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Parameswaran Iyer, new Swachh head joins long list 'outsiders' in the government

Parameswaran Iyer, new Swachh head joins long list 'outsiders' in the government

The appointment of ex-IAS officer and World Bank expert Parameswaran Iyer as secretary in the ministry of drinking water and sanitation, which pilots the Swachh Bharat Mission, may be seen as unconventional but lateral entry of private-sector technocrats has for long been the norm in key government positions requiring a certain skill.

Iyer joins the league of experts technocrats like Mantosh Sondhi, a Bokaro Steel import who went on to become steel secretary in seventies; Lovraj who was brought from Burmah Shell and was petroleum secretary between 1981and 1983; BEST's R V Shahi who was hired as power secretary by then power minister Suresh Prabhu; economist Montek Singh Ahluwalia who was hand-picked by then PM Manmohan Singh to serve as deputy chairman of Planning Commission; economist Raghuram Rajan who is now RBI governor; chief economic adviser to government of India Arvind Subramanian who comes from Peterson Institute for International Economics; and Infosys Nandan Nilekani who piloted the Unique Identification Authority of India, to name a few.

Even though lateral recruitment of private sector experts and technocrats in top secretary-level government posts, especially those demanding a given set of skills and expertise, has been upheld by the Second Administrative Reforms Commission as well as in the 7th Pay Commission report, the regular refrain form the civil services associations is that it saps the morale of IAS officers.

"But, ultimately , it is up to the government and UPSC to decide who to hire...if a certain private-sector candidate is very good and has the right type of qualification and skills for that post, they have every right to recruit him," Former cabinet secretary Naresh Chandra said. However, the general feeling is that lateral recruitment should be an exception rather than the rule.The government, incidentally , is on board with this.

Image credit: Indiatimes