RK Singh to be home secy

Read more below

By NISHIT DHOLABHAI
  • Published 24.06.11
  •  

New Delhi, June 23: R.K .Singh, a Bihar cadre IAS officer posted in the defence ministry, is set to be named the new Union home secretary.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today cleared the name of the 1975 batch officer who had worked in the Bihar home department over a decade back.

Singh, now secretary (defence production), will take over from G.K. Pillai, who retires at the end of this month. Sources said Singh had met the Prime Minister yesterday after being interviewed by Union home minister P. Chidambaram last week. His name will be announced formally after clearance by the appointments committee of the cabinet in a day or two, sources said.

Singh was short-listed along with two others, Punjab chief secretary S.C. Agarwal and central panchayati raj secretary A.N.P. Sinha, by Chidambaram from a larger list of 30 names winnowed down to three.

Singh appeared to have scored over the others primarily because he had served in both the defence and the home ministeries. Such experience is deemed an advantage in a post-26/11 scenario when the two ministries are co-operating to a great degree.

“It (a previous stint) does help,” said former home secretary Madhukar Gupta. Pillai, a Kerala cadre officer, was joint secretary (Northeast) before being promoted as home secretary.

An earlier stint attunes an officer to the needs of the home secretary’s post. The job not only deals with security but also involves technological and systemic matters as the home secretary takes calls on things such as phone technology, for instance the BlackBerry row that Pillai often held meetings on.

Singh seemed much sought-after. Defence minister A.K. Antony was said to be looking at him as the next defence secretary after Pradeep Kumar retires on July 31. Singh was the district magistrate in East Champaran and Patna in the 1980s before joining the state home department in 1997.

Pillai remains a candidate for being the Chief Vigilance Commissioner, a post vacant after the Supreme Court scrapped P.J. Thomas’s appointment, though the current home secretary is reportedly not interested.

Gupta, the former secretary, said the job’s challenges have changed a lot since the 1990s. He pointed out, for instance, that Pakistan’s role in fomenting trouble was limited to Jammu and Kashmir earlier but has expanded in recent years. If Singh is eventually appointed, he will have to lead the home secretary-level talks with Pakistan in September, barely three months after taking office.

The Maoist threat has also become bigger, requiring greater co-ordination with the states. “The home secretary has to be hands-on,” Gupta said. Pillai was not only hands-on but also someone one who argued on some issues with the assertive Chidambaram.