The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Swift exit for steel secretary

New Delhi, Nov. 3: Steel secretary V. K. Duggal is being replaced rather unceremoniously within months of taking over the post by animal husbandry secretary Binoo Sen.

Duggal, who earlier had earned the Prime Ministerís wrath for having spoken out of turn in seeking to lower duties on imported steel, is being transferred to the backwaters of the water resources department.

Sen, a Madhya Pradesh cadre IAS officer who is known to be upright and honest, is slated to take over tomorrow itself. Her husband is P. C. Sen, another IAS officer who made a name for himself in successfully turning around Indian Airlines.

The Prime Ministerís Office and the cabinet secretary are reported to have pulled up Duggal for speaking out of turn and calling for a lowering of steel duties to help steel bar users such as cold rolling mills. Steelmakers took no time in pointing out to Duggalís bosses that in a world facing the strange situation of a steel glut compounded by highly erratic steel prices, any lowering of duties on finished steel will simply see the market flooded by cheap steel dumped by Indiaís competitors.

Duggal, who was supposed to lead a high-powered delegation of steel CEOs including SAIL chairman V. S. Jain, Indian Steel Alliance head and former Tata house stalwart J. J. Irani, Tata Steel chief B. Muthuraman, and Essar director J. Mehra to China in mid-October, was dropped from the delegation at the eleventh hour.

Many believed that this was the utmost punishment that could be inflicted on him. However, sources say that on the basis of certain information, the PMO decided to order a replacement.

Interestingly, at the same time SAIL chief V. S. Jain, who was on a yearís probation and was slated to be confirmed in his job as chairman-cum-managing director of the state-run steel behemoth, is being kept on tenterhooks and his confirmation orders have yet not been released.

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