Not so lucky Watal languishes at gas regulator's office

Vol 13, PW 2 (02 Jul 09) People & Policy

Joint secretary RP Watal isn’t as lucky as Maninder Singh.

Watal has been waiting more than six months for his promotion to additional secretary rank and since August 2008 has been keeping the seat warm as secretary to the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board, which is a less important position, held by joint secretary rank officers. Unlike many of his colleagues who joined the IAS in 1978, Watal was denied promotion in November last year because he fell out with the flamboyant former sports minister (and ex-oil minister) Mani Shankar Aiyar, who is an ex-Indian Foreign Service bureaucrat.

Aiyar had savaged Watal’s â€کannual confidential report’ when he was director-general of the Sports Authority of India. For three months until August 2008, Watal was put on â€کcompulsory wait’ without any assignment in the sports ministry; his career prospects sent into a tailspin because of Aiyar’s remarks.

Usually, IAS officers whose promotions are held back find themselves promoted with officers in the next batch. But Watal was passed over for promotion in March this year also along with colleagues who joined in 1979.

Watal, originally from Kashmir, joined the IAS from Andhra Pradesh, and will now have to wait for a review with the 1980 batch promotions. During the early years of his career Watal was on the fast track to high office.

In 1986, during his first union assignment he was private secretary to the human resources development minister PV Narasimha Rao and continued as Rao’s private secretary when he was made foreign minister. In 1990, he returned to his home state Andhra Pradesh but a year later was sent on a much coveted 65-week training trip to France.

Between 1994 and 1996, Watal once again served Narasimha Rao, now prime minister. In 1997 he secured another plum foreign assignment when he was sent to the International Monetary Fund in Washington, where he stayed till 2000.