July 09, 2001
Issue


 

COVER
   

Where Have All The Jobs Gone
Old jobs are being slashed and new ones have slowed down to a trickle. With corporate India shedding staff faster than ever before, the worst sufferers are freshers and middle-level managers.

 

 
THE NATION
   

Preparing For Musharraf
Administrators, securitymen and hospitality merchants gear up to ensure that it's not just the Taj that will impress the visiting
Pakistani President.

Adviser Raj
Bureaucrats don't retire. Their terms are extended or they are reappointed to counsel political mentors.

 

 
STATES
 

Out Of Luck Now
It will take more than voter-friendly symbolism to ensure victory in UP.

Hard Cover Up
The Government is perturbed by a cop's unreleased book on Rajkumar's kidnapping.


 
SCIENCE & TECH.
 

Connecting Bharat
It's a project to bridge the digital divide. But sources of funding are not known.

 

 
OTHER STORIES
     
 



 
  Home  
 

THE NATION: BUREAUCRACY

Adviser Raj

Bureaucrats don't retire. Their terms are extended or they are reappointed to counsel political mentors.

As the saying goes, experience makes a man perfect. But this hardly applies to the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance Government. Even after three years in office, it has not learnt the art of spotting the right people for the right job. Ad hoc, subjective selection, cronyism and an inexplicable sense of insecurity have fashioned a new level of politician-bureaucracy nexus that is freezing government and upsetting both political allies and officials down the line.

 

 

EXTENDED MUSICAL CHAIRS

1 A.S. DULAT: Inducted into the PMO as adviser after retiring as director of RAW

2 T.R. PRASAD: Due to retire in July, his tenure has been extended to October 2002

3 N.K. SINGH: Revenue secretary to secretary in PMO, now Planning Commission member

4 K.V. RAJAN: Appointed adviser in MEA after his retirement on March 31

5 K. RAGHUNATH: The former foreign secretary is to go as ambassador to Russia

6 ARUN SINGH: Ex-minister of state for defence appointed special adviser, defence

Last week, when the Union Cabinet decided to amend All India Service Rules to enable the Government to extend the tenure of a cabinet secretary beyond the mandatory retirement age of 60, it was more to cover up its clumsy civil service policy than to retain an otherwise experienced and relatively controversy-free Cabinet Secretary T.R. Prasad. It was known at the time of Prasad's appointment as cabinet secretary seven months ago that he would be retiring on July 31. But at that time, he was not given a two-year term. However, a week before he was ready to pack his bags to return to his native state Andhra Pradesh, it dawned on the Government that it wouldn't be able to survive without him.

Predictably, the Government's last minute decision led to intense speculation among the 9,000-strong army of All India Services officials that they were due for another extension bonanza, mirroring what happened in 1998. In May that year the BJP government decided to extend the age of retirement from 58 years to 60 with a rider that it would not give any extension beyond 60. The Central government bureaucracy was also to be reduced by over 30 per cent by 2003. Even in his last budget Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha promised to trim the bureaucracy so that there were fewer roadblocks in taking decisions. For Atal Bihari Vajpayee's BJP Government, right sizing is an abject failure.

Essentially, the Government's current dilemma stems from its failure to anticipate its administrative requirements well in advance and put in place an effective personnel policy to provide, as it has claimed many times over, "a government with a difference".

There is little doubt a cabinet secretary ensures continuity of governance and should not be changed frequently, but no government since Morarji Desai's Janata regime in 1977 has ever fixed the tenure for this post. As a result, there have been nine cabinet secretaries in the past 12 years. According to senior officials, the prime minister and his senior colleagues could not arrive at a consensus on Prasad's successor. While the all-powerful Prime Minister's Office was in favour of Ajit Kumar, finance secretary and a 1963 batch officer from the Punjab cadre, other senior cabinet ministers, including Home Minister L.K Advani, Sinha and External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh, were opposed to him because Kumar had only six months to go before retirement. In fact, there was general agreement on Home Secretary Kamal Pandey, a low-profile Uttar Pradesh cadre official. But Vajpayee was not willing to supersede eight others who were senior to Pandey in the service. As a compromise, Prasad was asked to continue in office till October 2002, paving the way for Pandey to take over from him.

Curiously enough Jaswant, otherwise seen as a proactive, open-minded statesman, has shown an extraordinary penchant for hiring advisers and retaining those who were to retire. Currently, he has two advisers each in the Foreign Office and Defence Ministry. Jaswant introduced the office of the adviser in the government when he appointed Arun Singh-an old friend of the Gandhi family-as adviser (security) in the Ministry of External Affairs in 1999. In March Arun Singh was also appointed special adviser (defence) with the rank of a minister of state. In addition, B.G. Verghese, a prominent journalist, was hired as media consultant with the effective rank of secretary to the government.

If that wasn't enough, Jaswant Singh extended his munificence to yet another foreign service officer, K.V. Rajan, by appointing him an adviser for six months soon after his retirement on March 31. Last year Rajan was recalled to Delhi from Nepal, where he was posted as ambassador, and given charge as secretary (east). Despite controversy about his stint in Kathmandu during which India-Nepal ties hit rock bottom and the influence of Pakistan's ISI grew enormously in that country, Rajan stayed on. The amazing reason: he was the only official who could advise the prime minister during his visit to Iran in April. Rajan, predictably, extended his sphere, sat in on meetings with Foreign Secretary Chokila Iyer and went so far as to brief the media on Iyer's USP, her expertise on India's neighbours. The mild-mannered Iyer finally had enough and prevailed on Jaswant Singh to sidetrack Rajan.


 
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