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The Rediff Special/ George Iype
What does the Cabinet Secretary do?
May 31, 2006
Cabinet Secretary B K Chaturvedi, who was to retire on June 10, has defied the odds and got a year's extension in office.
The government's decision has disappointed several senior civil servants who aspired to be appointed to the highest position in the Indian Administrative Service, including Reva Nayyar, who was tipped to be the nation's first lady Cabinet Secretary.
Why is the Cabinet Secretary's job so coveted? And what does the CabSec do in any case?
A quick guide to why the Cabinet Secretary is arguably India's most influential and powerful bureaucrat.
Just who is the Cabinet Secretary?
The Cabinet Secretary heads the Cabinet Secretariat, the top agency for coordination amongst the ministries of the Government of India.
Before Independence, the agency that carried out governmental business was called the Governor-General-in Council.
In 1946, the Council was renamed the Cabinet Secretariat.
After Independence, the functions of the Secretariat underwent major changes. A series of committees on economic, defence and intelligence matters were constituted under the Cabinet Secretariat. Most of the departments created after Independence functioned under the Cabinet Secretariat, and were later on shifted to the respective ministries.
The Cabinet Secretariat is the key to inter-ministerial coordination.
The person who heads the Cabinet Secretariat is the Cabinet Secretary, India's top bureaucrat.
What are the other powers of the Cabinet Secretary?
First and foremost, he acts as a secretary to the Council of Ministers. He coordinates major administrative activities and policies of the Indian government. He is the man who is called to resolve any difficulties or delays in administrative fields between various departments of the Government of India, and between state governments. He is responsible for submitting to the Union Cabinet and Cabinet committees all matters for discussion and decision. He is also the ex-officio chairman of the Civil Services Board, besides heading the Cabinet Secretariat.
What are the other functions of the Cabinet Secretariat?
The Secretariat ensures that the President, the Vice-President and ministers are kept informed of the major activities of all ministries/departments through a monthly summary of their activities.
Management of major crisis situations in the country and coordinating activities of various ministries in such a situation is also one of the functions of the Cabinet Secretariat.
How does the Cabinet Secretariat help the Cabinet?
It convenes the meetings of the cabinet on the prime minister's orders, prepares and circulates the agenda and papers related to the cases on the agenda, prepares a record of discussions taken and circulates the record after obtaining the prime minister's approval.
The Secretariat also supervises implementation of the Cabinet's decisions.
To whom does the Cabinet Secretary report?
The Cabinet Secretariat is under the direct charge of the prime minister. The Cabinet Secretary reports to the prime minister.
How long has the current Cabinet Secretary been in the post?
B K Chaturvedi, an IAS officer of the 1966 batch, took charge as Cabinet Secretary on June 11, 2004, soon after the Manmohan Singh government came to power. He belongs to the Uttar Pradesh cadre, and was earlier the secretary in the petroleum ministry. His term as Cabinet Secretary was to end on June 10, but has been extended for a year.
Who were the bureaucrats in the race for the post?
Dr Adarsh Kishore, a Rajasthan cadre IAS officer who was elevated as Union finance secretary only a couple of months ago; Reva Nayyar, a top ranking lady IAS officer; National Highways Authority of India Chairman Santosh Nautiyal; Union Commerce Secretary Srikadath Narayan Menon; and Home Secretary V K Duggal.
What is the criterion for appointing the Cabinet Secretary?
Generally, the most senior IAS officer at the Centre is chosen as the Cabinet Secretary, but it is not a must.
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