Centre faces calls to shift Mizoram chief secy, bring in a Mizo speaker

For some time now, major civil society groups in the state have been campaigning with the Centre to replace the state’s chief secretary

The Centre often claims that it is very sensitive to the needs of the Northeastern states. Now it faces an issue in Mizoram that will test its claim.

For some time now, major civil society groups in the state have been campaigning with the Centre to replace the state’s chief secretary Renu Sharma with an officer who can speak Mizo, the native tongue. The protesters say that, while they have nothing personal against Ms Sharma, her inability to communicate in Mizo is a problem and creates administrative hurdles. The protests have turned public only because the Centre has repeatedly ignored the demand of the Mizo public.

The controversy is not new. This column had earlier reported how Ms Sharma, an AGMUT cadre officer of the 1988 batch, was appointed by the Centre to the post in October last year after the retirement of her predecessor Lalnunmawia Chuaungo. Oddly, on the same day, chief minister Zoramthanga named additional chief secretary J.C. Ramthanga to the same post. The confusion ended when the Centre’s nominee prevailed and Ms Sharma took charge.

The opposition to Ms Sharma, observers say, has the tacit support of the state government, which may explain why the issue has not died down. It may also be why the Centre is treading carefully on the issue, knowing that any wrong move can escalate the tense situation. The buzz is that the Home Ministry may decide to err on the side of caution and bury the issue quietly by acquiescing to the demand for Ms Sharma’s removal.

Sector swap

Public or private sector? Where is the grass greener? In these enlightened times, apparently on both sides.

Sources have informed DKB that the Centre is actively considering hiring a private sector executive for the top post at the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC). The post has been vacant since the retirement of Shashi Shanker in March last year. The government’s search-cum-selection committee is reportedly planning to seek out private sector executives as well as eligible candidates from within the government. The view is that a private sector honcho is more likely to help revamp the company, increase its risk-taking capability and enhance efficiency. To sweeten the deal, the government is weighing options to offer a lucrative compensation too.

Meanwhile, several corporate houses in Tamil Nadu believe hiring ex-IAS officers makes a lot of business sense. An IAS officer does not lose relevance after superannuation but is often capable of donning a new avatar. Recently, two leading corporates of Chennai drafted two former IAS officers R. Gopalan and M.F. Farooqui as chairpersons of their companies. Of course, both ex-babus have served on the boards of these companies for some time, but their elevation to the top slot has made a lot of people sit up and take notice.

Possibly, these babus who have long years of experience serving at the Centre and the state will bring a new perspective, especially on how to navigate the tricky corridors of bureaucracy. It is a win-win proposition for both ex-babus and their new corporate masters.

IAS crunch continues as govt goes slow on intake

When the Centre promised “minimum government, maximum governance”, it is pretty certain that it did not mean cutting down the number of IAS officers. Yet, that is what it has allowed to happen.

Despite suffering a crunch of IAS officers for more than a year now, the government has done little to improve the intake of officers in the service. The recent UPSC civil service exam results have shown that the intake of IAS officers is 180, the same as it was in 2014 when Modi became the Prime Minister. The total intake of officers in the civil service has gone down to 749 officers last year from 1,228 in 2013.

Earlier in March, a report of the parliamentary standing committee on personnel had recommended that the department of personnel and training (DoPT) increase the intake of IAS officers, but the government has not moved on the issue. Why is it dragging its feet? Some observers feel that the answer depends on the cadre review. The government is still working on an acceptable formula and does not wish to increase the intake of officers suddenly, since it may be perceived as a knee-jerk reaction.

So the low intake is due to the government trying to restructure the system. Again, we don’t know how long that exercise will continue.

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