Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Why rumours about Rajiv Mehrishi as the next cabinet secretary sound logical

A YEAR ago, 1978 batch IAS Rajiv Mehrishi moved from Delhi to Jaipur to take charge as chief secretary of Rajasthan. He was then the secretary of a low-profile union ministry, fertiliser. His batch-mate from the same cadre Arvind Mayaram was then the all-powerful finance secretary. Mehrishi’s return journey was also prompted by the fact the he found no hope of career progression in Delhi. A year later, Mehrishi is India’s finance secretary, and if sources in the corridors are to be believed he is being groomed as…
India’s next cabinet secretary when incumbent Ajit K Seth’s extended term ends in June, 2015. The rumours in the corridors sound logical as Mehrishi, appointed as finance secretary only last month, would get some time to adjust in Delhi before heading towards the hot seat in cabinet secretariat. Mehrishi’s immediate job as the finance secretary is to prepare a reforms-oriented Budget in February. Insiders say, Seth’s unexpected extension from December 2014 to June, 2015 was driven by the idea that Mehrishi by then would be free from the Budget and other reforms that he is expected to undertake under finance minister Arun Jaitley. If selected as the next Cab Sec, he would supersede a couple of 1977 batch IAS officers who would anyway retire soon after.
But the question arises why is prime minister Narendra Modi impressed by this Rajasthan bureaucrat?
As chief secretary of Rajasthan, Mehrishi pioneered a slew of labour reforms that were highly appreciated by the captains of Indian industry. He had his signature in an ambitious identity scheme in Rajasthan for better delivery of public services and subsidies. For Mehrishi, all those could be possible because Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje gave in enough room for him to experiment. Mehrishi had worked closely with Raje when she was the state chief minister between 2003 and 2008. As principal secretary, finance, under Raje, he helped crafting a successful scheme on financial empowerment of women.
So, when Raje returned to power last year, she recalled Mehrishi to become the state chief secretary. New chief secretary wanted to bring an amendment to the Land Acquisition Act so as to attract more industries. Also, he began the process of extending the Gurgaon-Neemrana industrial belt up to Jaipur. But this could not be worked upon as many BJP MLAs were opposed to the idea.
As an IAS, Mehrishi began his career as Sub-Divisional Officer (SDO) in Ajmer. Later, he joined as additional collector in Jodhpur. In 1984-85, he was Bikaner’s collector. In 1988, he joined the secretariat of the President of India as a deputy secretary. At the Centre, he also served as a director in the petroleum ministry and then a joint secretary. In 2008-09, he was also the principal resident commissioner in New Delhi’s Rajasthan House.
An alumnus of St. Stephen’s college, Mehrishi is an MA in history. Later, while in service, he went to UK and did an MBA course from the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.

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