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Thirteen Secretary-rank post vacant at Centre: Despondence grips IAS officers empanelled for Secretary post

By (Rakesh Ranjan)- 16 Sep 2021
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New Delhi (16.09.2021): IAS officers from the 1989 batch, besides 3-4 from the 1988 batch, have been patiently, though gripped by a bit of despondence, waiting since their empanelment for GoI secretary posts took place in February 2021 (but much earlier for the 1988 batch) for moving into their final career posting.

Aspirations of these officers could have been easily fulfilled if the decision-making process hadn't turned incredibly slow, deliberately or otherwise. In the absence of any urgency on the part of the administration, some officials have come to hold the additional charge to keep running the machinery of the government.

It is learned that more than 12 secretary-level posts have been vacant for months. And more vacancies may be added to the current list by this month-end.

To begin with, the post of Secretary, PMO has been vacant for almost two years since the departure of Bhaskar Khulbe in July 2019 when the latter completed his extended term.

Added to this vacancy are the vacancies triggered by the departure of the Principal Adviser and Special Adviser from the PMO. One could argue that these vacancies are not to be treated as vacancies as they are discretionary posts. That may well be true.

The Ministry of Personnel tops the list of vacancies despite its critical role in all appointments. Its two departments, the Department of Personnel & Training (DOPT) and the Department of Pensions & Pensioners' Welfare, have been headless. In the given situation, Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla is holding the additional charge of DOPT.

The newly carved-out Ministry of Cooperation is still awaiting its first-ever Secretary. To keep it running, Union Agriculture Secretary Sanjay Agarwal is holding the additional charge.

The economically crucial Department for Promotion of Industry & Internal Trade (DPIIT) continues to function under an ad-hoc arrangement with Giridhar Aramane, Secretary of the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MoRTH). The post fell vacant after the sudden demise of Dr. Guruprasad Mohapatra in the third week of June 2021.

The Ministry of Development of the North Eastern Region (DONER) has been without a secretary after Kerala cadre IAS Inder Jit Singh hanged his boots on August 31, despite its importance to the Act East Policy.

Similarly, the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation (DWS), under the Water Resources Ministry,  has been headless ever since Parameswaran Iyer moved out in January 2021 to reportedly join his family in the United States.

The Ministry of Earth Sciences too is awaiting a new Secretary, while the  Department of Science & Technology has not got a secretary since the departure of Prof Ashutosh Sharma.

The Department of Official Language (MHA) is functioning under the additional charge of Sanjeeva Kumar, a 1986 batch IAS officer of Assam-Meghalaya Cadre, who himself is on his way out on retirement this month-end.

The post of secretary to the Ministry of Labour & Employment fell vacant after the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting got its regular Secretary, after May 2020, in Apurva Chandra, a 1988 batch Maharashtra Cadre IAS officer, though Chandra is still holding the additional charge of Labour & Employment. What a beautiful combination!

Similarly, the Legislative Department is also vacant since May this year after Dr. G Narayana Raju, an officer of the ILS cadre, died of Covid-19 in the first week of May.

No less important is the post of secretary to the Department of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship. The vacancy in this nodal agency, responsible for training youths for gainful jobs, is the most unkind of all delays in top administrative appointments.

(By Rakesh Ranjan)

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