RS Pandey will stay in the oil ministry till he retires

Vol 13, PW 1 (18 Jun 09) People & Policy

Any rumours about the departure of oil secretary RS Pandey to a more powerful position in the home ministry or as cabinet secretary can be put to rest.

One of the most efficient IAS officers to hold the oil secretary rank, Pandey is going nowhere and all who deal with him can look forward to seeing him in the oil ministry till January 31 when he reaches 60 and retires. Ambitious and deserving, Pandey had set his sights on one of two prestigious posts: home secretary in the ministry of home affairs; or head of the bureaucracy as cabinet secretary.

Neither looks likely to happen because of some surprising changes in the top echelons of the bureaucracy after election results on May 16 saw Prime Minister Manmohan Singh return to power. Soon after Singh’s cabinet was sworn in on May 29, he gave an unexpected one year extension to the current cabinet secretary KM Chandrashekar, who was due to retire on June 2 after two years.

Chandrashekar will now stay till June 2, 2010. Pandey’s other potential promotion likewise disappeared when prime minister Singh chose commerce secretary GK Pillai to replace home secretary Madhukar Gupta.

Originally, Gupta was scheduled to step down as home secretary on March 31 but was asked to stay on an extra three months to oversee the elections. From being home secretary, Madhukar Gupta was likely to be promoted as cabinet secretary but the one-year extension to Chandrashekar means that he will retire on June 30.

Pandey was strongly expected to step into Gupta’s shoes thanks to backing from home minister Palaniappan Chidambaram. In India the normal retirement age for bureaucrats is 60.

But occupants of critical posts of cabinet secretary, home secretary, defence secretary, head of the Intelligence Bureau (domestic spying) and the Joint Chiefs of Staff have a two-year tenure from the date of appointment irrespective of age. Competition is intense among top-level bureaucrats and military officers to get these plum assignments.

But Pandey will have to spend the next few months till retirement on January 31 in the oil ministry.

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