N.K. Arya, the new chief secretary of Rajasthan, is not the first choice of state chief minister Ashok Gehlot for the position. Until the last moment, the last working day of outgoing chief secretary Rajeev Swarup, the Gehlot government hoped to push for a tenure extension for Swarup. But the Centre denied its consent and Arya was drafted in, superseding eight IAS officers in the process. He was additional chief secretary for finance. Besides appointing Arya, the government also effected a major reshuffle involving 21 senior IAS officers.
The drama was building for some time. Sources say that Gehlot had worked hard to ensure Swarup was appointed chief secretary in early July this year and then pushed for his extension. It is said that to appoint Swarup to the state’s top post, the chief minister reportedly “struck a deal” with the previous chief secretary D.B. Gupta who was slated to retire in September. Under this supposed deal, Mr Gupta resigned in July and was immediately appointed advisor to the CM for a year and Mr Swarup stepped in as his successor.
The babu grapevine has it that Mr Swarup endeared himself to the chief minister during the Gehlot-Sachin Pilot standoff, which may not have gone down well with the Centre.
EC for ‘cooling-off’ period for babus
The Election Commission (EC) is now likely to recommend to the Centre a “cooling off” period for IAS, IPS and other officers who join politics soon after retirement or after resigning the service. Sources say that the poll panel was jolted into this line of thinking after former Bihar DGP Gupteshwar Pandey resigned from the IPS in September and promptly joined a political party barely weeks before the Bihar Assembly elections. His resignation was accepted immediately, even though government regulations stipulate that an officer who wishes to join private employment after service needs to wait a year after retirement or resigning from service.
Though the demand for a cooling-off period is not a new one and is usually raised around election time when babus who have political ambitions often quit to join a political party. The government has so far rejected it, arguing that barring former babus from joining politics immediately after leaving service can be interpreted as an infringement of their right to equality.
But the poll panel is now keen to ensure that the government insists on a cooling-off period for AIS officers seeking to join politics, just as it does for those seeking corporate jobs. The commission is yet to work out the modalities of how long this cooling-off period should be, but sources say it could be at least two years.
U-turn on forest transfers in Uttarakhand
The forest department of Uttarakhand and the state government seem to be at odds with each other. The government recently cancelled all the transfers of forest department officials done between September and October for violating an order that prohibited transfer of any official during 2020-21. Apparently, the department has done around a dozen such transfers without first seeking clearance from the state government.
Earlier, in July, sources say, the government had revoked the transfer order of 11 deputy conservator of forests (DCFs) within 48 hours of the issuing of the orders. At the time, Anand Bardhan, principal secretary, forest department, had issued a terse statement saying that it was a government order “and we are simply following it”.
However, according to sources, several Indian Forest Service (IFoS) officers say that the order was revoked since the transfer list contained several names that were not presented before the civil service board for transfers. Further, some officers on deputation were given additional charge, which is apparently against the rules. According to a Supreme Court ruling, no transfer can be done without the approval of the civil services board. So why was this being done? That’s a mystery.
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