et-setting babus splurging taxpayers’ money on conferences in exotic foreign locales is not a secret. True, the guidelines of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) clearly state that participation of officials in international fairs/exhibitions/workshops and conferences should be discouraged, and if considered essential, only the officer directly dealing with the subject shall be deputed. But the guidelines are easily flouted as this episode reported in the media shows.
The reports quoting information received from a RTI plea state that three senior Chandigarh bureaucrats spent well above their sanctioned allowance to splurge on a week-long trip for a three-day meeting in Paris back in 2015. The three IAS officers – UT Advisor Vijay Dev, Home Secretary Anurag Agarwal and Personnel Secretary Vikram Dutt upgraded their stay from a 5-star hotel in Paris to a luxury property and changed their return tickets to business class, spending 40 per cent more than their allowance. To add a cherry on top, a month after the Paris trip the three officers approved the additional expenses for each other through modified orders. At present, Dev is the State Election Commissioner of Delhi and Chandigarh, Dutt is CMD of Air India Asset Holding Ltd and Anurag Agarwal is the Chief Electoral Officer in Haryana.
This is obviously not a stray incident. Babus from the Centre and the states are regularly crisscrossing Europe and other continents in the “line of duty”. And clearly, not all of them are prone to “live it up” abroad, yet it is understandable why the public is outraged over the waste of tax money at a time when everyone is feeling the pinch of runaway inflation and economic distress.
Reshuffles in UP an ongoing exercise
After the eruption of major charges against certain officers and certain ministers, the Uttar Pradesh government seems to have gone into overdrive to shuffle its administration team. But how well planned are these transfers of IAS officers? Last week, the UP government reshuffled 13 IAS officers, including 10 of the rank of district magistrates and CDOs, with immediate effect. Additionally, the state government transferred 20 PCS officers. Oddly, however, barely 24 hours later the state government cancelled the transfer orders of two of these officials in so-called “public interest”.
Kushal Raj Sharma, the district magistrate of Varanasi, will stay on, after all. He had been transferred as Commissioner of Prayagraj. Likewise, S. Rajlingam will remain as the district magistrate of Kushinagar instead of moving to Varanasi as ordered earlier. As a result of this volte-face, Ravindra Kumar Pratham who had been asked to be Rajlingam’s successor, will now stay as Special Secretary Food and Civil Supplies Department.
Clearly, when such things are done in a hurry they don’t work out as efficiently and some backpedaling was inevitable. Meanwhile, the Centre too has pitched in by approving the repatriation of Minority Affairs Secretary Renuka Kumar to her parent UP cadre with immediate effect.
But don’t hold your breath, Yogi is likely not done with the reshuffling yet.
Speculation over CIC secy’s resignation
Though Juthika Patankar, Secretary of Central Information Commission (CIC), has reportedly put in her papers for personal reasons, the speculation in babu corridors suggests that the 1988 batch UP cadre IAS officer was unhappy in her current assignment.
Those in the know say that besides personal reasons, Patankar apparently did not find her assignment at the CIC sufficiently motivating and felt at a career dead end. Perhaps the cause of her discontent can be traced back to last year, sources have informed DKB, when Patankar, who was then additional secretary, Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, was repatriated to the parent cadre but following her empanelment for a secretary-equivalent post in October 2021, the Centre revoked its decision and later appointed her as Secretary of CIC.
It’s not often, in the Modi sarkar, that a senior bureaucrat decides to quit the service barely a year and a half before superannuation. Resignations at the level of secretary do not send out positive signals, and in fact, suggest that all may not be well in the upper echelons of government.
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