n September last year, the Modi sarkar gave the go-ahead to its most ambitious bid to reform the bureaucracy – a national capacity building programme. Finally, the programme has got underway with the creation of the Capacity Building Commission (CBC) under the National Programme for Civil Service Capacity Building aka “Mission Karmayogi”.
And given the government’s recent obsession with domain experts from the private sector, the man appointed to head the new CBC is no babu, but Adil Zainulbhai, the chief of the Quality Council of India (QCI), which is an autonomous body under the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion. He is a former chairman of McKinsey India and a known supporter of the Prime Minister. The CBC will have two members – Ramaswami Balasubramaniam and Praveen Pardeshi – with only the latter being an IAS officer (of the 1985 batch).
For those who look for patterns in these things, consider that Zainulbhai’s appointment came on the same day as the announcement that Mallika Srinivasan will be the chairperson of the Public Enterprises Selection Board (PESB), the first time that a private sector specialist has been appointed as the head of the board that is responsible for the appointment of top management posts in the Central Public Sector Enterprises.
Looking back further, there was another clue when in February Prime Minister Narendra Modi attacked the IAS in the Parliament, no less. The message then is clear: the government has firmly announced its intention of bringing in more domain knowledge specialists than continue to depend on the “heaven-born” who are generalists by training. They will no doubt put up some resistance, but Modi is bent upon breaching this wall and bring in much-needed reforms.
HC stays appointment of former TN CS as NGT expert
Former Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary Girija Vaidhyanathan faces uncertain days ahead. Slated to join the National Green Tribunal (NGT) as an expert member, the appointment has been put on hold by the Madras High Court.
The court has granted an interim stay on her appointment stating that she did not meet the minimum eligibility criterion of possessing five years of experience in handling environmental issues. The court was acting in response to a petition filed by a group of environmental conservation activists, which argues for cancellation and nullification of the December 12 notification about Vaidhyanathan’s appointment.
Sources point out that Vaidhyanathan was appointed an expert member of the NGT along with her 1987 batch colleague K Satyagopal, who retired as Additional Chief Secretary and Commissioner of Revenue Administration. Vaidhyanathan’s argument that she had held various administrative positions related to the environment clearly did not cut much ice with the court. The court will continue hearing the case.
Sunil Arora wraps up innings as CEC
Sushil Chandra took charge as Chief Election Commissioner from Sunil Arora whose tenure has ended. This came as a surprise to many who expected Arora to be given an extension, given the trend seen in the Modi sarkar when it comes to some prestigious positions and those who it deems as performers. But for Arora, punters still hold out hope that he may land another plum post-retirement assignment that would keep him in the limelight for a few more years.
Chandra is a 1980-batch Indian Revenue Service officer and was the senior-most Election Commissioner ahead of Rajiv Kumar in the three-member poll panel. Thus, the government stuck to the convention of appointing the senior-most election commissioner as CEC. The new CEC is counted among officials who were at the forefront of the Centre’s fight against black money. As Chairman of the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), he led the department’s action against tax evasion after the demonetisation in 2016.
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