, except for one appointment which took many babus by surprise.
The Narendra Modi sarkar has extended the tenure of Parameswaran Iyer as secretary, ministry of drinking water and sanitation, up to April 2019. Mr Iyer, many would recall, is a 1981-batch Indian Administrative Service officer of Uttar Pradesh cadre who took voluntary retirement to work with the World Bank until Mr Modi brought him back to anchor the Swachchh Bharat Mission at the ministry. The extension of term shows that the government is reluctant to lose Mr Iyer who is overseeing one of Mr Modi’s most prestigious projects.
Mr Iyer has apparently impressed the Prime Minister’s Office with his handling of the Swachchh Bharat Mission, especially in rural areas, and created a team of “inspired” officers in the districts to carry out the work. Recently he publicly praised Rajeshwari B., collector of Ramgarh, Jharkhand for her role in making her district the first open defecation free (ODF) in the state. No doubt, the Modi sarkar is unwilling to let go of Mr Iyer, known for his expertise in sanitation management and who is inspiring other officials to implement the plan.
Exception to the rule
The recent secretary-level reshuffle effected by the Narendra Modi sarkar was a routine one, except for one appointment which took many babus by surprise. The naming of C. Chandramauli, a 1985-batch Indian Administrative Service officer of the Tamil Nadu cadre, as secretary of the department of personnel and training (DoPT) was apparently not expected.
Most observers were awaiting the appointment of a babu from the 1983 and 1984 batch as successor to previous DoPT secretary Ajay Mittal, who retired last month. The explanation is that since the two posts of DoPT secretary and expenditure secretary involve interaction with all departmental heads, a convention was established long ago that only senior most officials will be appointed to these posts. This convention has now been broken.
So, will Mr Chandramauli’s appointment be an exception to the established rule or has the Modi sarkar chosen to break from tradition for good? Babus can only guess.
Custom babus want change
The Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), which promotes India’s exports, has become a bone of contention between two ministries, the Union finance ministry and the Union commerce ministry, over who should run it. The DGFT is currently controlled by the ministry of commerce and trade. But the Indian Revenue Service officials want the directorate to be brought under the domain of the finance ministry.
Senior IRS officer and president of the IRS (customs and central excise) officers’ association, A.K. Srivastava, has reportedly written to finance minister Arun Jaitley regarding this, claiming that such a move would “help in better facilitation of trade inside and outside of India”. The finance ministry, he argued, performs a major function of trade facilitation. With customs being the first interface of importers and exporters, this often creates problems of coordination, often leading to duplicity of work. By getting DGFT under the finance ministry would bring uniformity in the policy and trade, he said.
It is not known yet whether this view of the IRS officers has found resonance in the finance ministry or whether the commerce ministry would agree to this suggestion. But babuwatchers have their antennas trained on the development.