Dilli Ka Babu: Privileged connections

But Diwakar Nath Misra is no run-of-the-mill joint secretary.

Update: 2020-02-29 19:37 GMT
Ram Nath Kovind

There was quite a splash last month in the power corridors when a babu hosted a “mundan” (head tonsuring) ceremony for his daughter which was attended by President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, home minister Amit Shah, several Union ministers, chief ministers of several states, dozens of secretaries, and various former ministers, etc. The guest list was practically the who’s who of the capital’s power wielders.


But Diwakar Nath Misra is no run-of-the-mill joint secretary. He is the son-in-law of Supreme Court judge, Justice A.K. Mishra, and the party was held at the judge’s residence, a connection that may explain this unprecedented turnout, which we, by the way, love.

Mr Misra is a very fine 2000-batch IAS officer of the Assam-Meghalaya cadre and worked in the petroleum ministry before his current assignment. He was also the secretary of the oil industry development board.

Nobody gets to leave
The Narendra Modi PMO is pretty much like the hotel in the well-known Eagles song: “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave”!
Despite leaving the PMO at the end of his tenure as principal secretary to the Prime Minister, Nripendra Misra clearly remains a Narendra Modi favourite. When he quit the PMO at the end of the Modi sarkar’s first term, Mr Misra did not fade away into the sunset. A few months later, the Prime Minister appointed Mr Misra as the head of the executive council of the prestigious Nehru Memorial Museum and Library. And now, he has been made head of the committee that will oversee the construction of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. No doubt, Mr Misra’s long experience as a bureaucrat in Uttar Pradesh and the perception that he enjoys Mr Modi’s complete trust will come in handy.

Similarly, another ex-PMO babu, Bhaskar Khulbe, a West Bengal cadre officer of the 1983 batch who retired as the secretary to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has made a quiet comeback in the PMO as adviser to Mr Modi in the rank and scale of secretary. Mr Modi will now have two advisers, the other being Mr Khulbe’s batchmate Amarjeet Sinha from Bihar who retired as secretary, rural development. Both will join the expanding stable that now includes principal secretary to the PM Dr P.K. Mishra, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and principal adviser to the PM P.K. Sinha, all of whom run the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) of 48 senior officials.

All of this provides a clear clue on how Mr Modi likes to staff his PMO — with babus who fulfil his key criteria of loyalty and trust and continuity too.

A technical change, or more?
Can a paramilitary force be given the status of a civil service? The Modi sarkar has answered with an emphatic “yes”! It has decided to bring all Central Armed Police Forces into one Indian Central Armed Police Service (ICAPS). Further, all future recruitment of officers for the paramilitary forces will be through the civil service exam conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC).

The change of name, sources say, is intended to reflect the change in the status of the Central police forces, and to bring them on par with the other civil services.
The change was recommended in December last year by a committee headed by the border management secretary of the ministry of home affairs, which had received the proposal from the UPSC in 2017.

The decision is also intended to end the hierarchy between civil officials and Central police force officers. However, some IPS officers are of the view that the name change is a mere technicality and will not make much of a difference unless the proposed ICAPS cadre are made interchangeable so that officers of one paramilitary force can be deployed to other forces and vice versa.

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