Amarinder needs to play as Captain of his dream team

Manish Tiwari | Chandigarh

That the bureaucracy likes to work for Capt Amarinder Singh has been amply clear from the way it responded to his leadership and command during his previous stint as Chief Minister. In the last one and half years of his tenure, especially 2005-6, most officers in the Secretariat worked hard as if they wanted Capt Amarinder to return to power. That incidentally did not happen.
This time, however, the selection of IAS and IPS officers occupying key positions as also some of his advisers has been much better and has demonstrated the CM’s intentions to provide good administration in the State.

Capt Amarinder has placed efficient bureaucrats in important departments such as Chief Minister’s Office (CMO), Chief Secretary’s Office, Home Affairs, Taxation, Revenue and Housing, Food and Civil Supplies, Finance, and Power as well as State Power Corporation. On the other hand, he has not hesitated from showing some of those officers their place who had taken their postings for granted. Needless to say that his decision to retain DGP Suresh Arora, bring back Hardeep Singh Dhillon as DGP (Law and Order) and MK Tiwari as DGP (Administration) and appoint a 1987-batch IPS officer Dinkar Gupta as State Intelligence Chief has only lent stability to the police administration.

It is common knowledge that the bureaucracy always likes to look up to the Government of the day and it all depends on how the political masters want to utilise its services. The problem arises when the political masters start giving preference to their “personal loyalty” over “professional integrity”. Many senior IAS and IPS officers close to previous regimes in Punjab proved to be more “loyal than the King”, and instead served their own interests at the cost of the masters, leading to the latter’s downfall. By the time, the leaders realised this, the game was all over.
Capt Amarinder who has been in Punjab politics for a long time now and has had the opportunity to work with many of the present bureaucrats during his previous stint, has this time tried to post the right officers at the right positions.

Though there have been murmurs over the posting of a long-time associate bureaucrat Suresh Kumar as Chief Principal Secretary to the CM, Capt Amarinder Singh may have well realised by now how good his call was to place an officer of proven professional integrity and competence on this key post. Led by Kumar, the other two officers — Principal Secretary to CM Tejvir Singh and Special Principal Secretary to CM Gurkirat Kirpal Singh — have ensured that the CMO functions like a well-oiled machine. As a result, there is no blot either on the CMO or the Chief Minister himself in the past eight months that the Congress government has been in power.

The posting of another efficient officer, Vini Mahajan as Additional Chief Secretary (Housing) who has recently been given added responsibility of the Revenue Department, also reflects the Government’s intention to focus on Housing and Urban Development sectors. Some of the officers in key departments, such as Chief Secretary Karan A Singh, ACS (Home) NS Kalsi who has previously worked in the Union Home Ministry in important positions; ACS (Power) Satish Chandra, ACS (Taxation and Technical Education) MP Singh and Financial Commissioner (Development) Vishwajit Khanna; Principal Secretary (Finance) Anirudh Tiwari, PSPCL Chairman A Venu Prasad and Principal Secretary (Food) KAP Sinha have considerable experience and proven track record of delivering results.

The posting of most deputy commissioners and SSPs also suggests that the Government wants to deliver when the odds are against it. The fact that there has been no talk of officers paying their way through to top positions only goes to the credit of the present regime.

It is another matter though that some MLAs are not happy as the Government does not have the resources to meet their expectations. Also some officers who have been denied plum assignments have reason to sulk. And for those officers, who always enjoyed good postings in the past because of their proximity to politicians and abilities to please the masters that be, this Government has not been much of a help so far.

In a major shift from the past practice, some of the officers who held key positions during the Badal Government, such as Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister SK Sandhu and Special Principal Secretary, Gagandeep Brar, have been posted in fairly important departments. Moreover, the two key advisers, former Chief Secretary KR Lakhanpal and former top IRS officer VK Garg, have vast experience and can devise ways and means to deal with the present fiscal mess.

Interestingly, there is a section of bureaucracy which feels that the initiative here was long lost and there is not much light at the end of the tunnel. They confide that in this age of communication, there is so much lack of communication between the top and middle rung officers. The State bureaucracy, they add, has become somewhat disenchanted and indolent. If that’s the case, the present dispensation can ill afford to ignore the observations.

While the Captain has had a smooth sailing so far, his Government faces serious challenges ahead and he can succeed only if he is able to carry along well his team of officers and get them to work like a cohesive force. Ultimately, it is going to be his call!

(manish@dailyworld.in)

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