Modi is known to have a soft spot for babus from his state.
Under the Modi sarkar, Gujarat cadre IAS officers have had a gloriously successful run. Some would even say that they have come to wield disproportionate power over other state cadres, due to their previous association with Mr Modi during his tenure as chief minister of Gujarat. Mr Modi is known to have a soft spot for babus from his state. But the recent Staff Selection Commission (SSC) and Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) examination paper leaks have dented this image of untouchability.
Both organisations are headed by Gujarat-cadre IAS officers. Ashim Khurana, an IAS officer of 1983 batch, is the chairman of SSC while Anita Karwal, an officer of 1988 batch, is the chairperson of CBSE. Mr Khurana was placed as the head of the SSC in December 2015, well before his superannuation in 2016, on a contract basis for two years. Ms Karwal had taken charge of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) in August last year. Prior to joining the CBSE, she was posted as additional secretary in human resources development (HRD) ministry. She also served as Gujarat chief electoral officer during the Lok Sabha election in 2014.
But the widespread public anger over the leak of examination papers and the inept handling of the whole issue has led to demands for removing these babus from their positions. Will they manage to survive the current turmoil?
Renaming institutions is a game all governments play and the BJP-led NDA government is no different. It has been called out for renaming and repackaging old UPA policies (according to some, as many as 23 Congress schemes) after its own leaders.
But politics apart, the renaming of the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) as Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC), announced recently, has arisen out from a practical reason. The change has been necessitated after the enactment of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) which consolidated multiple indirect taxes into one tax. Accordingly, the central indirect tax authority has updated its Twitter handle to “cbic_India” from the earlier “cbec_India”. The re-organisation of field formations of the CBEC for implementation of GST and its renaming to CBIC was approved by finance minister Arun Jaitley in March last year. With legislative approval not in place for the change of name, CBEC has been notifying all rules and provisions of the new indirect tax regime
CAT pulls up MEA
Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer Devyani Khobr-agade, who once caused a dip in Indo-US relations, is in the news again. The Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) which adjudicates on disputes related to recruitment and service conditions of babus, has come down harshly on the ministry of external affairs (MEA) for delaying Ms Khobragade’s promotion for more than 20 months.
The ministry had initiated a departmental enquiry into Ms Khobragade for charges levelled against her during her US stint. The MEA had also proposed action against her for giving interviews to the media without taking permission from the ministry. The probe remains incomplete.
Ms Khobragade was due for promotion to the rank of joint secretary along with her other 1999 IFS batchmates in 2016. She had approached CAT in the matter after writing to former foreign secretary S. Jaishankar that the delay of nearly two years to complete the probe had caused her denial of promotion despite her outstanding service records.
CAT has provided the diplomat a major reprieve by directing the ministry to immediately promote Ms Khobragade to the rank of joint secretary with effect from 2016.