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The latest Secretary-level reshuffle offers many things to read between lines

By IndianMandarins- 21 Sep 2022
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New Delhi (21.09.2022): The Narendra Modi Administration on September 15 (Thursday) effected a major Secretary-level reshuffle. Having many lateral shifts the rejig, at first sight, appears more of realignment and adjustments; rather a prelude to the next reshuffle when it would consider several key slots namely; Department of Defence, Defence Production, Coal, Corporate Affairs, New and Renewable Energy, Textiles and Food & Public Distribution and others. 
Thursday's reshuffle took into consideration the vacancies arising this month in departments including the Department of Commerce and Ministry of Mines. Noticeably, only two officers were brought straight from the cadre while the remaining served at the Centre itself.

Eye on G20 Summit: 
The first and foremost to watch out for is BVR Subrahmanyam (IAS:1987:CG) who is the new CMD of the India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO). His appointment is being seen as the government's move to ascertain success for the ambitious G20 Summit which is proposed on September 9-10, 2023 in India. To add to the success story who else could be better than a Union Commerce Secretary who has been steering the country’s commerce and leading bilateral and multilateral agreements with key world players? A section of skeptics still assume that Subramanyam would fade away post-summit but they fail to understand that instead, it brings Subrahmaniam a bigger canvas to bolster his bond with the top office and garner avenues for his future.        
If one looks at the range of the present reshuffle then one may find that it has considered officers from the 1987 to 1990 batches. Clearly, the 1991 batch would get an opening for the pitch in the next reshuffle along with review cases from the 1990 batch and a few from 1989 also. 

Who is the winner? 
Among the lot, Sunil Barthwal’s (lAS:1989:BH) lateral shift from Labour & Employment to the Department of Commerce as OSD made a buzz among many at the Centre. The reshuffle came as a boon for Barthwal who will succeed BVR Subrahmanyam (IAS:1987:CG) upon his superannuation this month-end and will continue as Commerce Secretary for the complete three years. 

A fair share of the pie!
Setting aside the Commerce there are only three who get a fresh and fair share of the pie. Having got Mines, Fertilizers and Skill Development respectively, the list appears to have favored Vivek Bhardwaj (lAS:1990:WB), Arun Singhal (lAS:1987:UP) and Atul Kumar Tiwari (lAS:1990:KN). 

Arun Singhal, previously FSSAI CEO, getting Fertilizers represented his batch (1987) in the reshuffle. He waited with utter patience to join the league of Union Secretaries whereas Atul Kumar Tiwari gets the mandate to ascertain continuity and consistency for skilling India. West Bengal cadre officer Bharadwaj, serving in J&K under a unique arrangement on inter-cadre deputation, got his due as Secretary, Mines. Having once served as Joint Secretary, Coal his new assignment falls under his domain and expertise. 

The 1989 batch Kerala Cadre officer Rajesh Kumar Singh joins the league at the Centre as Secretary, Department of Animal Husbandry & Dairying. To a section of skeptics Singh's assignment is seen as if he was denied a reward for premium. In fact, RK Singh is considered the brightest among his batch. Those who have seen him as ACS (Finance) in his Cadre consider him the brightest among his batch and Cadre colleagues. There is another viewpoint as well. RK Singh gets a portfolio in the agrarian sector (Animal Husbandry & Dairying) which occupies PM’s aspiration of increasing the income of farmers and the farm sector. Thus it is not just a coincidence that PM Narendra Modi inaugurated the four-day world dairy summit in Greater Noida on September 12 and three days later RK Singh became a pick for the sector.

The Odisha cadre officer Arti Ahuja, now Secretary Labour & Employment, had a smooth trajectory. Twelve weeks after the empanelment of the 1990 batch (December 24, 2021) as Secretary she got a Secretary-level posting (Chemicals & PetroChemicals) in February 2022. In another six months, she becomes Secretary, Labour & Employment. It is worth noticing that ahead of 2024 LS polls figures on employment generation have taken the front seat.       

A Shy of relief:
Having less than a year in service the reshuffle certainly brings a shy of relief and contentment to Arun Baroka (IAS:1990:UT) who waited patiently in the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation for his turn to join the league of Union Secretaries as Secretary for Chemicals and Petro-Chemicals.  

Who couldn’t gain much:
Looking at the trajectory Rajesh Aggarwal (lAS:1989:MH) certainly looks looser here as he was moved from Skill Development and Entrepreneurship to the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DoEP&D). For an officer who started his stint with the Modi administration in June 2015 as Joint Secretary, Banking (DFS) and later became AS&FA in the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas and Secretary Skill Development, the new portfolio of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities certainly seems a less important zone.  
Still, what favors him is his ‘more than four years long service’ (ending November 2026). Maybe it offers him an opportunity to assess what goes in favor and when it falls out of sync.  
Similarly, ESIC DG Mukhmeet Singh Bhatia (IAS:1990:JH) who had a mainstream to work, be it UPA (Ministry of Finance) or NDA, got the Ministry of Minority Affairs. In the backdrop of a not much old rumor that there is a possibility of winding up of the ministry, his assignment may assume more importance or vice versa. 

Getting the due:
Another Odisha Cadre IAS Gudey Srinivas (1990 Batch) gets his due as the new Secretary for Parliamentary Affairs and it doesn’t go unnoticed among those who keep a track of the domain.    

Adjustments and Alignments:
Further, Punjab cadre IAS officers are seen as those who played important roles in the re-alignment and adjustments. Secretary for the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities Anjali Bhawra (IAS:1988:PB) as Secretary, Social Justice and Empowerment cleared the deck for Rajesh Aggarwal whereas and Special Secretary Textiles Vijoy Kumar Singh (lAS:1990:PB) as new Secretary for Ex-Servicemen Welfare helped in filling a gap in the Ministry of Defence.   

Watch out: 
In-situ elevation of Ashish Upadhyaya (IAS:1989:MP), AS&FA, Ministry of Power, in the rank and pay of Secretary, is something to watch out for if he replaces his colleague from his cadre next month. The same appears the case with Rajiv Jalota (lAS:1988:MH), Chairperson, Mumbai Port Trust, if he continues in the same domain in February next year.
(By Rakesh Ranjan)

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