Modi Takes ‘Per­sonal’ In­ter­est in Nix­ing Nepo­tism Govt is­sues cir­cu­lar to re­move en­trenched sec­re­tar­ial staffers who served suc­ces­sive min­is­ters and quite of­ten served other in­ter­ests as well

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics - NISTULA HEBBAR

The day Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi and his coun­cil of min­is­ters took oath of of­fice, govern­ment of­fices in Delhi were is­sued a cir­cu­lar en­ti­tled “Con­sol­i­dated in­struc­tions re­lated to the ap­point­ment of per­sonal staff at­tached to Union Coun­cil of min­is­ters.” Why would a new govern­ment choose to fo­cus on the ap­point­ment of sub­or­di­nate staff rather than more lofty goals? Quite sim­ple, per­sonal staff of min­is­ters in most cases con­trol ac­cess to them, and en­trenched in­ter­ests of the un­savoury kind have been known to op­er­ate through such staff. Re­cent in­ci­dents in­volv­ing Union min­is­ters in the pre­vi­ous govern­ment have been the trig­ger, sources say. The cir­cu­lar was more or less a com­pi­la­tion of all that the pre­vi­ous govern­ment had laid down in terms of rules and reg­u­la­tions of hir­ing and fir­ing of per­sonal staff to min­is­ters, per­sonal sec­re­taries, additional per­sonal sec­re­taries and of­fi­cers on spe­cial duty (OSD), the en­tourage which would minutely man­age a min­is­ter’s day to day life. “This is not a cler­i­cal mat­ter of sub­or­di­nate staff ap­point­ments, this is to re­move en­trenched sec­re­tar­ial staffers who served suc­ces­sive min­is­ters and quite of­ten served other in­ter­ests as well by con­trol­ling ac­cess to them,” said a source. The UPA govern­ment in 2010 had de­cided that no one would be al­lowed to serve more than 10 years in suc­ces­sion or bro­ken down tenures as the per­sonal staff of a min­is­ter. The Naren­dra Modi govern­ment has up­heldtha­trule,ap­par­entlyal­so­mak­ing it known to min­is­ters that rel­a­tives of min­is­ters would not be looked upon favourably with re­gard to min­is­te­rial ap­point­ments. The cir­cu­lar also states that “ser­vice ren­dered in the per­sonal staff of min­is­ters on ‘in­for­mal ba­sis’ will also be taken into ac­count while cal­cu­lat­ing one’s ser­vice ten­ure.”

CLEAN STAND It is im­por­tant that govt makes ev­ery ef­fort to re­main above board in all its deal­ings UPENDRAKUSHWAHA Min­is­ter of state for ru­ral de­vel­op­ment

Harsh Shri­vas­tava who has worked as deputy speech writer in for­mer Prime Min­is­ter Atal Be­hari Va­j­payee’s PMO said that the ef­fort to scru­ti­nise these ap­point­ments is im­por­tant as the ques­tion of ac­cess to min­is­ters is at­tached to it. “There are how­ever, two lev­els of look­ing at this is­sue. One con­cerns the Class I of­fi­cers, who can only serve in these po­si­tions mostly upto the level of di­rec­tor. There the is­sue of serv­ing 10 years does not mat­ter as most will be pro­moted out be­fore that time,” he said. “The sec­ond set of staffers are drawn from out­side the of­fi­cial sys­tem, those who re­spond to the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem, like additional pri­vate sec­re­tary etc, here the ques­tion of 10 year ten­ure is im­por­tant,” he said. For the record, a Cab­i­net min­is­ter is al­lowed a staff of 15, in­clud­ing a pri­vate sec­re­tary, driver and peon, while a min­is­ter of state (in­de­pen­dent charge) is al­lowed a 13 mem­ber staff. Ev­ery additional in­de­pen­dent charge will net you six more staffers and three in the case of min­is­ter of state.

Min­is­ter of state for ru­ral de­vel­op­ment Upen­dra Kush­waha wel­comed the move. “It is im­por­tant that these things are spelt out and the govern­ment makes ev­ery ef­fort to re­main above board in all its deal­ings,” he said. As new min­is­ters take charge of their min­istries, the cir­cu­lar is an im­por­tant re­minder of just how closely all their acts of om­mi­sion and com­mis­sion will be ob­served.

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