The Punjab government on Thursday appointed the 1982-batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer Sarvesh Kaushal as chief secretary (CS), replacing Rakesh Singh, who has proceeded on leave and is tipped to get an important assignment at the Centre.
In a dramatic turn of events, the government picked tough administrator Kaushal for the top assignment even as he was seen as out of reckoning till recently.
His elevation has dashed the hopes of 1983-batch IAS officers Navreet Singh Kang, financial commissioner (revenue), and Suresh Kumar, financial commissioner (development), who, in bureaucratic circles, were the hot contenders for the top post. While Kang retires in April 2018, Kumar is in service till April 2016. And Kaushal will superannuate in August 2018.
Having the capacity to deliver with hands-on approach and precision, the appointment of “hard taskmaster” Kaushal has come as a surprise as he was pushed to administrative wilderness in the past over six years by the Parkash Singh Badal government and was rehabilitated a few months ago as principal secretary (irrigation) where he, in a short stint, put the department back on track.
According to a former CS, the major challenge before Kaushal is to shake off “non-performance” perception of bureaucracy and speedily implement the government’s policies. “Kaushal could prove to be a game-changer CS for the government if he delivers like previous CS SC Agrawal and combines former CS RI Singh’s administrative skills and carry along politicians tactfully,” the former CS added.
As most of his batch mates hold important positions at the Centre, this would be another advantage for Kaushal in pushing Punjab-centric issues at the central level where he also remained on deputation for about five years.
Having done masters in history and economics besides LLB, Kaushal remained deputy commissioner of Hoshiarpur, Faridkot and Ferozepur, apart from administrative secretary of a slew of departments such as PWD, education, IT, medical education, planning, local government, public relations, and special principal secretary to chief minister Badal from 19972002.
He has superseded Sujata Dass (1978 batch), who was out of the reckoning because of her track record; Kusumjit Sidhu (1979 batch), who is already a secretary-rank officer in the central government; Himmat Singh (1980 batch); and Anjuly Chib Duggal (1981 batch), who is also on central deputation.
Thus, as the Badal administration also seems to have followed seniority as the criterion for the top post, Kaushal—apart from his competency—emerged as the natural choice. The newly appointed CS on Thursday was in Delhi accompanying chief minister Parkash Singh Badal during the latter’s meetings with union ministers and sent the joining report from the national capital.
Kaushal will also hold the charge of principal secretary of department of personnel, general administration, vigilance, besides the portfolio of principal secretary (irrigation).
As the outgoing chief secretary Rakesh Singh, who was handpicked for this assignment in April 2012 has not formally proceeded on central deputation, he will “continue to hold” the charge of the post of principal resident commissioner, Punjab Bhawan, New Delhi, for coordinating national-e-governance project, till further orders, according to a government notification.