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PESB’s dilemma: Five chairmen in five years yet awaiting the sixth one?

By Rakesh Ranjan- 01 Oct 2020
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The Public Enterprises Selection Board (PESB) is headless for over a month now. It has seen five chairmen in the last five years (between June 2015 and April 2020) and the chair has successively become fragile and unstable.

Keeping in view the designated three years term (or till 65 yrs of age) of its chairman, PESB would have ideally had only two chairmen between 2015-2021, but the story is quite different. If one goes by the incumbency chart of PESB Chairman frequent changes at the top makes one curious about the objective and seriousness towards public-sector giants.

PESB has the mandate to evolve a sound managerial policy for the Central Public Sector Enterprises and, in particular, to advise the Government on appointments to their top management posts. However, ironically, the background and career progression of the previous chairmen indicate that the PESB chair is now either consideration or meant for the transition.   

It is worth checking the incumbency chart for the last five years.

After completing 4 years' extended tenure as Cabinet Secretary on 13 June 2015, Ajit Kumar Seth (Retd IAS:1974:UP) on 14.08.2015 had replaced Atul Chaturvedi as PESB Chairman. Seth headed PESB for 365 days and moved on after he attained 65 yrs of age. He was succeeded by  Sanjay Kothari (IAS:1978:HY) on 30.11.2016 and lasted till July 2017. Within 210 days at the helm of PESB, Kothari was moved to the Raisina Hills as the Secretary to President Ram Nath Kovind.

As if there was none to fit into the shoes of Seth and Kothari the next senior-most member of PESB, Anshuman Das (Ex CMD, NALCO) was asked to act as interim Chairman until Kapil Dev Tripathi (IAS:1981:AM) became Chairman on November 19, 2018. However, his term lasted only for 150 days as he was on 20 April 2020 moved to Raisina Hills as Kothari’s successor.

Thereafter, Rajeev Kumar (Retd IAS:1984:JH) headed the Board from 29.04.2020 to 28.08.2020 before he moved to Central Election Commission as a member.

Ideally, beginning June 2015 the second Chairman should have continued till 2021 but now it is waiting for its sixth Chairman in six years.

Public-sector executives and officers aspiring for Board-level positions have become a little pessimistic. Many of them say PESB that is mandated to ensure continuity and stability in the top management of CPSEs managing the country’s resources (net-worth) to the tune of 25 lakh crores, has become unstable.

Insiders say the Board has been facing ad-hocism and has become a parking lot. It may be an inappropriate way to define the situation yet, but the appointment of the next Chairman may change or may not change the perspective. It would be interesting to see whether the next Chairman would follow the footsteps of predecessors or he would have full-term to ensure stability to the public-sector headhunter.  

(By Rakesh Ranjan)

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