The Telegraph
Saturday , June 28 , 2014
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Minister choice for PS rejected

New Delhi, June 27: The Centre has rejected junior rural development minister Upendra Kushwaha’s pick for private secretary.

Kushwaha had recommended the name of Ravindra Kumar, a Sikkim-cadre IAS officer of the 2011 batch, to the cabinet’s appointments committee, in line with a central directive that ministers’ personal staff cannot be appointed without its approval.

But an order from the department of personnel and training (DoPT) today dashed the hopes of Kumar — he scaled Everest in May last year — without giving reasons why his candidature had been rejected.

“The Prime Minister has not approved the proposal of the department of rural development for appointment of Shri Ravinder Kumar, IAS (SK 2011) as private secretary to the minister of state for rural development, panchayati raj and drinking water sanitation (Shri Upendra Kushwaha),” the order signed by a deputy secretary said.

The order — which misspelt Kumar’s first name as Ravinder — has come at a time much dust has been raised over a DoPT note that personal staff of UPA ministers cannot be attached to those in the NDA government. It has also been made clear that all such appointments have to be cleared by the PMO.

In this case, however, the grounds for rejection appear technical than anything else. Kumar is reportedly too junior and inexperienced even for a posting at the Gangtok secretariat, for which he would have been eligible early next year.

Kumar is 33 years old and has three years of combined training and field experience in Sikkim. Sources said his candidature was rejected because he did not have the mandatory five years’ experience in a state secretariat. A request from Kushwaha to relax rules was turned down.

A disappointed Kumar, who had been ready to quit his posting as sub-divisional magistrate of Soreng in Sikkim’s West district and move to the Centre, said over phone: “I am not giving up, I am a mountaineer.

“I am going to seek an appointment with the cabinet secretary and the Prime Minister to enquire why I was rejected.”

Kumar did not sound ready to accept that he was ineligible for the post. “I was told the minister could appoint even a private person as his private secretary, so inexperience could not have been a reason for the rejection,” he said.

Kumar, who is from Begusarai, said he was sad the appointment did not come through despite the best efforts of the Sikkim government, which had given him all the necessary clearances very fast.

He claimed Kushwaha, a Rashtriya Lok Samata Party MP, had approached him because of his record in mountaineering and because “the minister wanted a young and energetic officer” on his personal staff.