The Narendra Modi government on Friday appointed power secretary Pradeep Kumar Sinha as the next cabinet secretary. Sinha will take charge as head of the civil service in June, when Ajit Kumar Seth completes his extended tenure as the top civil servant.
An official statement said Prime Minister had approved the power secretary’s elevation with effect from June 13, 2015.
Sinha will join the cabinet secretariat as Officer on Special Duty (OSD) in next one-two days to familiarise himself with the new job profile.
As cabinet secretary, he gets a two-year term which can be extended to a maximum of four years under the existing rules. He will turn 60 next month, and would have retired in July-end if he hadn’t been appointed as cabinet secretary.
The UP connection: 7th cabinet secretary in last 2 decades from UP A post-graduate from the prestigious Delhi School of Economics, the 1977-batch IAS officer will be the 7th officer from the Uttar Pradesh cadre to be elevated as cabinet secretary over the last two decades.
The only two other officers appointed cabinet secretary during this period who did not have a UP connection were Andhra Pradesh’s TR Pradesh (2000-2002) and Kerala’s KM Chandrasekhar (2007-11).
Sinha – who has worked in UP’s Allahabad, Aligarh, Varanasi, Agra, Jaunpur and Noida – has worked extensively in the energy sector, right from his first posting at the Centre as a deputy secretary in the late 1980s.
In selecting Sinha for the top civil service job, the Prime Minister has stuck to the principle that the cabinet secretary be appointed from amongst the senior-most Indian Administrative Service officers.
Amongst those made the cut on this panel were the two senior-most IAS officers, administrative reforms secretary Alok Rawat and micro and medium industries secretary Madhav Lal. Both are Sinha’s batchmates.
Finance Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi – who was last year brought in from Rajasthan where he was the chief secretary – was widely speculated to be a top contender for the top post.
But appointing Mehrishi would have been a cumbersome exercise since he didn’t rank high on the seniority principle.
The cabinet secretary’s post was originally treated as the first among equals and not a promotion post. But the CS’ post was upgraded a few decades back. The government certainly retained the right to appoint any of the senior officers amongst the hierarchy-conscious IAS to the key post. But it needed to demonstrate that all eligible officers according to seniority had been considered.
What does a cabinet secretary do?
Providing secretarial assistance to the cabinet and cabinet committees is of course, a key component of the cabinet secretary’s job. But there is a lot more to it. He is not only the link between the PM and the higher civil service but also helps coordination between different departments, ironing out their differences and driving policy initiatives high on the government’s agenda.