In bringing in former Union Higher Education Secretary Amit Khare, a 1985-batch Jharkhand cadre IAS officer, as an adviser to himself, Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have indicated his plan to find a better way to provide impetus to several flagship programs being spearheaded by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
Within the bureaucracy, while Khare, who retired last month, is often viewed as a bit of a maverick, even his detractors acknowledge his effectiveness in finding solutions to problems.
Consider this: In December 2019, when Khare was appointed Higher Education Secretary, replacing R Subrahmanyam, who was shunted out midway due to his failure to break the impasse between the HRD Ministry and students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) over hike in hostel fees, one of the first things that the newly-appointed Secretary did was to call the JNU Vice-Chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar and prevail upon him to partially roll back the fee hike.
Sources told India Ahead that while the formal orders regarding the distribution of work between Khare and another adviser – retired 1983 batch IAS officer Bhaskar Khulbe, Khare could be allotted the work earlier being handled by Amarjit Sinha, who resigned as Principal Adviser to the PM, in August.
The crucial job of ACC appointments could continue to be handled by the PM’s Principal Secretary PK Mishra. Khulbe, a trusted aide of the PM, works closely with the PM on coordinating with state governments on various schemes and their implementation.
Sources say that Khare, who is credited with having steered the finalization of the new National Education Policy (NEP) as well as the four-year undergraduate program, which will be rolled out in Delhi University from the next academic session, will be expected to handle and monitor implementation of some of the key programs, including those in the infrastructure space.
Why Khare? Asked this important question, a senior government functionary told India Ahead that, as a bureaucrat, Khare has carved a niche for himself as someone who could deliver on an assignment without stepping on too many toes.
“He knows how to formulate policies and monitor programs. But he will have to be careful about others, more powerful, persons already working in the PMO. He will have to understand he isn’t the head of a ministry’s bureaucracy anymore. The PMO is a team and there are others who have been around for much more. But then he must be aware of all this,” observed the source.
This advice may come in handy for the bureaucrat, who, as Information and Broadcasting Secretary, was also involved in the framing of the digital media regulations. Khare would do well to remember that two of the men who occupied his position before him handed in their papers much before their tenures ended.
The retired officer first hit headlines in January 1996 when, as a young District Magistrate of Chaibasa in undivided Bihar, he raided the offices and farms of the State Animal Husbandry Department and unearthed bogus bills, an act that eventually led to the jailing of the then Chief Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav.