April 05, 2020
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"I Am Totally Against Extensions"

Excerpts from an interview with Minister of State for Personnel and Training, Margaret Alva:

"I Am Totally Against Extensions"

On extensions: I am totally against extensions. But obviously, it is the Prime Minister's prerogative. It is most demoralising for officers waiting in the line. There are many qualified people who are being deprived of a chance. Extensions are okay in matters of emergency, but otherwise they create unnecessary road blocks. But obviously, some people are more important than others.

On steps taken by her: I have done things in the last five years. When I joined this ministry five years ago, 90 per cent of people on the UPSC board were bureaucrats. I have trimmed it down to 50 per cent. Similarly, there were IAS officers on all possible official boards, like the Public Enterprises Selection Board, with little representation from the public sector for whom they are meant. If nothing else, they are lobbying for commercial posts in Indian missions abroad, tea boards and tourist offices in foreign countries. There are also the IMF, World Bank, IDB, ADB, you name it.

On retirement: Unfortunately no one wants to quit. If they are not granted extensions, then there is the option of the UPSC, Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), BIFR or even the state selection boards. I may mention that it is the PMO that makes the appointments in these areas and not the DOP.

On reducing senior posts, as announced by the Prime Minister in 1991-92:  Well, we are trying. But it is not easy. We have created a surplus cell, where departments can be abolished altogether. Like licensing, exports and inspections. We can redeploy them in the cell. We have reduced recruitment a great deal in top government services, like the IAS—I would say, almost to the tune of 50 per cent in the last five years.

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