An attempt by the prime minister to appoint experts to head some of the country’s premier art and culture bodies is being stonewalled by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), the main recruiting agency for babus.
Following a directive from the prime minister, the ministry of culture had circulated a note in October 2007 to search and select heads for eight of these institutions, whose heads till now are selected by the UPSC National Museum and National Archives for instance.
This would have allowed experts who may not have applied to be invited to take up these positions, at salaries higher than government scales; and also up to 65 years of age which would be a relaxation of age norms.
“People of eminence may not want to seek out an appointment. We have to seek them out,” said an official of the ministry. That was the idea behind this move.
But the UPSC had other ideas. It told the ministry last week that salary on offer cannot exceed government scales and the candidates must not be over the age-limit, 56 years.
“The UPSC also wants to pick up the members / experts for the committee which will search and select candidates to head these bodies,” said a culture ministry official, adding, “which brings the state of the affairs back to square one.”
The ministry had planned to name some outside experts as members of the selection committee, which was to be chaired by a UPSC representative, so as to get the best available talent to head these premier institutions.
And the selected candidate was to be approved by the prime minister.
The UPSC has turned everything upside down now. And sources close to these developments said the culture and tourism minister Ambika Soni plans to approach the prime minister to sort out the matter.
“What we are proposing to do is to independently select the experts who anyway would have to approved by the prime minister. But the UPSC is keen to bring its own experts,” said an official of the ministry.
An official familiar with the way the UPSC works said the commission was mandated by the Constitution to recommend or be consulted on all appointments to the central government.
“Besides, I think it is unfair to say that the ministry, and not the commission, is better equipped to identify talented people. The commission does hold interview for hundreds of technical posts every year,” he said.