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  Opinion   Oped  27 Aug 2017  Dilli Ka Babu: RBI’s new talent hunt

Dilli Ka Babu: RBI’s new talent hunt

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Published : Aug 27, 2017, 5:39 am IST
Updated : Aug 27, 2017, 5:39 am IST

The last five years have witnessed over 450 railway accidents claiming more than 800 lives.

A mangled coach of the Puri-Hardwar Utkal Express train being hauled off the tracks by a crane at the accident site in Khatauli near Muzaffarnagar. (Photo: PTI)
 A mangled coach of the Puri-Hardwar Utkal Express train being hauled off the tracks by a crane at the accident site in Khatauli near Muzaffarnagar. (Photo: PTI)

The RBI has been known to be conservative and always cautious. But tiny gusts of change are now becoming visible, and not just in its functioning as the nation’s central bank. In a first, the RBI is considering an applicant from a foreign bank to succeed deputy governor S.S. Mundra, who retired last month. Delhi has clearly signalled something, say most of those watching.

The Financial Sector Regulatory Appointment Search Committee, which was formed last year for high-level appointments in financial regulators and was involved in the selection of RBI governor Urijit Patel, has reportedly finalised four names, and among the probables is Neeraj Gambhir, managing director, head fixed income, Nomura Holdings Inc.

Apart from Mr Gambhir, as always the “usual suspects” from public sector banks are in the list of probables, which includes Arun Tiwari, former chairman and MD of Union Bank, Rakesh Sharma, MD and CEO of Canara Bank and Suresh Patel, MD and CEO of Andhra Bank.

If Mr Gambhir makes it, will it mark the end of domination of public sector bankers? And will it also buttress Dilli’s new policy to encourage private sector talent in government?

PMO cracks the whip
The last five years have witnessed over 450 railway accidents claiming more than 800 lives. The deadly trend continues in 2017 too. Following the recent tragic derailment of Utkal Express in UP’s Muzaffarnagar district, which claimed more than 20 lives, the Railways has cracked the whip on officials, specially after preliminary investigations have pointed at negligence as the cause.

The railway ministry has sent three senior officials on leave, three have been suspended and one officer has been transferred.

This is the first time that action against senior Railway officers, including a secretary-level member, Railway Board, has been taken at the behest of PMO, after a railway accident. It is said that clear instructions were given to initiate action against senior officers if they are found guilty or negligent.

Hopefully, this change in approach (even if prodded by the PMO) and fixing accountability will have the necessary effect. Though the Railways problems are much bigger, the PMO hopes that this will send the right message to the rank and file.

Succession planning in MEA
If the buzz in the MEA is to be believed, there are signs that the search for the next foreign secretary has begun in earnest. This stems from the widely-held belief that foreign secretary S. Jaishankar, already on one-year extension which ends in January 2018,  is unlikely to get a further extension. He seems to have lost much of his halo as Mr Modi’s favoured diplomat, as the RSS does not seem to approve of MEA’s handling of relations with Nepal, Pakistan and other neighbours.

Mr Jaishankar enjoyed considerable goodwill not just with the PM but also within the IFS community. But that feeling dissipated soon after his appointment, as foreign secretary, followed by the one-year extension. It dashed aspirations of senior IFS officers who were retiring in 2015 and 2016.

Some believe that Indian ambassador to China Vijay Gokhale, returning to MEA HQ to become secretary, economic relations, is a sign that he may succeed Mr Jaishankar. And though Navtej Sarna, at present Indian ambassador in Washington, DC, is also being named as another strong contender, Mr Gokhale is considered the frontrunner. But it’s all depend on what Mr Modi wants, and whom.

Tags: rbi, utkal express derailment, mea, s. jaishankar, urijit patel