alls for a mandatory cooling-off period for babus before joining politics have revived after two senior babus in Uttar Pradesh took voluntary retirement (VRS) and decided to join politics, with an eye on the upcoming Assembly elections in the state.
Hours after the model code of conduct was effected, Asim Arun, the recently named Police Commissioner of Kanpur, sprung a surprise by announcing that he had applied for Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) from the IPS and that the BJP was considering fielding the 1994-batch officer as its candidate from the Kannauj Sadar constituency.
Almost at the same time, the Joint Director of Enforcement Directorate (ED) Rajeshwar Singh has said that his request for VRS has been accepted. It is being hinted that Singh is preparing to jump into the poll fray from the Sahibabad constituency. He joined the ED in 2009 and was absorbed into the ED cadre in 2015. During his stint at ED, he investigated several high-profile cases including the 2G spectrum allocation case, the 2010 Commonwealth Games scam, and cases against prominent politicians such as former Finance Minister P Chidambaram and others.
Last year none other than the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) had directed that a cooling-off period should be mandatorily imposed on all retired government officials before they can take up other jobs in the private sector. Clearly, at the time, the CVC did not envision babus joining politics but now should, given the number of babus who are quitting the civil service to join politics, and often the ruling party which they until recently served.
Babus caught in Centre-Punjab sniping
In the aftermath of the security breach during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Punjab last week, the state government has transferred seven IPS officers, including SSP of Ferozepur Harmandeep Singh Hans, under whose jurisdiction the security lapse happened in which Modi’s convoy was stranded on a flyover for 20 minutes. But the public ‘bloodletting’ continues amid the politicking and sniping between the Centre and the Charanjit Singh Channi government in Punjab.
Punjab Director General of Police Siddhartha Chattopadhyay has been replaced by Viresh Kumar Bhawra for a tenure of two years, barely weeks before the state Assembly elections, and just before the poll code of conduct came into play. In the dizzy pace of events, Chattopadhyay considered by some to be close to Punjab Congress state chief Navjot Sidhu, was removed and Channi has managed to get his guy in.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has constituted a three-member committee led by Sudhir K Saxena, Secretary (Security), Cabinet Secretariat, and comprising of Joint Director of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) Balbir Singh and IG of the Special Protection Group S Suresh to enquire into what the Centre terms as serious lapses in the security arrangements by the Punjab government during Modi’s visit.
Meanwhile, Channi who blames the SPG for the incident has formed his inquiry committee under retired High Court judge Mehtab Singh Gill. But it has been put on hold after the Supreme Court stepped in. Further, the MHA is likely to use the SPG Act against Punjab Police officers and has summoned them to Delhi.
In this game of political one-upmanship, some heads will roll – there has to be some accounting after all – and efforts will be made to spin out the controversy for as long as possible for the electoral advantage it offers to the politicians. But equally vital would be to contain the damage swiftly before further harm is done to relations between the border state and the Centre. Not to forget the obvious damage this episode has done to the reputations of the SPG, the MHA, and the IPS.
Storm over, Kerala babu reinstated
The Kerala government has decided to reinstate bureaucrat M Sivasankar, who was suspended for his alleged role in the high-profile gold smuggling case. An order revoking the suspension was issued by the state Chief Secretary VP Joy after Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan approved an official recommendation.
Sivasankar, who was Principal Secretary to Vijayan at the time, was suspended from service in July 2020, after investigators alleged that he was involved in the appointment of the prime accused in the gold smuggling case. It was being said that he had flouted rules in government projects. The case had rocked Kerala’s ruling party – CPI(M). He will be back in service now that his suspension is revoked. Sources say that Sivasankar’s suspension would have ended in July 2021 but was extended for another six months. He was in jail for 98 days and was later released on bail February 4, 2021. Earlier too, Sivasankar as IT Secretary had been absolved of any wrongdoing about the data transfer of Covid patients by a government committee led by former Law Secretary K Sashidharan Nair.
Clearly, after having got caught in that maelstrom of controversy and given that attempts to nail it on him haven’t quite stuck, it looks like he has got a reprieve. But will it hold? No one knows yet. His new posting has not been revealed yet and he has another one year left in his service.
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