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New secretary selection causes seniority tangle

delhi Updated: Mar 11, 2012 23:53 IST
Chetan Chauhan
Chetan Chauhan
Hindustan Times
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The government is set to ruffle senior level officials in the Planning Commission with the likely appointment of Jawed Usmani, a 1978-batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) as the panel's new secretary.

Usmani, who has worked as joint secretary in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) before joining the World Bank, is said to be the choice of panel deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

He was the junior-most IAS officers among the panel of IAS officers suggested to Ahluwalia, which included telecom secretary R Chandrasekhar. But his stint in the PMO, where he dealt with plan panel issues and in the World Bank, is said to have worked in his favour.

He is an Uttar Pradesh cadre official like principal secretary to PM Pulak Chatterjee, who replaced TKA Nair a few months ago. Usmani is among the 36 IAS officers recently empanelled for appointment as secretaries in the government of India. Others include Ram Sewak Sharma, director-general of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), and Arvind Mayaram, a Rajasthan cadre IAS officer.

Usmani's likely appointment in the plan panel has upset senior secretary level officials working as principal advisors.

"We will have to report to an official at least four years junior to us," an official, who completed his tenure as secretary in a government ministry a year ago, said.

What has disappointed the plan panel bureaucracy is that the government did not consider posting any of the secretary level officials working in the commission as the panel's secretary. Instead, Usmani's appointment would mean his first secretary posting in the body which decides plan budget of all central government ministries and state governments.

"Normally, a senior secretary level official is appointed as plan panel secretary," an official said. There are at least three secretary level officials working in the commission. "It is better to take voluntary retirement than face such humiliation," he said.

Usmani, if appointed, would replace member secretary Sudha Pillai, whose tenure ends on March 31.

Pillai and Ahluwalia did not had best of working relation with the former pointing out several discrepancies in working of UIDAI, a project dear to Ahluwalia. She had also questioned working of Ahluwalia's advisor Gajendra Haldia. The appointment of new secretary is expected to end the bureaucratic tussle in the panel.