Tuesday, January 23, 2018

5 Civil Servants to Watch Out For, 2018: At No 3 is an incredible bureaucrat — Amitabh Kant

MANY of his colleagues call him a “rockstar bureaucrat”; some say, “hero”. Amitabh Kant, the bureaucrat behind the creation of some of India’s memorable campaigns — Incredible India, Make-in-India etc. — continues to occupy the centerstage in the corridors of power, wielding immense influence in the affairs of the Central government. Yes, by the end of the next month, Kant’s two-year-term as the CEO of the government think-tank, NITI Aayog, will come to an end. But will it make it any difference? Will the government discontinue him? In BoI’s list of “5 Civil Servants to Watch Out For, 2018”, Amitabh Kant is No 3. The other two bureaucrats who BoI had already profiled were…
“strategist-in chief” in Chhattisgarh Aman Kumar Singh (No 4) and new foreign secretary and 1981 batch Indian Foreign Service officer Vijay Keshav Gokhale (No 5). 
In all likelihood, Kant will continue as the NITI CEO for an extended term beyond end of the next month. But his challenges in 2018 will be how to position the new think-tank that replaced the Planning Commission of India as an agency that cares about rural India, particularly when the government is accused by many as anti-farmers, with the rural Gujarat recently voting against the BJP in the assembly poll.
NITI Aayog, on its part, has already organised a mega meet of the district collectors of 115 backward districts of the country, which the government is terming as “aspirational districts”. And according to news reports, there will be a ranking of those districts to inculcate the spirit of competition among the laggards. Kant on his part talked about the government’s rural push and initiatives for the marginalised, including Mudra loan, in his TV interactions in Davos, a Swiss resort where the CEOs and political leaders gather annually to deliberate on economic issues.
A 1980 batch retired IAS of Kerala cadre, Kant had earlier held key posts like joint secretary in union tourism ministry, CEO of Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor Development Corporation (DMICDC) and secretary of the department of industrial policy and promotion.
During 2018, Kant’s move to recommend disinvestment of more PSUs on the line of that of Air India will also be closely watched. Already, the NITI has recommended strategic disinvestment for over 30 Central PSUs, and some more are on their way. 
Kant is not a typical anonymous bureaucrat that the nation often encounters with. He is active in social media -- he has over 2.5 lakh Twitter followers --, and regularly expresses his frank opinions. He publicly calls for disruption in policy-making and bureaucracy. 
By all probability, Kant will continue to be a mover and shaker in the government in 2018. And if not, don't rule out his second innings an entrepreneur at 62!  
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