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Signals from the latest secretaries' reshuffle; Reading between the lines

By IndianMandarins- 25 Jul 2019
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The appointment of cheerful, straightforward Ajay Bhalla (IAS:1984:AM) as OSD in MHA, almost five weeks before the completion of the term of Rajiv Gauba (the outgoing Home Secretary), is open to interesting interpretations. A section of officials believe that Gauba may be moved as OSD in Cabinet Secretary - maybe immediately after the Independence Day if not before. The reasoning is that the extended tenure of P K Sinha as Cabinet Secretary will end on September 12, 2019. And the government is looking for his replacement. So will Gauba replace Sinha? In case he misses the bus then certainly its all for 1983 batch IAS. Then who else?

Speculations about Gauba replacing Sinha have also gathered strength because if Bhalla's appointment as MHA OSD was only a matter of preplanning, it should have been done also in the case of the Defense Ministry where secretary Mitra will complete his term on August 23, 2019, a week before Gauba.

It is pointed out that Bhalla if promoted as Home Secretary, may be the ideal choice for the post. He has been an integral part of the NDA government’s plan to supply round-the-clock power to all. Having worked under the former Union Home Secretary like Raj Kumar Singh has helped Bhalla evolve certain traits to tackle critically-important issues in a mission mode. He may add to the strength of Amit Shah in handling issues in conflict areas, including J&K, and Naxal-hit Chhattisgarh. He may have a fixed two-year tenure as home secretary.

Further, following the exit of S C Garg (IAS:1983:RJ) from the FinMin to the Ministry of Power, speculations have triggered off as to who will be designated the next Finance Secretary. Rajiv Kumar ((DFS) or Ajay Bhushan Pandey (Dept of Revenue)? Of four secretaries in the FinMin, two each are from 1984 and 1985 batch respectively. Certainly it will follow seniority list of the batch. 

One of the most striking features of the latest reshuffle is by far the appointment of Mrs. Anuradha Mitra (IP&TA&FS:1982) as Secretary, Department of Official Language. Its importance lies in its future implication. Following this precedent, non-IAS officers may be drafted as Secretaries in Govt of India - a common fortress of IAS officers.

Of twelve appointments, Gujarat and West Bengal have something to cheer about in terms of representation in Govt of India.

The NaMo administration appears to have also sent out strong signals about rewarding efficient officers by appointing Atanu Chakraborty (IAS:1985: GJ) as Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs vice S C Garg. Garg who is shifted to the Ministry of Power to work under the seasoned former bureaucrat and former Union Home Secretary R K Singh may not only enjoy the conducive work atmosphere under Singh but will have ample opportunity to resolve the challenged facing the electricity sector.

The latest reshuffle has also brought five IAS officers from states as Secretary in Govt of India. They are Anil Kumar Khachi (IAS:1986: HP) as Secretary DIPAM; R S Shukla (IAS:1986:WB) as Secretary Parliamentary Affairs; G V Venugopala Sarma (IAS:1986:OR) as Member Secretary, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA); Ravi Capoor (IAS:1986:AM) as Secretary, Ministry of Textiles; and P D Vaghela (IAS:1986:GJ) as Secretary, Department of Pharmaceuticals.

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