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 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.