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  Opinion   Columnists  21 Apr 2021  Dilip Cherian | Private sector specialists will helm Modi’s reforms push

Dilip Cherian | Private sector specialists will helm Modi’s reforms push

Love them, hate them ignore them at national peril, is the babu guarantee and Dilip’s belief. Share significant babu escapades
Published : Apr 22, 2021, 12:00 am IST
Updated : Apr 22, 2021, 12:00 am IST

While it would be erroneous to see political colour in what should be seen as usual assignments, few observers are willing to buy this line


In September last year, the Modi sarkar gave the go-ahead to its most ambitious bid to reform the bureaucracy — a national capacity building programme. Finally, the programme has got underway with the creation of the Capacity Building Commission (CBC) under the National Programme for Civil Service Capacity Building aka “Mission Karmayogi”.

And given the government’s recent obsession with domain experts from the private sector, the man appointed to head the new CBC is no babu, but Adil Zainulbhai, the chief of the Quality Council of India (QCI), which is an autonomous body under the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion. He is a former chairman of McKinsey India and a known supporter of the Prime Minister. The CBC will have two members — Ramaswami Balasubramaniam and Praveen Pardeshi — with only the latter being an IAS officer (of the 1985 batch).

For those who look for patterns in these things, consider that Zainulbhai’s appointment came on the same day as the announcement that Mallika Srinivasan will be the chairperson of the Public Enterprises Selection Board (PESB), the first time that a private sector specialist has been appointed as the head of the board that is responsible for the appointment of top management posts in the Central Public Sector Enterprises.

Looking back further, there was another clue when in February Prime Minister Narendra Modi attacked the IAS in the Parliament, no less. The message then is clear: the government has firmly announced its intention of bringing in more domain knowledge specialists than continue to depend on the “heaven-born” who are generalists by training. They will no doubt put up some resistance, but Mr Modi is bent upon breaching this wall and bring in much-needed reforms.

HC stays appointment of former TN chief secretary as NGT expert. Former Tamil Nadu chief secretary Girija Vaidhyanathan faces uncertain days ahead. Slated to join the National Green Tribunal (NGT) as an expert member, the appointment has been put on hold by the Madras high court.

The court has granted an interim stay on her appointment stating that she did not meet the minimum eligibility criterion of possessing five years of experience in handling environmental issues. The court was acting in response to a petition filed by a group of environmental conservation activists, which argues for cancellation and nullification of the December 12 notification about Vaidhyanathan’s appointment.

Sources point out that Vaidhyanathan was appointed an expert member of the NGT along with her 1987 batch colleague K. Satyagopal, who retired as additional chief secretary and commissioner of revenue administration. Ms Vaidhyanathan’s argument that she had held various administrative positions related to the environment clearly did not cut much ice with the court. The court will continue hearing the case.

Maharashtra babus seek Central deputation

The fierce face-off between the ruling Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government and the Opposition BJP has led to many “blue-eyed” officers seen as close to former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis seeking the “cooler climes” of a Central deputation. Sources say that several IAS and IPS officers who wielded clout in the tenure of Mr Fadnavis are on deputation to the Centre.

Sources say that GST Commissioner Sanjeev Kumar, a 1993-batch IAS officer, has taken over as chairman of the Airports Authority of India, while Best general manager S.K. Bagde has been appointed an additional secretary in the ministry of housing and urban development. While Mr Bagde had completed his tenure, Sanjeev Kumar was GST commissioner for only a year and four months. Similarly, former DGP S.K. Jaiswal has taken over as DG of CISF while former state intelligence commissioner Rashmi Shukla has now gone to the CRPF. Another senior IPS officer, Manoj Kumar Sharma, who was in the Maharashtra State Security Corporation, has taken up a Central deputation.

While it would be erroneous to see political colour in what should be seen as routine assignments, few observers are willing to buy this line.

Tags: private specialists in bureaucracy, mission karmayogi, capacity building commission (cbc), modi government, quality council of india, public enterprises selection board, central public sector enterprises