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Reading between lines: Major IAS reshuffle shows PMO may expand further

By Rakesh Ranjan- 03 May 2022
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New Delhi (03.05.2022): Seen in the context of short stints of previous Senior Adviser and Advisor in PMO, the appointment of former Petroleum Secretary Tarun Kapoor (Retd IAS:1987:HP) as Advisor to the Prime Minister draws attention. The appointment second adviser in PMO may rule out the possibility, if one existed, of Bhaskar Khulbe’s return for now, if not forever whereas the vacancy of a Secretary post (PMO) in perpetuity remains an accepted fact now.    

Further, officials consider it significant that the induction of two batchmates (1994) Atish Chandra & Hari Ranjan Rao as Additional Secretary in PMO has increased the number of additional secretaries to five versus that of four joint Secretaries (04). Officials wonder whether there may be an induction of a few JS-level officers to keep the pyramidic structure intact.

Further, the Secretary-level reshuffle may also seem fraught with some meaning. Looking at the development from the perspective of different batches, of 15 senior IAS officers, 10 from the 1990 batch witnessed only two fresh appointments; SKG Rahate as Secretary, Justice,  and Sanjay Kumar as Secretary, Youth Affairs. The rest of the reshuffle is seen as re-alignment or firming up of the wait-list of the batch conferring Secretary and Special Secretary rank and pay in-situ. 

Additionally, only five names from senior batches - two each from 1987 and 1988 and one from 1989 - figured in the list of reshuffles.

Though the shift of Pradip Kumar Tripathi from DOPT to Cabinet Secretariat as Secretary (Coordination) is seen as significant, officials are yet to figure out the meaning of the appointment of Mrs S Radha Chauhan (lAS:1988:UP) as Tripathi's successor. Does it mean that the DoPT is becoming the exclusive turf of women officers with some gap? Together with Mrs Deepti Umashankar (IAS:1993:HY) holding the key post (EO & Secretary to ACC).

In addition to the HR-related policy framework, DOPT looks after important transfer postings of senior-level officers in the Government of India and is concerned with Cadre Management which looks like all women’s turf now.

The said transfer is different in the sense that since 2014 secretaries posted in DoP&T  served till their superannuation and Tripathi could also have continued as DOPT Secretary till June 2024. 

Furthermore, the lateral shift of Gyanesh Kumar (lAS:1988:KL) from Parliamentary Affairs to the Ministry of Cooperation under Amit Shah is seen as the most significant part of the reshuffle. It is mentioned that previously Kumar earned goodwill as Additional Secretary (J&K) of the Union Home Minister Shah during the abrogation of Article 370. 

DK Singh as Secretary-General NHRC, Mrs Neel Kamal Darbari as Chairperson, National Authority Chemical Weapons Convention (NACWC), and Sanjay Kumar as Secretary, Department of Youth Affairs also add credence to the speculation about the government wanting to give a new look to its official structure.

For the 1990 batch, except for the significant appointments of Alkesh Kumar Sharma as Secretary, Electronics & IT, and SKG Rahate as Secretary, Justice, it was a mere realignment as only six officers were elevated (in-situ) in the rank and pay of Special Secretary and Secretary to the Govt of India.

Last but not the least, one could see the latest reshuffle tilted in favor of Kerala cadre officials.

(By Rakesh Ranjan)

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