Arvind Panagariya’s departure from NITI Aayog may be an innocuous one, but is likely also to be a sign of a more significant change. It denotes the fade-out of the “foreign” influence on Indian economic policymaking, in the view of incoming NITI Aayog chief Rajiv Kumar. Dr Panagariya’s designated successor has hinted that the exits of former RBI chief Raghuram Rajan last year and now Dr Panagariya marks a major shift, with Indian-American economists slowly making way for those who may have a better understanding of the Indian reality. The remark set tongues wagging, as much about the identity of the individuals Mr Kumar has in mind as about the future direction of policymaking envisioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, or rather the swadeshi lobby within the ruling establishment whose views on foreign-educated economists clearly seem to have struck a chord within the government. If this indeed is the prevailing view in the government, then economists with foreign creds may find the current establishment in India less welcoming and you can guess who’s next to go.
A Stern warning: perform or perish
Since 2014 the Modi government has sacked about 400 officers, including IAS and IPS, for under performance. What’s made babus jittery is that the government insists on continuing to weed out those who fail to make the cut, in terms of integrity and honesty. A list will now be prepared biannually and monitored by the Cabinet Secretary. Earlier, such lists were prepared routinely once a year.
Now the list will be prepared for the period between January 1 and June 30 and again from July 1 to December 31. Officials on these two lists are not to be posted in the identified sensitive/corruption-prone areas. Earlier the lists prepared by different departments were sent to the Union home ministry which, in turn, sent the lists to the CBI which prepared a consolidated list. Now the lists will be monitored by the Cabinet Secretary. The Modi government is sending a loud signal that it won’t tolerate non-performing bureaucrats. And corrupt babus need to watch out!
Hoping for a smooth inning
The appointment of Mohammad Mustafa, joint secretary in the department of financial services, as chairman and managing director (CMD) of Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) is a homecoming of sorts for the 1995-batch Uttar Pradesh cadre IAS officer. Since 2012, Mr Mustafa has been with the department of financial services at the ministry of finance in Delhi, initially as a director and then as joint secretary. Set up in 1990, and headquartered in Lucknow, SIDBI provides refinance facilities and short-term lending to industries. As CMD, Mr Mustafa will get to play a key role in the Modi government’s pet Start Up India scheme.
Some observers still recall Mr Mustafa’s stint in Uttar Pradesh and consider him as a bold officer who had a rough time during the former Samajwadi Party and BSP governments. As district magistrate of Pratapgarh, he took on the SP supporter MLA Raja Bhaiyya. His last posting in UP before he moved to Delhi was as mission director of the National Rural Health Mission. Now he returns to his cadre state, but hopefully for a smoother inning.