VK Singh, Agarwal moving on Central deputation; search begins for suitable replacements

DW Bureau | Chandigarh

With two Punjab Cadre IAS officers of the 1990 batch having been picked up for Central Deputation as Joint Secretaries, the Punjab Government will soon need to identify suitable officers of the seniority of Additional Chief Secretary/ Principal Secretary to man the posts held by them.

Anurag Agarwal, Financial Commissioner, Excise and Taxation, has been selected by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) for his appointment as Joint Secretary in the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA), Minister of Finance, while Vijoy Kumar Singh has been approved as Joint Secretary in the all-important Department of Personnel and Training (DOPT). VK Singh, apart from being the Chief Electoral Officer, is also currently looking after the Irrigation Department.

The Excise and Taxation Department is the major cash-cow for the State Exchequer and is currently fully engrossed in the transition to the Goods and Services Tax (GST). The State Liquor Excise is also an important aspect and the state has recently faced flak as the retail prices of the liquor in the State have shot up, in comparison to the neighbouring State of Haryana and the Union Territory of Chandigarh, leading to allegations that the monopoly allotments of bigger circles have led to the licencees dictating the terms to the consumers. The Department has also been seen as going slow in recovering the dues from the defaulters of the 2016-17 vend licencees, who had been allotted ÔÇ£thekasÔÇØ in the previous regime, sources said.

Moreover, the Irrigation Department has been spearheading the SYL battle, not only in the Supreme Court, but also facilitating the efforts of the State Government to reach an amicable settlement with the Union of India and Haryana State, so that the SYL Canal is not required to be built. This too requires an officer who can understand the contentious issue, negotiate well on behalf of the state Government and more importantly, enjoys the confidence of the Chief Minister himself.

It is learnt that the Advocate General was quite miffed when he learnt on the last date of the hearing in the Apex Court that VK Singh had chosen to proceed on training, without so much as informing him. Ultimately, it was left for the Chief Secretary, Karan Avtar Singh to assist the AG in the Supreme Court. While a few names are already doing rounds, Captain Amarinder Singh shall have to pick up suitable officers immediately since any stop-gap arrangement like additional charge to another officer shall not be in the interest of efficient administration.

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