Babus in the ministry of external affairs, both serving and retired, are a worried lot. Narendra Modi has expressed worries that there are too few of them serving in India. Now that he’s done 30 days of globe-trotting he needs hands and legs in Delhi to deliver on promises. So the indicators are that the more “flag waving positions” (read ambassadorships) may be given to party faithful and big talent will be brought back.
A series of major reshuffles in the top bureaucracy have taken place since Modi sarkar came to power, but the MEA has so far escaped the tumult. But now this may change.
Observers say that there are some 40 posts of heads of missions that they expect will be filled over the coming months. Among the high-profile positions is that of the high commissioner to Canada. The current incumbent former Navy Chief N.K. Verma’s tenure is ending and many senior officers are in the race to replace him. Also, Dilip Sinha is retiring as permanent representative to UN in Geneva this month end. Rumour has it that MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin could replace him. Australia too should see the appointment of a new high commissioner.
Change of guard
Maharashtra’s Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has brought in his own team of babus, while transferring former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan’s babus to insignificant positions. Sources say that though the revamp in the CMO is now complete, a major reshuffle in the state is likely. Among those ousted is Ashish Singh, former principal secretary to Mr Chavan, who will now cool his heels as head of the State Industrial and Investment Corporation, though in these times, it’s a critical post too.
There is naturally a lot of interest evinced in the newcomers who have been selected by Mr Fadnavis, since they will wield a lot of power in the state administration. Pravin Darade, a 1998-batch IAS officer is the new secretary to the chief minister, while his colleagues Praveen Pardeshi and Milind Mhaiskar have been named principal secretaries. These babus have been appointed after consultations with the state chief secretary Swadheen Kshatriya. However sources don’t rule out further change of personnel in the CMO.
The middle path
For perennially babu-starved states like West Bengal and Uttarakhand, the Centre has decided to send “middle-rung” bureaucrats to these states to help them tide over the shortage. Sources say that secretary, department of personnel and training (DoPT) Sanjay Kothari has written to the chief secretaries of Uttarakhand and West Bengal asking them to utilise the middle-rung babus on deputation basis in their states.
Sources say that the shortage of officials in states is due to the lure of Central deputation, and the reluctance of officials on deputation to return to their parent cadres. Interestingly, recently the Narendra Modi government wrote to the states asking them not to discourage babus from taking up deputation at the Centre. This then perhaps is the solution the Centre has offered to states in return for allowing babus to go on Central deputation....