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Monday, August 25, 2014

PMO now a strategic HR manager, to analyse officials’ skills to fill up top vacancies

NEW DELHI: Over the past fortnight, two senior bureaucrats, recently empanelled  as secretaries to the government of India, were surprised when they got a call  from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO). They were asked about their areas of  interest and the departments they might be interested in handling as and when an  opening comes up.

The phone calls are part of a larger informal human  resources competency mapping exercise being driven by the PMO to identify the  best officials suited for vacancies that have arisen and would arise in the central government  in the coming six months. The idea behind the initiative steered by additional  principal secretary in the PMO PK Mishra, is to get the right men for the right  job to implement the Modi government's agenda over the next three to five years,  said officials.

This human resource management exercise is part of the  Prime Minister's efforts to make a clean break from the UPA tradition where  ministers had a disproportionate say in babu appointments, said officials. There has been  no purge in the bureaucracy as many policymakers had feared after the change of  government on May 26 another sign that this government is thinking differently  from its predecessors.

The manpower planning effort is not restricted  to the top echelons of departments and autonomous agencies, but includes roles  at the joint secretary and additional secretary levels too.  Indicating that the Modi  regime would rather think through its appointments rather than fill up vacancies in a  huff, one of the first vacancies to arise under this government, for a joint secretary in charge of exploration  issues in the petroleum and natural gas ministry, is yet to be filled.

"The new government has neither affected a major bureaucratic reshuffle nor is  it in a hurry to fill vacancies as it wants to identify the strengths and  weaknesses of top officers before deciding their next roles.

The PM's personal interactions with secretaries and the  PMO's assessment of the challenges facing each department are likely to play a  crucial role in the Centre's personnel strategy in coming months," said a senior  official, requesting anonymity.

Just three weeks after taking  charge, Modi had reconstituted the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet to a  two-member body comprising the PM and home minister Rajnath Singh. 

 "The PMO has a firm eye on achieving big-ticket outcomes of this government by  2018-19, so it is not thinking of vacancies as a short-term problem that needs  to be plugged," said another official, adding that ministries have been asked to  upload all major vacancies that are arising in their domains, including their  public sector undertakings and autonomous bodies onto an online vacancy tracking  system.

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