Dilip Cherian | Centre warns officers filing false info on behalf of state

Apparently, the problem has grown alarmingly so that finance secretary T.V. Somanathan had to step in

“Bad” data is all around. Even as the Centre is vigorously questioning the WHO’s Covid death figures in India during the pandemic, it also has issues with information supplied by the states to the finance ministry for the release of funds under centrally sponsored schemes. Apparently, the problem has grown alarmingly so that finance secretary T.V. Somanathan had to step in.

Sources have informed DKB that Mr Somanathan recently fired off a stern missive to all chief secretaries warning that providing false information for borrowing purposes will lead to stringent action against those responsible.

Apparently, there have been several instances in which the ministry was provided wrong information, either deliberately or negligently, by states. In one case, this led to over-borrowing by a state during the tenure of one government and, therefore, deduction of that amount during the tenure of its successor, which created a big problem for the Centre.

In his missive, Mr Somanathan has warned that if a state is found to have submitted false or wrong information, the concerned IAS or IPS officers will face action which can affect their empanelment, central or inter-cadre deputation, and even foreign training and assignments. That’s tough talk.

Babus may do well to remember that during the Modi sarkar, senior IAS, IPS and IFS officers have been dismissed from service for misconduct, disproportionate assets and inefficiency.

Modi strengthens PMO team

The appointment of former petroleum secretary Tarun Kapoor as advisor to Prime Minister Narendra Modi comes as no surprise to most babu-watchers, though there may have been some who expected to see the return of Bhaskar Khulbe to the PMO after his term ended in February. For now, at least.

Mr Kapoor is known to be close to Mr Modi and played a key role during the pandemic, and earlier as the one who worked hard to implement one of Mr Modi’s pet projects, the development of city gas distribution networks, among other assignments. He may be one of the very few IAS officers to have served the Manmohan Singh government as well as the Modi sarkar. He may be seen as “old school” and “low profile”, but there is a teeny whisper that his appointment to the PMO may also have something to do with him being from Himachal Pradesh, which is due for elections later this year.

But apart from Mr Kapoor, Mr Modi has fortified the PMO by inducting two additional secretaries Atish Chandra and Hari Ranjan Rao, raising the number of additional secretaries to five as against four joint secretaries. This imbalance, some say, will be rectified with the possible induction of some joint secretary-level officers shortly.

Change of guard at DoPT

The appointment of a new secretary to the department of personnel and training (DoPT) in the secretary-level reshuffle came as a surprise to some babus, especially those from the Central Secretariat Service (CSS) cadre. The incoming secretary, Ms S Radha Chauhan, replaces Pradip Kumar Tripathi who has been shifted out as secretary (coordination) in the Cabinet Secretariat.

The view emerging from the CSS cadre babus is that Mr Tripathi’s transfer is related to the long-pending promotion-related issues of CSS officers, which have not been resolved by DoPT even after clear instructions from above. Also, since 2014, at least, secretaries in DoPT have usually served until their superannuation and not changed midway through their tenure. Mr Tripathi was slated to continue in the post until June 2024.

But the more plausible reason has nothing to do with this viewpoint. Sources have informed DKB that the timing of Mr Tripathi’s transfer to the Cabinet Secretariat should be seen in the context of the Cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba whose term is ending in August this year. The CSS version, sources say, is more likely aimed at pushing the DoPT and its new secretary to fast-track action on their demands. What’s your take?

Next Story