Arjun Singh puts official on `compulsory wait'

NEW DELHI, JUNE 1. A week after taking charge, the Union Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister, Arjun Singh, today made the first changes in his Ministry; placing an official - seen as `close' to his predecessor, Murli Manohar Joshi — under `compulsory wait' and bringing back two bureaucrats who were part of his team in his first stint as HRD Minister in the Narasimha Rao Government.

The Joint Secretary (Technical) in the Department of Higher Education, V.S. Pandey, was the one put on `compulsory wait'. An Uttar Pradesh cadre official, Mr. Pandey was at the centre of the controversy pertaining to fee reduction in the Indian Institutes of Management as he was also the Ministry's representative on the IIM boards.

He is likely to be replaced by the Secretary of Food & Civil Supplies of Chhattisgarh, Sunil Kumar, who has been transferred to the Ministry as Joint Secretary. Mr. Kumar was Mr. Singh's private secretary in his earlier stint as HRD Minister and has also worked in the same capacity with the former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Digvijay Singh, and the former Chhattisgarh Chief Minister, Ajit Jogi.

Another old HRD hand who is being brought back is Sudeep Banerjee. Presently an Additional Secretary in the Agriculture Ministry, Mr. Banerjee is being brought in to fill a vacancy in the same rank in the HRD Ministry. In his earlier stint in the Ministry during Mr. Singh's first tenure as HRD Minister, Mr. Banerjee headed the National Literacy Mission.