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Making things happen: Human Resource Management

Anil Swarup

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The country is yet to come out of COVID crisis. Plans are afoot to tackle the aftermath. The intentions look good. But the best of intentions can go wrong if the machinery that is assigned the task of “making these intentions happen on the ground” is inappropriate. Hence, human resource management is critical. The government will have to be careful. Even though there have been murmurs around Murmu (appointed as Comptroller and Auditor General), the officers manning critical positions as Secretaries in various Ministries are a competent lot. The government should not now repeat the mistakes committed during the past so as to ensure that the civil service retains it morale to deliver effectively. What happened not very long ago in CBI in the case of two “meticulously selected” IPS officers to head the CBI can’t be allowed to be repeated. Was there something wrong with the process of selection? Despite a much touted “360 degree assessment”, why were so many senior officers shifted so often?

Rupak Dutta, an IPS officer with impeccable credentials and with a long tenure in the CBI was inexplicably not considered for the post of Director and shifted and attached to the Home Ministry. Alok Verma and Rakesh Asthana brought to the CBI after due clearance by CVC but the former was dumped on the basis of report of the same CVC. Was competence and integrity not the criteria to select officers on these critical and sensitive posts? Shouldn’t someone be held accountable for clearing officers who allegedly had “dubious” credentials? Or did they become “dubious” subsequently?

As many as 17 Ministries/ Departments had 5 Secretaries or more during the period from 2014 to 2018 . Not all these postings were necessitated on account of superannuation. The social sector suffered the most. Rural Development Ministry had five Secretaries as was the case with crucial Ministries like Health and HRD. How can these sectors develop with such frequent changes at the top? Secretaries were supposed to be selected after due diligence (read 360 degrees). If that was the case, why were two Home Secretaries shifted even before they could complete their tenure of two years? Some other changes were equally baffling. Vrinda Sarup, with huge experience in the school education sector, was shifted out suddenly. In the recent past Secretaries of both School Education and Higher Education were unceremoniously “dumped”. J S Deepak, the then Secretary, Telecom, was attached to the Ministry of Commerce in an overnight order while he was representing the country at an international conference in Barcelona. Anuj Bishnoi who was ultimately considered fit for Central Administrative Tribunal, was shifted three times during his tenure as Secretary. Why was C K Mishra shifted out of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare? And if he wasn’t good enough, how did he end up getting the Ministry of Environment and Forest?

A large number of Public Sector Undertakings were left headless and without Directors for months together adversely impacting the performance of these entities. Coal India Limited was one such example where the absence of a CMD created havoc. The consequences are there for everyone to see. There was yet again acute shortage of coal in the country. The situation improved once full time CMD took over. This is true of a number of public sector undertakings.

Every time one interacted with the Prime Minister, one could not but be impressed with his sincerity of purpose and clarity of thought. The intent was always there and this was reflected in his thought, expression and action. There were indeed some brilliant initiatives and decisions. The setting up of Secretaries Groups, getting trainee IAS officers for a three month stint in Delhi, posting of some senior level officers well ahead of the retirement of the previous incumbent, amendment to Section 13(1)(d)(ii) of the Prevention of Corruption Act were indeed praiseworthy and reflected the positive intent of the Prime Minister in the context of human resource management. But then, why did the human resource management get all messed up? It was perhaps on account of humongous nature of managing the army of civil servants. With almost everything getting concentrated in the hands of a handful civil servants, the task had become too big to handle. This also led to enormous delays in decisions relating to postings, resulting in vacancies for long durations. There was indeed something amiss. Some of the work could have been easily delegated to different levels.Competence and integrity and not allegiance or/and servility should have been the criteria for selection. There should have been greater stability of tenure. “360 degree” could certainly be made more transparent and carried out in a manner that it serves the purpose as it does in the private sector from where the concept has been borrowed. Government now faces enormous challenges. Civil servants are the face of the government. The government can face these challenges if these ‘faces’ feel more secure. It will also depend upon picking up the right person for the right job and then allowing him stability of tenure and the freedom to act. Why should there be a need to over-indulge in monitoring the functioning of these officers? The PM himself cannot assess each officer personally. However, he can assess those that assess these officers. A lot depends on the advisors that call the shots in this regard.

Anil Swarup has ser ved as the head of the Project Monitoring Group, which is currently under the Prime Minister’s Office. He has also served as Secretary, Ministry of Coal and Secretary, Ministry of School Education.

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Top opposition leaders gather at INLD rally to challenge ‘Delhi Sultanate’

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Sharad Pawar, the head of the NCP, Nitish Kumar, the chief minister of Bihar, Sitaram Yechury, and Sukhbir Singh Badal, the leader of the Shiromani Akali Dal, were among the prominent opposition figures that attended the INLD’s large gathering on Sunday in Fatehabad, Haryana.

JDU leader KC Tyagi addressed the crowd and claimed that the Bihar CM has come from Patna to challenge the Delhi Sultanate at a time when eight former Congress CMs had switched to the BJP. He claimed that Kumar has no fear of the ED, the income tax, or any other organisations.

To commemorate the birth anniversary of Devi Lal, the founder of the INLD and a former deputy prime minister, a rally is being conducted.

Tejashwi Yadav, the deputy chief minister of Bihar and the head of the RJD, as well as Arvind Sawant of the Shiv Sena, also showed up at the gathering to demonstrate the unity of the opposition.

The coming together of so many regional satraps is seen as part of efforts to forge opposition unity. Kumar and RJD president Lalu Prasad are likely to meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi after the rally to take the process forward.

Veteran socialist leader Tyagi had already declared that the gathering would be historic because it would unite like-minded forces against the BJP in the run-up to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

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‘Resort bulldozed to erase evidence?’: U’khand girl’s family

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The family of Ankita Bhandari, a 19-year-old Uttarakhand receptionist, refused to cremate her body on Sunday, questioning the postmortem report and the government’s overnight action of bulldozing portions of the resort owned by the prime suspect, Pulkit Arya, the son of now-expelled BJP leader Vinod Arya. They claimed that this may have destroyed the evidence at the crime scene.

Ankita Bhandari allegedly rejected attempts by Pulkit Arya and two others to force her into prostitution, and as a result, she was killed. The woman’s body,  who was reported missing on September 18, was found in Rishikesh’s Chilla canal on Saturday.

Her brother Ajay Singh Bhandari questioned the resort’s bulldozer activity, speculating that it might be an attempt to destroy evidence.

In the late evening on Friday in Pauri Garhwal, the district administration used a bulldozer to demolish the suspected unlawful construction of the Vanantara resort in Ganga Bhogpur Talla. The building was later set on fire and had its glass windows broken by a group of angry local residents on Saturday.

“I am not satisfied with the provisional postmortem report. Her last rites will not be performed until we get the final detailed report,” said Ankita’s father Virendra Singh Bhandari.

The woman’s funeral was slated to take place on Sunday morning. At the Srinagar Medical College, her body is on display. The family has also urged that the accused be given a speedy trial and executed.

According to the preliminary autopsy report, she had suffered blunt force injuries and drowned to death. Ante-mortem injuries were found on the body, according to the autopsy, which was performed by a team of four doctors from the department of forensic medicine and toxicology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Rishikesh.

“We are making efforts to persuade the family. They have some concerns about the post-mortem report. We are taking every step possible to support the family. However, some things like post-mortem are beyond our control,” said Pauri additional superintendent of police (ASP), Shekhar Chandra Suyal.

According to officials, the final post-mortem report is expected to be released on Monday.

The government’s bulldozer action to destroy the resort has also drawn criticism from the state unit of the Congress party.

Is the government destroying the evidence by ordering the bulldozer action at the resort? Police failed to secure the custody of the accused. The Dhami government’s intention is not pure,” said party’s state chief, Karan Mahara

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Secular Congress leader Aryadan Muhammad dies at 87

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Aryadan Muhammad, an 87-year-old seasoned Congress leader and former minister, passed away on Sunday in a private hospital in Kozhikode, in northern Kerala, according to his family.

He was a tall secular statesman from north Kerala who dominated state politics for more than six decades. He was drawn to politics as a student and later became active in trade union politics. He was chosen to serve as Kozhikode’s district Congress committee’s secretary in 1960, and when Malappuram district was established in 1969, he was chosen to serve as the district Congress committee’s first president (DCC).

He won the Malappuram assembly seat of Nilambur for the first time in 1977, and he won it seven more times. He served as the E K Nayanar government’s minister of forests in 1980, the A K Antony ministry’s minister of tourism in 1995, and the Oommen Chandy administration’s minister of power in 2011. As a secular leader, he frequently engaged in conflict with the Muslim League in the Malappuram district, although they maintained friendly relations for many years. He made significant contributions to reforms in the power and labour sectors. He was connected to Oommen Chandy and Antony, two senior leaders.

Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the Congress, paused his Bharat Jodo Yatra and hurried to Nilambur to pay tribute to the late leader. The chief minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, also expressed his condolences to the deceased top official. He said, “A secular leader, he was known for his bold positions.”

According to Muhammad’s family, his body will be buried on Monday.

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At UNGA, many nations referred to India, it’s unusual: Jaishankar

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End conflict in Ukraine, return to negotiating table: Jaishankar at UNSC

S. Jaishankar, the minister of external affairs, claimed that many nations made reference to India at the United Nations General Assembly this time, which is unusual at the platform and indicates that the United Nations’ changes are in part to blame for India’s increased prominence. Jaishankar said he appreciates the change, which is more than a subtle change, as someone who has attended the UNGA for many years.

“In respect of UN reform, every General Assembly (session) you revisit that issue, but this time something has shifted. You can see that, you can sense that. It was articulated by President Biden. I think you also saw minister Lavrov of Russia to explicitly mention India from the General Assembly podium. A number of countries also actually also referred to India. It is not usual in a General Assembly for presidents and prime ministers or foreign ministers of a country to refer to another country,” Jaishankar said.

But you saw that on a number of occasions vis-a-vis us and to my mind it shows that it had a relevance to the reform of the UN, it reaffirmed that India mattered more and underlined the global Safraidouth relevance that we have,” Jaishankar said.

“We’ve got some tailwind behind us. Now we have to see what we can make of it. I think it’s a welcome development. As someone who’s been coming here for many years, I do believe that it’s more than a subtle shift and I welcome it,” he said.

The support for becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council came from Sergey Lavrov, the foreign minister of Russia. India and Brazil should be considered for permanent participation in the council, he claimed, as they are key international actors.

Jamaica’s foreign minister Kamina Johnson Smith praised India’s vaccine outreach and said while others chose to withhold supplies, India’s vaccine outreach exemplified its principles of equality and mutual benefit. “We are deeply grateful to government, the people of India, led by PM Modi and external affairs minister Jaishankar,” Jamaican foreign minister said.

“From the very onset, India was a reliable partner whose assistance was critical to our pandemic response. India embraced a holistic and outward-looking vaccine diplomacy strategy…Jamaica was able to secure its first life-saving vaccines from India,” the minister said.

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Lalu Yadav criticises Amit Shah for attacking Bihar govt

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A day before he meets Congress leader Sonia Gandhi and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, RJD President Lalu Prasad Yadav on Saturday criticised Home Minister Amit Shah for his attack on the Bihar government coalition and emphasised the need for Opposition unity.

“Amit Shah has utterly lost his mind.  His administration has been overthrown in Bihar. The BJP will also lost in 2024. That is why he is sprinting there (Bihar) and speaking of jungle raaj. What did he do when he was in Gujarat,” Yadav said.

The former chief minister of Bihar said that “Jungle raaj” was present in Gujarat when he was there.

On Sunday evening, Kumar and Yadav will probably meet Sonia Gandhi, the president of the Congress.

We are making every effort for Opposition unity,” Yadav, who has been battling poor health, said, adding this will the agenda of their meeting.

The Bihar chief minister was slammed by Shah on Friday for allegedly betraying the BJP and attempting to advance his prime ministerial ambitions while “sitting in the laps of Congress and RJD.”

At a rally in Purnea, Shah predicted that the Kumar-Lalu Prasad jodi would be destroyed (soopda saaf) in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections and that the BJP will win a majority by itself in the state assembly elections the following year.

In response, Yadav said, “Amit Shah bilkul paglaye hue hain” ( Amit Shah is absolutely insane).

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Hollywood star John Cusack supports ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’, says solidarity to all anti-fascists

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Hollywood star John Cusack on Saturday showed his support to the Congress’s Bharat Jodo Yatra, a campaign to reach out to the general public. Cusack tweeted: “Indian parliament member Rahul Gandhi is walking to Kashmir from Kerala.” This was written weeks after the march, which intends to go over 3,500 kilometres across the nation, began.

Expressing his support for Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra on Saturday, Hollywood actor Cusack stated that he stands in solidarity with “anti-fascists everywhere.”

Cusack, the leading man in blockbusters like “Serendipity,” “High Fidelity,” “Con Air,” and “2012,” has been outspoken on social media regarding a number of international issues.

Jairam Ramesh, a Congress’s spokesman, shared the post of the Cusack’s tweet.

The actor posted on Twitter that Indian parliament member Rahul Gandhi is walking from Kerala by foot to Kashmir. Cusack responded to a user who complimented him for backing Gandhi’s cause by saying, “Yes – solidarity – to all anti fascists everywhere!” The actor has previously offered support to the farmers’ and students’ demonstrations against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and three agriculture legislation, respectively.

Rahul Gandhi began his march from Kanyakumari, the southernmost point of the nation’s mainland, and he is currently travelling through the southern states. A verbal battle between the BJP and the Congress has been ongoing since the yatra got underway.

Gandhi has often emphasised that the Yatra is a fight against the BJP’s poor leadership. He has brought up concerns including unemployment, inflation, and women’s safety. However, following numerous polling failures over the past few years, the party is also focusing on the 2024 national elections during the mass contact programme.

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