Politically well-plugged district development and panchayat officer Parampal Kaur Sidhu, daughter-in-law of rural development and panchayat minister Sikandar Singh Maluka, is set to become a Punjab-cadre Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer through what is known as the ‘nomination route.’
Sidhu had been promoted as deputy director on Tuesday and she joined office the next day. On Thursday, her name was recommended for the IAS. Her husband, Gurpreet Singh Maluka, is the zila parishad chairman in the politically significant Bathinda district.
In another surprising development, the selection board headed by Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) member Hem Chandra Gupta on Thursday also recommended Harish Nayar, additional labour commissioner, Punjab, for the elite IAS under the nomination quota against two vacant posts, it is learnt. Nayar is a PhD in industrial psychology.
As reported first by Hindustan Times, the Parkash Singh Badal regime had shortlisted a panel of 10 state officers, including another politically influential officer, Dr Shiv Karan Singh Kahlon, son of former Punjab assembly speaker and veteran Akali leader Nirmal Singh Kahlon, to fill two vacant slots in the Punjab cadre of the IAS.
The elevation of cabinet minister Maluka’s kin and rejection of Dr Kahlon is likely to intensify the tussle within the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal. Dr Kahlon had been desperately angling to become an IAS officer through this easy route since 2011.
While Maluka is a close confidant of deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, ex-speaker Kahlon derives political strength from chief minister Parkash Singh Badal.
While Punjab Civil Service (PCS) officers can be elevated to the IAS, another channel of joining the IAS is through nomination of non-state civil services officers.
The interviews were held in New Delhi on Thursday.
Members of the Gupta-led interview board included Sarvesh Kaushal, chief secretary, Punjab; Sujata Das, commissioner of inquiries, Punjab; and Raji P Shrivastava, secretary (personnel), Punjab. Two IAS officers posted in the Union government ‑ Dharam Pal, joint secretary, department of fertilisers; and KC Samira, joint secretary, department of health and family welfare — were also members of the board that recommended Sidhu and Nayar for the IAS.
Among other much experienced officers shortlisted were ML Sharma, economic adviser to the Punjab government; Harinder Sidhu, managing director, Housefed; Daljeet Kaur, additional director, technical education; Arshdeep Singh, executive engineer, public works department (PWD); Simarjot Kaur, joint director, food supplies; Dr Puneet Girdhar, assistant professor, government dental college, Amritsar; and Prabhjit Singh, joint director, IT (information technology) department.