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Ajit Seth is next Cabinet Secretary

Smita Gupta

NEW DELHI: Ajit Kumar Seth, a 1974 IAS officer from the Uttar Pradesh cadre, will be the next Cabinet Secretary, the government announced on Tuesday.

Mr. Seth, currently Secretary, Public Grievances and Coordination in the Cabinet Secretariat, will succeed K.M. Chandrashekhar, a 1970 batch Kerala cadre IAS officer, who retires in June 2011 after four years in the post — this included two extensions.

Two-year tenure

The 59-year-old Seth will serve as an Officer on Special Duty in the Cabinet Secretariat till June 13 and assume charge the next day. He will have a fixed two-year tenure.

Government sources told The Hindu that the choice of Mr. Seth was determined by the political leadership's resolve to steer clear of even a whiff of controversy: the new Cabinet Secretary is not just the senior-most empanelled officer of the 1974 batch — he also has a squeaky clean reputation, and is known to be an old-fashioned bureaucrat, a team person and meticulous about his work, according to fellow IAS officers.

With Mr. Seth's appointment, speculation ended about two other 1974 batch IAS officers, whose names had also gained currency — Pulok Chatterjee, secretary in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) till early 2009, and is considered to be close to the Nehru-Gandhi family, and is currently Executive Director at the World Bank in Washington, and Bihar Chief Secretary Anup Mukherjee.

Major changes likely

In the wake of the appointment of the new Cabinet Secretary, the next few months will also witness major changes in the upper reaches of the bureaucracy. Finance Secretary Sushma Nath, Revenue Secretary Sunil Mitra, Home Secretary G.K. Pillai, Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar and Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao are all due to retire in the next few months. Ms. Nath was given a two-month extension until May 31, ahead of the presentation of the 2011-12 Budget.

Meanwhile, according to a government release, Mr. Seth has been in his current post in the Cabinet Secretariat since January 2009. He has served in different capacities at the Centre — in the Commerce and Textile Ministries — and in Uttar Pradesh. He also had a stint as the First Secretary in the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations in Geneva.

In Uttar Pradesh, Mr. Seth served as the Principal Secretary (Rural Development), Principal Secretary (Vigilance) and Secretary (Home and Confidential) apart from posts in the Industries and Cooperatives Departments. He was the Divisional Commissioner of Kumaon Division in Nainital in the undivided Uttar Pradesh, as well as the District Magistrate of Mainpuri and Lucknow districts.

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