For the coveted post of Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC) chairman, Lieutenant General NPS Hira, currently the Deputy Chief of Army Staff (Information Systems and Training), appears to have beaten other decorated officers from Army background in the fray due to his association with a regiment of scheduled caste Sikhs in the poll-bound state.
The SAD-BJP government in Punjab is leaving no stone unturned to woo every section of the dalit community. On December 1, it had held a grand inauguration ceremony for Valmiki temple-cum-monument in Amritsar district.
Lieutenant General Hira, whose name as PPSC chairman was cleared by a high-powered panel led by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal on Monday, is the (honorary) Colonel of Regiment of Sikh Light Infantry, the army regiment comprising scheduled caste Sikhs where a majority of jawans are from Punjab.
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A defence analyst, who did not wish to be named, said, “Colonel of a regiment is a father figure for the regiment. There is no doubt that Lt Gen Hira is a very capable and decorated officer, but from the government’s perspective, the appointment also appears aimed at wooing a section of dalit Sikhs.”
“Lt Gen Hira himself is Jat Sikh. While the jawans serving in Sikh Light Infantry are from scheduled caste Sikh communities like Ramgarhiyas, Ramdassiyas and Mazhabi etc, the Colonel of the Regiment could be from any community,” said one of the aspirants for the top PPSC post, who is also from the Army background and vied unsuccessfully for the post.
“Lt Gen Hira, who was appointed as Deputy Chief of Army Staff in March this year, was to retire in few months. After his appointment as PPSC chairman, he is likely to proceed on premature retirement,” he said.
Punjab Vidhan Sabha Speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal, one of the members of three-member panel which cleared the name of Lt Gen Hira, said, “He is an Army officer. He is intelligent and honest person. This and other qualities was the criteria to make the appointment.”
Congress Legislature Party (CLP) chief Charanjit Singh Channi, the third member of the selection panel, was not present in the meeting on Monday.
While Channi was not available for comment, Atwal said the decision to appoint chairman could not be taken in two meetings earlier as Channi did not attend the meetings. “For Monday meeting also, Channi sent a letter expressing inability to participate in the meeting.
Since the appointment had to be made, name [of Lt Gen Hira] was cleared in the meeting on Monday.”
Among the top Army officers who were vying for the post of PPSC chairman were those associated with regiments like Kumaon Regiment, Rajputana Rifles, Parachute Regiment and Armored Regiment.
Besides Chairman, PPSC has 10 other members, having tenure of six years or till they attain the age of 62, whichever is earlier.
The PPSC chairman’s post fell vacant in September this year after Lt Gen T S Gill (retd) demitted the office.