The Modi government in its very first order, issued on the day he was sworn in prime minister, has barred ministers from handpicking "personal staff". This is unprecedented and shows Modi's intent to ensure that none of his ministers fancies a "hidden agenda". It also proves that prime minister Narendra Modi runs a tight ship.
No one, not even Indira Gandhi, went to this extent to keep a check on ministers from overstepping their briefs. It also brings to an end the "appointment" of family members as personal staff, which has been a practice with many a minister over the years.
Modi, say sources in the government, has taken a leaf out of his "Gujarat Model" while issuing the order. Issued by the ministry of personnel, public grievances and pensions department of personnel & training on Monday, it outlines rules and lays down instructions for the appointment of personal staff attached to ministers. Foremost of them is that ministers will henceforth appoint secretaries and other personal staff only from the "general pool".
Till now, there has been rank disregard of rules in the appointment of personal staff of ministers. Many ministers flouted them and appointed family members including sons and daughters, nephews and nieces, brothers and sisters to key posts in the ministries they ran. Some also opted to give "jobs" to cronies in their parties.
One recent example has been Union railway minister in the UPA-II government Pawan Kumar Bansal. He appointed his son-in-law Vitul Kumar as his OSD and his sister's son-in-law, Rahul Bhandari, as his personal secretary. Not satisfied with that, he gave his nephew, Vijay Singla, the run of the railway ministry. He paid the price for that when Singla was held for allegedly seeking cash-for-postings in the railways.
In another case that came to light in recent years, this one involving a state, two sons of then Goa home minister Ravi Naik were found taking salaries from the state government, one of them was "employed" as his "personal assistant", the other as his "private secretary".
But with this order, ministers will not be able to run ministries as fiefdoms. All appointments will be made by the appointments committee of cabinet of the department of personnel & training, which is part of the Prime Minister's Office. With this, prime minister Narendra Modi has also made it clear that he is committed to run a clean government.