16 January, 2021

The Highest Bidda

As the Prasad extension shows, rules lose out to political expediency in the babudom sweepstakes

P.Anil Kumar
The Highest Bidda
Last week, members of the higher echelons of the Indian bureaucracy were squirming like they have not done in the recent past. The reason: an unprecedented change in rules to accommodate serving Cabinet Secretary T.R. Prasad, 60, in his post for an additional two years. By making a special case for one individual officer, the government has created room for future cabinet secretaries to cite Prasad's case as a precedent. Incidentally, the superannuation age for all government officials has been fixed at 60 by the Fifth Pay Commission.

There is more to this decision than technical nitty-gritty. The decision has outraged the bureaucracy on two counts. One, now no one from the 1964 batch of the ias will be in the running for the top job. (The '65 batch has home secretary Kamal Pande, L.K. Advani's man to take over from Prasad.) Two, analysts say it's the most blatant bid thus far to politicise the bureaucracy.

Says a bureaucrat who was a contender till law minister Arun Jaitley, at a special briefing last fortnight, announced the cabinet's intent to keep Prasad—a...


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