Tamil Nadu

Analysis: An extension for the Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary, and a dilemma

Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary K. Shanmugam. File

Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary K. Shanmugam. File   | Photo Credit: B. Jothi Ramalingam

Shanmugam’s extension did not surprise his colleagues and those outside as the present regime did not want to have a new officer at the helm during the on-going pandemic.

The three-month extension approved by the Centre recently for Tamil Nadu Chief Secretary (CS) K. Shanmugam has triggered a debate among civil servants regarding his possible successor, if he retires by October end.

Though such a discussion is not uncommon among officers, it has acquired a special urgency in view of the State Assembly election scheduled for April or May 2021.

Also read: Coronavirus | Tamil Nadu govt. backs Chief Secretary, says DMK couldn’t stomach its efficiency

Given the track record of Tamil Nadu in the last 30 years that a Chief Secretary gets eased out with every regime change, not many Additional Chief Secretaries (ACS) would like to occupy the hot seat if and when Mr. Shanmugam retires in four months, as they are likely to have a tenure of just around five months. Officers have also not forgotten the instance of K. Gnanadesikan, who was replaced with P. Rama Mohan Rao as CS in June 2016, even though the Assembly polls then did not lead to any regime change.

However, Mr. Shanmugam’s extension did not surprise his colleagues and those outside as the present regime did not want to have a new officer at the helm during the on-going pandemic. Besides, Mr. Shanmugam, since assuming charge in July last year, has earned a name for himself as a stable administrator and a hands-on CS, accessible to a wide spectrum of people.

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There is also a perception in the bureaucracy that such officers should have a longer stint than what the retirement rule permits, in the context of his being considered for the post of CS in December 2016 when his batch mate, Mr Rao, was eased out.

The possibility of another extension for three months also cannot be ruled out for Mr. Shanmugam, as the Rule 16 (1) of All India Services (Death-cum-Retirement Benefits) Rules, 1958, provides for the extension in service for a total period of six months. According to this rule, the extension can be given with the prior approval of the Centre to Chief Secretaries of the State governments.

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Mr. Shanmugam is not the only CS to receive an extension at this point of time. The services of his Andhra Pradesh counterpart, Nilam Sawhney, scheduled to retire on June 30, have also been extended. In late December, the present CS of Bihar, Deepak Kumar, was given a six-month extension, with effect from March.

As far as Tamil Nadu is concerned, the previous Chief Secretary to get an extension was K.S. Sripathi, whose services were extended for six months effective April 2010 but four months later, he became State Chief Information Commissioner.

In the 1990s, T.V. Venkataraman got one extension of six months (December 1993-May 1994); N. Haribhaskar’s tenure was extended thrice (the first from December 1994-May 1995, the second from May 1995 to December 1995 and the third from December 1995 to June 1996) — both during AIADMK regimes. K.A. Nambiar’s tenure was extended twice (the first – from January to June 1997 and the second, for one year ending June 1998). Mr. Nambiar and Mr. Sripathi held the top post under the DMK dispensation.

If one were to focus on the next CS, there are over 20 IAS officers of the rank of ACS, serving either at the Centre or in the State government. Of these, Meenakshi Rajagopal of the 1984 batch is the senior most.

Among others are Rajeev Ranjan and Jagmohan Singh Raju, both belonging to the 1985 batch; Hans Raj Verma (1986); Praveen Kumar and Otem Dai (1987); Irai Anbu and Vikram Kapur (1988), and K. Rajaraman and Dayanand Kataria (1989).

Any one of these officers can make it to the top post as seniority has not always been the sole criterion for elevation in Tamil Nadu bureaucracy.

A former civil servant suggests that as in the case of Directors General of Police, a two-year tenure should be fixed for Chief Secretaries too.

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Printable version | Jul 5, 2020 10:44:27 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/analysis-an-extension-and-a-dilemma-tn-chief-secretary-shanmugam-to-stay-on-till-october/article31779618.ece

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