Smriti at her oldest best

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Smriti Zubin Irani

Smriti Zubin Irani

It may look like a twist of fate: whatever Smriti does, she lands in controversy. This fate is chasing her again in the Textiles Ministry as well. The irony is that after her departure from the HRD ministry, several officers feel that she was after all not too bad a minister – she often gave them a lot of freedom to work.

But in less than two months of taking charge in the Textiles Ministry, she is said to have picked up a fight with her departmental secretary Rashmi Verma, forcing the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to intervene. Didn’t you know that a bad workman fights with his tools?

Verma, an IAS officer of 1982 Bihar cadre and sister of Cabinet Secretary P K Sinha, was appointed Textiles Secretary last December. Irani was moved from HRD and assigned the Textiles portfolio on July 5 as part of the Cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Smriti is said to have issued more than two dozen notes over the last two days, seeking Textiles Secretary Verma’s response on a range of issues — from the procedural and the administrative to those related to policy. Sources said Irani was, for instance, upset with a file not being sent directly to her but being routed via Verma.

Both are also said to have disagreed over certain aspects of the Rs 6,000-crore apparel and textiles package cleared by the Cabinet on June 22 and preparations for a textile summit which was scheduled to be held in October. Irani even had a heated argument with Verma in the presence of other officers, sources said.

A senior government official said that Irani had raised the issue of poor follow-up on the textiles and apparel package by senior officers in the ministry during a recent Cabinet meeting. Following this, the PMO called a meeting with the officials including Verma to understand what was holding up the implementation of the mega package aimed at creating 1 crore new jobs in the sector over three years.

The official said that to give effect to the Cabinet decision on the textile package, several notifications were to be issued by other departments including revenue, labour, and commerce. “The PMO spoke to the secretaries in these departments as well to expedite the issue of notifications relating to duty drawbacks on textiles products, labour law relaxations, etc,” the official said.

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