In its first order under the new government, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has made it clear that union ministers will have to select their personal staff from the general pool available. If implemented strictly, this would end the system of handpicking officials, sometimes even relatives, as personal staff.
According to sources, the DoPT sent its circular to all the ministries after the new government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi was sworn in. On May 26, the department also uploaded its earlier instructions in this regard on its website. These include its order that a person cannot serve as a minister’s personal staff for more than 10 years.
In the past, several ministers have appointed their relatives as their personal staff. As reported by The Indian Express in July last year, at least 87 people continued to serve as personal staff of various ministers for over 10 years, with the approval of then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
While the latest advice is applicable to ministers, sources said even Members of Parliament should “get the message”. As reported by The Indian Express in May last year, at least 146 MPs had employed their children and close relatives as personal assistants, in order to retain the allowance paid by the government.
Though there are no rules which ban such appointments, many parliamentarians had cited the issue of propriety. The Rajya Sabha ethics committee had passed a resolution against it in October last year.
Official sources said the move is in keeping with Modi’s “larger view” about probity in public life. “As Chief Minister, he never did any favour to any of his relatives. You did not see any of his relatives at his swearing-in ceremony. He did not even appoint children of top party leaders as ministers. You have to understand his larger view,” said a union minister.