With several of his Cabinet colleagues appointing top personnel at will in the public sector units under their charge, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has sent off a letter asking them to stop this practice immediately.
All appointments to top jobs, even if they are only extensions or are temporary in nature, Vajpayee said last week would have to be cleared by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet -- that is, apart from the minister concerned, Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani and Prime Minister Vajpayee himself would have to clear the appointments.
Telecom giant Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd, for instance, is functioning with several ad hoc appointees, including its Chairman cum Managing Director Prithpal Singh, and finance director S D Saxena who succeeded S P Puruvar after he resigned in April.
Another director B D Khurana is due to retire at the end of the month, but no successor has been appointed -- in all probability, he too will be succeeded by an officer holding temporary charge.
Since all officers holding temporary charge have no certainty of tenure but are there at the pleasure of the minister or top bureaucrats, it was felt that this could leave them open to all manner of influence.
India Tourism Development Corporation chief Ashwani Lohani, similarly, had been given temporary charge when Ananth Kumar was the tourism minister, and continued in this job even after Jagmohan took over.
When Jagmohan was asked to remove Lohani and give charge of ITDC to the director-general of tourism instead, Jagmohan abolished the post of director-general (in accordance, it appears, with one of the recommendations of the Geethakrishnan Expenditure Reforms Commission), and then recommended that Lohani should be allowed to continue in his job.
Lohani has now been repatriated to his parent cadre. In the Housing Urban Development Corporation, following its chief V Suresh's retirement, a joint secretary in the ministry was asked to hold charge by Urban Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar.
Kumar has now been told that this arrangement has to be terminated and the secretary will hold temporary charge till a full-time chairman is cleared by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet.
Two weeks ago, the Prime Minister had send another letter asking his colleagues to stop appointing independent directors to the boards of public sector undertakings without getting approval of the Public Enterprises Selection Board.
Telecom Minister Pramod Mahajan, for instance, had appointed four directors to the board of Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd a few months ago.None of the appointments have been regularised by the PESB so far.