Elevation of Gujarat cadre IAS officers to top posts stirs a hornets nest

Elevation of Gujarat cadre IAS officers to top posts stirs a hornet's nest

The empanelment of five Gujarat cadre IAS officers as secretary or secretary equivalent posts on April 13 has caused disquiet among the senior bureaucrats across the country. The list released on Monday was finalised by the ACC from a list of 34 empanelled officers.

The empanelment of five Gujarat-cadre IAS officers as secretaries or secretary-equivalent posts on April 13 has caused disquiet among the senior bureaucrats of the country.

The list released on Monday was finalised by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC), headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, from a list of 34 empanelled officers. Of these, 27 were from the 1988 batch and the remaining seven belonged to the 1987 batch.

The appointments and transfers of top bureaucrats are the prerogative of the ACC, which also comprises Union Home Minister Amit Shah. What goes unsaid is that while choosing secretaries, among other things, the appointments committee, comprising politicians, also keep in mind the political inclinations of the bureaucrats.

Related news: Why bureaucracy in Andhra Pradesh is in a mess

Every regime has its own preferences and prejudices in the selection of bureaucrats. During the UPA regime, a number of officers were selected from the Kerala cadre as AK Antony, the then Defence Minister, was a member of the ACC. Similarly, former Home Minister P.  Chidambaram chose officers from Tamil Nadu cadre.

A secretary is the administrative head of a department or a ministry and acts as the chief advisor to the ministry on all policy and administrative issues. In short, they are the ones who practically run a ministry.

Though empanelling of officers is a routine process, this time it has led to tongues wagging because a sizeable number of the officers from the Gujarat cadre, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his number two, Amit Shah have been roped in.

Some officers who felt left out in the process have begun grumbling as they have been ignored despite their unblemished track record and continuous performance.

Sources in the bureaucracy said one of the ‘glaring omissions’ in the selection of secretaries, this time, was that of Gyanesh Kumar. The 1988 batch officer belonging to Kerala cadre is an Additional Secretary in the Home Ministry. He has been in the thick of things since Amit Shah became the Home Minister.

He was not only involved in the framing of the J&K Reorganisation Act, which led to the abrogation of special status under Article 370 and Article 35(A), but was also handpicked by Shah for framing rules for the trust that is overseeing the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya.

It is now certain that his name would figure in the next empanelment exercise. But the fact that he was not included in the first list has got tongues wagging in the power corridors of Delhi.

Many Gujarat cadre officers hold important positions in Delhi. The Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, P.K. Mishra, was from the Gujarat cadre. He is 74, and long retired, but was re-hired on contractual employment and therefore not strictly part of this exercise. Apart from him, in the all-powerful Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), there are a number of officers, at various levels, who hail from the Gujarat cadre.

The Cabinet Secretary, who is the first officer, as far as the Government of India is concerned, is from the Jharkhand cadre. The IAS and IPS officers are empanelled and picked from various states for deputation at the Centre, based on a predetermined ratio.

Related news: 73 IAS officers empanelled for secy, addl secy-level posts

But it is not as if all central administrative officers are keen to work in Delhi. This is because in states they enjoy much wider powers, fringe benefits and perks such as large bungalows, cars, and secretarial and personal staff.

Ever since Modi came to power, he has been talking of administrative reforms. At one point, there was talk of removing, altogether, the practice of empanelling officers. But that did not materialise. Instead, the Centre began following an unwritten formula where 60 to 70 per cent of officers are picked from traditional sources for crucial posts, and the remaining are drawn from various outside sources through lateral entry.

One prominent example of the lateral entry is that of Parameswaran Iyer, who heads the Swachh Bharat Mission. He is credited to have built 11 crore toilets, a world record in itself. He is a 1981 batch IAS officer who quit the services to join the World Bank. But when the Swachh Bharat Mission was announced, he was called back to head it. Iyer accepted the offer without much ado.

Read More
Next Story