It’s hard to keep a whistleblower down, as the Haryana government has often discovered in its dealings with IAS officer Ashok Khemka.
While the government is still mulling the proposal of lateral entry of outside experts to the civil service, the NITI Aayog has already moved in this direction. Among the last major decisions taken by vice-chairman Arvind Panagariya, who has quit and is returning to his teaching career in the US, the government’s premier think tank is in the midst of amending recruitment rules which will allow it to create a flexi pool of advisers, research officers and economic officers to tackle the rising workload from the Prime Minister’s Office.
The think tank proposes to create a flexi talent pool of 100 experts at the rank of advisers, deputy advisers, joint advisers, senior advisers, senior research officers and economic officers, who can be either hired on deputation or can be a direct recruitment on contract.
Ever since its transformation from the erstwhile Planning Commission into a policy think tank, the NITI Aayog with Dr Panagariya at the helm has undergone a radical restructuring in order to play its new role as envisaged by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The creation of a new “talent pool” will reportedly begin soon.
It’s hard to keep a whistleblower down, as the Haryana government has often discovered in its dealings with IAS officer Ashok Khemka. The officer who rose to fame in 2012 after his decision to scrap Robert Vadra’s land deals continues to raise his voice on issues, often embarrassing the state government. A few months ago, Mr Khemka had questioned political persons as officers on special duty issuing orders to administrative secretaries.
This time the activist officer has questioned the state IAS Association for reacting to a journalist’s tweet about the posting of Shyamal Misra as joint secretary, department of commerce, on Central deputation. The journalist had pointedly mentioned that the babu is son-in-law of Nripendra Misra, principal secretary to Prime Minister. Although the babu in question did not respond, apparently, the IAS Association jumped to Mr Misra’s defence. Mr Khemka questioned the association’s response and said it shouldn’t have tried to defend Mr Misra on his Central posting. He termed it “selective defence”. But for now, Mr Khemka’s bristling indignation has not received a response from the IAS Association.
Babus are not amused
It’s not just allowances that Central government babus are unhappy with, but also that the government has abolished sumptuary allowance in all training establishments and institutes. This allowance is given to directors and course directors in national and Central training institutes for entertaining students and faculty. Until June Rs 3,500 per month was given to a director or head of a training institute, Rs 2,500 pm for a course director and Rs 2,000 per month for a counsellor.
In case of the Cabinet Secretary, the entertainment allowance per month is Rs 10,000. So far as the armed forces officers are concerned, the allowance is called official hospitality grant, and it varies from one rank to the other. It’s learnt that the government accepted the 7th Pay Commission’s recommendation of abolition of the entertainment allowance to the Cabinet Secretary and to Indian Railways officers.
There had been a demand from various service associations to raise the amount of the allowances. But the pay panel found that the structure of these allowances was haphazard, and the rates vary widely. Also, the allowance was paid only in certain ministries and not across the board. So, it recommended abolishing the allowance and the government accepted it. Obviously, it believes there can be no perks for perpetuity.