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  Opinion   Oped  22 Jan 2017  Dilli Ka Babu: On the fast track

Dilli Ka Babu: On the fast track

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Published : Jan 22, 2017, 5:09 am IST
Updated : Jan 22, 2017, 5:09 am IST

A three-member selection panel headed by Cabinet secretary P.K. Sinha has shortlisted 30 applicants.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi (Photo: PTI)
 Prime Minister Narendra Modi (Photo: PTI)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious bullet train project is on the fast track. The government is close to finalising the name of the managing director of the National High Speed Rail Corporation. Sources say the announcement will be made this month.

A three-member selection panel headed by Cabinet secretary P.K. Sinha has shortlisted 30 applicants. Only one candidate is a current, full-time officer of railways, while the remaining are civil engineers working with other organisations, like metro projects and rail PSUs.

Among the shortlisted applicants is Achal Khare, a senior Indian Railways officer currently working as adviser (infrastructure) and heading the directorate in railway ministry that looks after the high-speed project and has conceived the new company. Two directors from the board of Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation Limited — Anshuman Sharma, director (project planning) and D.S. Rana, director (infrastructure) have also been shortlisted.

Shailesh Kumar Pathak, currently the commissioner of railway safety (northern circle) under the ministry of civil aviation, is the only one in the list who is neither from an SPV nor a PSU and is not involved in any kind of “project implementation” in the strictest sense.

Sources add that other directors of the corporation will be named only after the MD’s appointment.

RBI needs hands
At a time when the Reserve Bank of India is engaged in a massive remonetisation effort, it comes as a surprise that the bank’s central board is functioning without a deputy governor and 10 non-official directors. Of course, the deputy governor’s post became vacant when Urjit Patel was elevated as RBI governor in early September.

But, sources say, the 10 vacancies at the non-official director level haven’t been filled for several months now. The absence of these persons must be felt at the meetings of the central board, which are held at least six times in a year, and at least once every quarter. In March, the government had nominated three non-official directors — Natarajan, Chandrasekaran, Bharat Narotam Doshi and Sudhir Mankad — on the RBI’s central board. In June, the government had appointed N.S. Vishwanathan as deputy governor. But since then no appointments have been made to the board of the apex bank.

Apparently, the government has received around 90 applications for the post of deputy governor in October, but nothing has been heard about the appointment since then.

Unhappy with IAS
Going through some officers’ appointments that were approved last week, it can’t be said that only the IAS manage good postings nowadays. Yes, all those were director-level postings and hence are junior to joint secretary or secretary-ranked ones, but officers belonging to Indian Statistical Service, Indian Railway Personnel Service and IRS (customs and central excise) did manage key posts on deputation. For example, IRS (customs and central excise) officer Alok Shukla is the new counsellor (director level) at Permanent Mission of India, World Trade Organisation, Geneva.

But the non-IAS officers don’t agree. The Confederation of Civil Services Association has written to PM Narendra Modi claiming that non-IAS officers are not being selected for top posts of secretaries and additional secretaries at the Centre.

The letter stated that a record number of non-IAS Group A service officers posted as secretaries has actually declined over the years. Apparently, 15 non-IAS officers got posted as secretaries in 1972, however, the number decreased to just five in 2015. Meanwhile, the number of IAS officers in secretary post has increased from 30 to 73. The petitioners include IPS, revenue services, railways, audit and accounts service, forest service and Indian Information Service officers. Clearly, the recent appointments have not allayed the concerns of the non-IAS services.

Tags: narendra modi, reserve bank of india, urjit patel, world trade organisation