A piquant situation has developed in Mizoram, which now finds itself saddled with two chief secretaries. While the Centre has appointed senior IAS officer Renu Sharma as the new chief secretary of the state, this coincides with the state government appointing additional chief secretary J.C. Ramthanga to the same post. Both appointments are effective from November 1.
The Centre now claims that Ms Sharma’s appointment was cleared after the approval of the competent authority when apparently it is not. Now the question obviously is: who will prevail — Renu Sharma or Ramthanga? Clearly, there has been an obvious lack of coordination between the two authorities leading to the creation of this awkward situation. How was it allowed to happen, and what recourse is available now? Is there anything in the civil services rules that offers a solution, or will it end up in the courts? Or will one of the appointees agree to step aside? There are no easy choices.
Khemka is on the move, again
Senior Haryana IAS officer and noted whistleblower Ashok Khemka has been transferred for the 54th time in 29 years of service. While this is probably not news anymore, it perhaps is some sort of record in the civil services. It also shows that the veteran babu who has clashed numerous times with his political masters continues to be the Haryana politician’s biggest bugbear.
Currently assigned as principal secretary of archives, archaeology and museums, the 1991 batch IAS officer has been transferred to the state science and technology and fisheries departments after barely 11 months. No reason has been offered for the transfer, which again is not unusual when it comes to all things Khemka.
But observers have told DKB that Mr Khemka is caught in the political rivalry between chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar and home minister Anil Vij. He is reportedly closer to Mr Vij. But it is also true that Mr Khemka’s penchant for raising awkward questions, especially on protect of the Aravalli hill area in Haryana from illegal mining and construction, continues to rile the powers that be.
Curiously, Mr Khemka’s attempts to break away from the situation have not succeeded. Earlier last month, the department of personnel and training (DoPT) had rejected his request for Central empanelment citing his "lack of experience with the Union government". Clearly, the whistleblower is not welcome at the Centre either and the Haryana government will be saddled with Mr Khemka, like it or not.
Govt clearing decks for Air India handover
The government has directed all Central government ministries and departments to clear their pending dues to Air India immediately. Clearly, the finance ministry and the ministry of civil aviation would like to hand over a liability-free airline to the Tatas. Apparently, various ministries, PSUs and other departments owe the airline more than Rs 600 crores, not counting the cost of transporting VVIPs, ministers and foreign dignitaries.
Now in an order issued by the department of expenditure of the ministry, director, expenditure, Nirmala Dev has said that since Air India after divestment has stopped extending credit facility for the purchase of tickets, these must be paid in cash and also directed that all pending dues be cleared at once. The return of the dues could be a first, and very small, step to clean the balance sheet of the financially beleaguered airline before its eventual take over by the Tata Group.
This will require some careful coordination between the finance and civil aviation ministries and the disinvestment secretary Tuhin Kant Pandey to ensure that the government can meet the oncoming deadline for handing over Air India by December end. This would include not just these pending dues but also various regulatory clearances, including from the Competition Commission of India (CCI).