NHAI’s headless days continue
PM Manmohan Singh’s directive in June to the Road Transport ministry officials to fill up vacant posts in the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) does not seem to have had much affect. The sector has been lagging behind in meeting targets. However, despite the directive, NHAI continues to be without a full-time chairman for the seventh month running. While the ministry is busy amending the eligibility criteria for the chairman’s post to allow technocrats and professionals from private sector to apply, the newly appointed road transport secretary AK Upadhyay has been given additional charge of NHAI chairman for the next six months. NHAI has been without a full-time chairman since January after then incumbent Brijeshwar Singh’s term expired. The snail’s pace has now forced the PM to set a fresh three-month deadline to appoint a new chairman.
DoPT differs from MHA on declaring a document secret
The government has declared that joint secretary-level officials can declare a document as secret whereas an under secretary has a right to term a document as confidential. In a reply to an RTI application, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) gave this information even though the Home Ministry refused to provide details of the Manual of Departmental Security Instructions, saying it could jeopardise national security. The MHA had invoked the security clause in the RTI Act in denying the information which was also upheld by the Central Information Commission. However, the DoPT took a different view and provided the basic information.
No ‘cattle-class’ travelling in govt’s newest austerity drive
Senior officials heaved a sign of relief when the government recently ordered another round of austerity measures but this time, did not force officials and ministers to travel in economy class. The economy class only rule — that one minister had so famously referred to as the cattle class — had apparently saved the government a great deal of money at the cost of some discomfort to the spoilt bureaucrats. But this time, the new austerity rules could reduce foreign jaunts of senior officers. It insists that where foreign travel was unavoidable, officials at the appropriate level handling the subject should be sent on the visit “instead of those at a higher level”. This provision could help save the exchequer some money since junior officials would only be entitled to travel economy in the normal course too.