Babus’ stir bears fruit, govt rushes to fill critical posts in all ministries

A few weeks ago, the representatives of CSS officers had met with the minister of state for personnel and PMO, Dr Jitendra Singh

The recent protests by Central Secretariat Service (CSS) officers about promotion and career prospects have prodded the government into action. And the action stems from the very top, triggered probably by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent interaction with Union secretaries, where he, too, had expressed concern over the growing number of vacancies in various ministries and departments.

Sources have informed DKB that Cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba has shot off letters to heads of various ministries and departments directing them to immediately fill the existing vacancies against sanctioned posts.

Apparently, hundreds of posts are currently vacant in various ministries and departments at various levels, impeding the efficient functioning of the government. Most of these posts are staffed by CSS service officers, and the vacancies have left the existing CSS officers doubling duty and working long hours. A few weeks ago, the representatives of CSS officers had met with the minister of state for personnel and PMO, Dr Jitendra Singh, seeking his intervention in the matter.

With the Prime Minister stepping in, it appears that there is a new urgency in the government to fill the vacancies and also take a measured look at the promotion issues of these babus.

Will Manoj Soni defy the Cassandras?

An inspiring story of struggle and hard work or the result of proximity to the reigning political ideology? The appointment of Manoj Soni as chairperson of the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) has cleaved opinion among civil servants, public commentators and the public. It matters little that Mr Soni is not new to the institution — he has been a UPSC member since 2017 — and no rules have been bent for his appointment, as far as we know.

Yet, there are dissenting voices who fear that the former vice-chancellor of Vadodara’s MS University and a former speechwriter for Prime Minister Narendra Modi poses a threat to the civil service system. To make him responsible for the recruitment of officers of the All-India Services, given his “saffron” background, is a recipe for trouble, they argue.

The “liberals” may have their concerns, but for the Centre, Mr Soni seems to tick all the ‘right’ boxes. Humble origins like Mr Modi’s, self-made scholar-monk with ties to the hugely influential Swaminarayan sect, staunch defender of then-CM Modi’s government in Gujarat, etc. What’s not to like? But perhaps the bigger fear that has not been voiced is that in the past UPSC chairpersons were renowned academics with excellent records, and more significantly, career babus from the IAS. It is this last bit that perhaps rankles the most. Will Mr Soni defy the Cassandras? We’ll see.

Reshuffle of Delhi babus sets off speculation

In a recent reshuffle of UT cadre officers, it is the appointment of former NDMC (New Delhi Municipal Council) chairman Naresh Kumar as the new chief secretary of Delhi that has drawn the most attention. A 1987-batch IAS officer, Mr Kumar has replaced his batchmate Vijay Kumar Dev, who is now the chief election commissioner of Delhi.

Babu-watchers consider Mr Kumar’s appointment as significant in the context of the unification of Delhi’s three municipal corporations that is underway. In a unified municipal corporation, the special officer of the civic body will have considerably more power and privileges than the chief secretary! Apparently, this is already so in Maharashtra, where the BMC commissioner enjoys more power than the senior-most bureaucrat in the state.

On the other hand, the present NDMC chairman, Dharmendra, has been posted out as chief secretary of Arunachal Pradesh, which many babus strangely seem to consider a demotion. But Mr Dharmendra, sources have informed DKB, stands a good chance to hold a prime posting before retirement since age is on his side.

For now, however, the big question is about the future of Satya Gopal, who Mr Dharmendra is replacing. Will the former Arunachal chief secretary return to Delhi as NDMC chairman or get some other prime post?

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