With the aim to make the country self-reliant amid the lockdown crisis and simultaneously accelerate the economy, Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi’s trusted aides A K Sharma and Tarun Bajaj have been tasked to take over crucial roles in the economic apparatus.
While Bajaj has been appointed as Secretary, Economic Affairs, in the Finance Ministry, Sharma has been given the role of Secretary, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) — both major economic sectors which need excellent management during the crisis developed due to Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant countrywide lockdown.
Both senior IAS officers of the 1988 batch were on 26 April moved out of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), where they were Additional Secretaries, in a major reshuffle in the top bureaucracy of the Modi government. The decision was taken by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) chaired by the Prime Minister.
A Haryana cadre officer, Bajaj will take over on superannuation of incumbent Atanu Chakraborty, while Sharma, a 1988-batch IAS of Gujarat cadre, will succeed Arun Kumar Panda, who also superannuates on 30 April.
Bajaj was appointed as Joint Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in April 2015 and since then, got promoted to Additional Secretary during his five year stint due to his ability.
Officials familiar with his functioning told IANS that he earned a key place in the PMO because of his major role in overseeing finance related matters before his current elevation. As Bajaj has served as a Director and then as Joint Secretary in DEA overseeing the insurance division between 2006 and 2011, and then as Joint Secretary in the DEA between 2014 and 2015 overseeing multilateral institutions, the Prime Minister decided to hand him over the crucial role again when the country is passing through an economic rough patch.
For Bajaj, his third stint in the Ministry of Finance will perhaps be the most eventful and challenging as the DEA is one of the most important policy-making divisions, overseeing critical segments like financial markets, infrastructure policy, currency and coins, the budget, investment and public debt management and international relations.
As its Secretary, Bajaj will vet all important proposals to revive the economy. In his new role, he will need to work closely with the Reserve Bank of India and capital markets regulator Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to ensure quick steps are taken in the interest of financial stability.
The DEA will also be at the forefront of talks with states to ensure they have adequate funding to battle the Covid-19 disease.
Meanwhile, Sharma, who was promoted in August end last year has been in PMO since May 2014, being one of the first people to be sent on central deputation after Narendra Modi took over as the Prime Minister.
Sharma was part of the key team of officials who managed the Vibrant Gujarat summit as Chief Executive Officer of Gujarat State Infrastructure Board. He also served as Additional Principal Secretary in Chief Minister’s Office in Gujarat in 2001 when Narendra Modi helmed the state.
Sharma has since served with Modi for continuous 18 years — through Modi’s three stints as Chief Minister and his first term as Prime Minister. On central deputation, he has been given pro forma promotion to the grade of Additional Chief Secretary in Gujarat last year.
As Secretary MSME, Sharma will handle a key area that the Prime Minister wants to focus on to make India self-reliant.
As Additional Secretary in the PMO, Sharma was in charge of infrastructure and was promoted as full Secretary early this month. He was the key official who handled the Prime Minister’s monthly PRAGATI exercise that reviewed key Central government programmes and Centre-state projects.
Sharma’s transfer as Secretary MSME is stated by officials in the Union Ministry as part of the Prime Minister’s plans for India’s economic revival in the post-lockdown scenario.
The MSMEs, which employ 120 million Indians, account for 33.4 per cent of India’s manufacturing output and 45 per cent of overall exports, are in the doldrums following the nationwide lockdown in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
And it is here, that the Prime Minister wants to take advantage of Sharma’s expertise in industrial and infrastructure areas as he did in Gujarat and in the PMO.
(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.)
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