Opinion Columnists 25 Aug 2021 Babus’ ‘ ...
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Babus’ ‘equality’? Mid-career course at Mussoorie will lose IAS-only tag

Published Aug 26, 2021, 1:51 am IST
Updated Aug 26, 2021, 1:51 am IST
Mr Gauba’s predecessor P.K. Sinha held the post well beyond his two-year tenure thanks to several extensions

The new director of the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration in Mussoorie, Katikithala Srinivas, has a new and rather important task. In a first, non-IAS officers will receive mid-career training along with IAS officers in October this year, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Mission Karmayogi” plan. Inspired by the changes brought in babudom by the government, the new plan will see non-IAS officers rub shoulders with their IAS counterparts at this formerly exclusive Mussoorie venue.

The recent empanelment of 26 officers of the IRS, IRTS and IRPS cadres into joint secretary or equivalent posts is another sign of the gradual equation of the “heaven-born” with other all-India cadres. Some naysayers predict the end of exclusivity is near.


The inaugural programme will bring together IAS and non-IAS officers from two batches of the civil service. So far only IAS officers routinely went to Mussoorie for a mid-career session at three stages of their service. IPS officers, similarly, went to the Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel National Police Academy, Hyderabad, for their mid-career training.

These changes have been underway for some time now. Two years ago, the foundation course at the Mussoorie academy, solely intended for the IAS cadre, was opened up to include other Central Group A services. So, the current decision further strengthens the government’s common pool of babu talent idea, rather than the silos that exist today.


Faulty smartphones spark a stir

A mobile wapasi andolan is underway in Maharashtra, where anganwadi workers are protesting the “substandard and faulty” cellphones provided to them by the state government. Many have returned the phones to their respective panchayat samiti officers. They are also demanding better smartphones.

From what DKB hears, the Maharashtra Minister of Women and Child Development Yashomati Chandrakant Thakur and the department Secretary I.A. Kundan are in touch with the Centre for instructions. Babus in several states too are alerting the government about similar complaints. It is still an incipient movement, but the agitation has clearly sent the Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) babus into a huddle. Secretary Indevar Pandey has ordered his babus to investigate who ordered the phones and why the Poshan tracker app being used by the anganwadi workers to enter crucial nutrition data has snags.


Apparently, the protesting anganwadi workers have written directly to WCD minister Smriti Irani about the issue though it isn’t clear whether the issue has been brought to her attention. However, it is quite likely that officials in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) may pick on this because it has the potential to become a major issue. There are around 1.4 million anganwadi workers in the country, and all are mandatorily using the app under instructions from the ministry.

Extension dashes hopes of aspirants

Cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba, who was slated to retire at the end of the month, has been granted an extension of service for one year. This seems to be in line with the recent precedent of the government giving extensions to cabinet secretaries. Mr Gauba’s predecessor P.K. Sinha held the post well beyond his two-year tenure thanks to several extensions. Shortly after, the government announced that home secretary Ajay Bhalla has also been given a year’s extension.


Some senior bureaucrats in New Delhi are stung but silent that their hopes of reaching the pinnacle of their career have been dashed by the announcements. Very often bureaucrats aim to finish off their 30-35-year career at the top. After all, these are among the two most powerful positions and there are usually several people waiting in the wings to step up.

However, hopes couldn’t have been too high because normally there is a period in which an understudy is placed under the incumbent before being formally appointed to make for a smooth transition. But this time no one of that sort was sighted. Perhaps this is how things are done now.


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