2 Nov 2000


From Jal Khambata

NEW DELHI: Rattled by negative Media reports and resentment among the IAS officers, the Prime Minister's Office swung into action on Thursday for the damage control exercise, trying to persuade Dr E A S Sarma not to resign in protest of his transfer from the Finance Ministry even as ousted Finance Secretary Piyush mankad also threatened to put in his papers.

Sarma, a 1965 batch IAS officer of Andhra cadre, however, made it known that he will not take up any assignment in the Vajpayee Government when he was told that PM's Principal Secretary Brijesh Mishra was persuading Mankad not to create scene and just wait till June next year when he would be sent to the Asian Development Bank in Manila.

"That post has been earmarked to you Mankad, don't take any hasty step," Mishra was quoted telling Mankad and that has reportedly worked on Mankad. Sarma claimed Mankad may change his mind but he was determined to leave the job.

Sarma, who was the Economic Affairs Secretary, was quite angry at the officials of PMO on one hand trying to persuade him with "offers" and on the other hand spreading canard against him that he has been leaking stories to politicians and media about the Reliance Industries causing embarrassment to the government.

Interestingly Sarma's son is married to the daughter of Janata Party chief Dr Subramanian Swamy. There has been suspicion in top breaucrats in PMO that Sarma may be also discreetly passing on many of the government papers to Dr Swamy.

Sarma, who was unceremoniously transferred to the lowly Department of Coal, told this correspondent that he was on Thursday offered the Chairmanship of the Central Electricity Authority (CEA), the power sector regulatory body, as a sop. "But I have refused to accept that offer and will write to the Cabinet Secretary today that my voluntary retirement proceedings should be initiated soon", Sarma said.

Sarma, who has had a distinguished career in the bureaucracy, said he was in principle opposed to the Indian Administrative Services officers being sent to regulatory bodies purely as an instrument of handing out sops.

"I was the author of the Regulatory framework in the power sector and believe that such bodies should be headed either by a professional or a retired judge. I cannot violate my own principle by accepting the offer by the government", he said. " I had in fact made up my mind to get back into academics some months ago and had shared my thoughts with some of my senior colleagues", he said.

"I have been thinking about early retirement for quite some time. I have been discussing this with friends, colleagues, well-wishers and my family members for a long time. Linking my resignation to the latest reshuffle of secretaries would be unfair to the government," SAID Dr Sarma

Asked about the significance of the timing, Sarma said, "I decided to put in my papers now because I feel it is a good time to do so. I didn't want to accept a new responsibility now and then quit after a few months. That would have been unfair to the government."

Dr Sarma was in any case due to retire  in September 2001. Asked why he wants to quit the civil service prematurely, he said, "I now wish to pursue my other interests. I would like to be involved in academic work. I might read books on energy, physics and so on. I might consider delivering lectures at universities if invited to do so."

He ruled out joining the corporate sector in near future. "No way. I have a pathological revulsion for corporate jobs." About his immediate future plans, he said he might fly off to United States to join his son there. "But that would only be a holiday. All this talk is premature because I have to serve out a three-month notice period. I have requested the government to waive this condition and relieve me at the earliest. Until then, I wouldn't like to say anything."  END