Monday, May 06, 2013

Why a post of a secretary is not up for sale as yet: An Analysis

THE recovery of Rs 90 lakh from railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal’s nephew in Chandigarh last Friday has done little damage to the Congress. At least if one compares it with the kind of dent it has made to the clean image that secretary-level appointments have commanded so far. But BoI terms the episode a one-off, and here it’s why…
According to reports, Mahesh Kumar, a highly efficient railway officer was not satisfied with his current posting as Member (Staff) in Railway Board, the highest decision-making body in Indian Railways. He wanted a more lucrative post---Member (Electrical) whose say is crucial while rolling out private contracts amounting to thousands of crores of rupees. Kumar who is now in CBI custody allegedly agreed to pay Rs 10 crore through his associates of railway contractors to minister Pawan Kumar Bansal’s nephew. And Rs 90 lakh that was recovered by CBI is said to be a mere advance payment of the alleged bribe.
Now, let’s come to the core point. Is a secretary-level post up for sale? The answer is “no”. Yes, lobbying does take place at the highest level of bureaucracy as well. It’s also true that there are examples of less-deserving candidates cornering plum posts. Sometime, a highly efficient bureaucrat who could potentially be a trouble-maker for the establishment ends up getting a less important ministry. But mind it, once an officer is empaneled as a secretary, he or she will invariably get a secretary-level post.
Unlike what's said in some of the media commentaries post-Mahesh Kumar episode, a bribe can’t ensure a “lucrative” secretary-level post. There could be an exception, but it's not a trend as yet. Nor will a secretary-empanelled officer like to be duped by a contractor claiming that he has enough contacts to influence decisions of Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC).
Also, if a secretary-level post is sold at Rs 10 crore each, most bureaucrats would have ended up their career as an additional secretary. And a corrupt cabinet secretary would have been worth a thousand crore if you do a quick back-of-the envelop calculation of bribe amounts multiplied by number of secretary-level posts. Those who know the inside of the corridors well will tell you confidently, it does not happen this way. Yes, the ACC is not always supreme (forget the theory for a moment), as ministers particularly the heavyweight ones have a direct say, at least unofficially, who they want as their secretaries. But the scope for political influence in appointing a secretary is very limited.
For the record, the ACC is headed by the Prime Minister, and in all practical purposes, the secretary-level appointments are made by cabinet secretary in consultation with principal secretary to PM. Till now, bribery has not found its way in high-level appointments and UPSC recruitment.
So the question will arise how come then Mahesh Kumar’s alleged bid to get a key post by bribing his minister’s close relative surface at all? In all probability, this is the result of a phase of uncertainty that Indian Railways has been going through recently. During the last four year, the organization with 1.4 million employees has witnessed four ministers including sacking of one, clear political influence and interferences in bureaucratic decisions, erosion of its revenue and a possible financial crunch in near future. And under these circumstances, a shrewd officer and his few contractor friends must have discovered a jugaad, only to lead them to jail.


  1. The present predicament through which railway is passing through is due to inter departmental rivalries. Railways has 9 different departments. Each department has different bosses. Each cadre is a fierce competitor of other cadres... In this dangerous scenario, bribery has to be prevalent. Its high time that Sam pitroda committee recommendations should be implemented for the betterment of the country.

  2. Maybe, it's a new trend. Unfortunate.

  3. What u mean is no one has been caught yet buying and selling secretary level post .Member Rly bd is also ex officio secy to govt of India.His appointment is also done by the same committes.Till this came out who could claim malpractices in appointments in Rlys.Cab secy wont be able to sit on a pile even if he wants to just as CRB is not siting on a pile because of what happened.

  4. Whereas DOPT rigidly keeps guard on appointments in other ministries, condition in Railway Ministry is quite different, where Full Board can and has changed all rules in past arbitrarily on case to case basis. With Central Governments dependent on regional parties, Railway Ministers have gotten away with above and much more.

    Why Can't Railway Board place all Rules / Circulars regarding appointments and promotions on web for information of all stakeholders and why DOPT/ Cabinet Secretariat demand it.

    Today, Railway servants are not informed about the basis / rules on which they will be promoted.

    Solution lies in putting all rules / circulars regarding promotion on web and all deviations from rules also being placed on website for transparency. If we can do so in tenders involving outside parties, what fear we have in doing so for promotions / postings. All promotions above SAG being dealt by DOPT as is done for other ministries should also be thought off.

  5. why so much of hypocracy, when everyone knows how things happen in GOI

  6. There are few rumours that Mahesh Kumar has in past rubbed the present CBI Director as a railway officer and the CBI Director this time has taken planned to take revenge and implemented it.

  7. Those who say this is first time are simply too innocent.I have worked in Railways for 38 years,and can tell you the rates,in Jafar Shaief's time,to Bansal's time.Money has always exchanged hands,even for lower rung of postings.And it cannot be true that other ministries are not suffering with this disease.