But the issue has been raised again recently, this time by chief economic adviser Arvind Subramanian.
It’s not often that six senior IAS officers in Orissa, some of whom are said to be close to chief minister Naveen Patnaik are served a notice demanding “personal appearance” by a government agency — in this case the Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA). It’s got babu corridors in Bhubaneswar buzzing.
Opinion seems to be divided among babu watchers. Some feel it is a factional feud within the bureaucracy, while some others believe that it is the result of a political realignment as the BJP makes inroads into what is the territory of the ruling Biju Janata Dal. But almost all observers believe that such a move could not have been taken by BDA — or the Department of Housing and Urban Development that oversees it — without the sanction of the highest quarters in the government.
The timing of the move is significant. It comes at a time when the ruling BJD suddenly finds itself on a sticky wicket in the wake of its below par performance in the panchayat elections, which has given the BJP a tremendous shot in the arm. The notice served on the six officers was based on the Task Force headed by former bureaucrat Tara Dutt, though efforts are now being made to give the impression there was nothing unusual about these notices, old times know it’s not a routine move.
A revised order sans reason
A section of babus in Uttarakhand are agitated at the appointment and then swift “demotion” of two officers in the chief minister’s office (CMO). Apparently the CMO revoked its order appointing two 2005 batch Provisional Civil Service (PCS) officials, all within 24 hours.
Sources say that Lalit Mohan Rayal and Meharban Singh Bisht were appointed as additional secretaries, but the very next day both were demoted to the post of joint secretaries. No reason was given for the revised order
However, those in the know believe that a section of the Indian Administrative Service officers was instrumental behind the second order. Citing the pay grade of Mr Rayal and Mr Bisht, the sources said the two PCS officials were not found “suitable” for the job.
Understandably, the PCS babus are unhappy with the order. The officials allege that a section of their IAS counterparts and some people with “vested interested” played tricks to work “embarrass” Mr Rayal and Mr Bisht.
Getting outside talent
The Modi government has shown openness to hiring talent from outside the civil service to work in government, though it hasn’t been able to push the idea as much as Modi perhaps may like to. Though voices from outside the government too have suggested it from time to time, the entrenched bureaucracy has ensured that outsiders do not get a shoo in, for who knows where that may lead!
But the issue has been raised again recently, this time by chief economic adviser Arvind Subramanian. He pitched for increased induction of “outside talent” into the higher echelons of power in the government. Mr Subramanian said that government machinery tends to become insular if there is no free flow of fresh ideas beyond the ambit of existing hierarchies.
Mr Subramanian, himself seen as an outsider in the present government, suggested that it would prove useful if there is induction of outside talent in posts above the rank of joint secretaries in the government because they would bring with them a slew of fresh and innovative ideas, which very often do not percolate to the corridors of established bureaucracy. Wonder how far Mr Subramanian’s push will go?