To do its bit in promoting the Jaipur Litfest,the Ministry of External Affairs had decided to waive the visa fees for 10 prominent foreign celebrities visiting the festivals. But visa gratis is a privilege which hardly matters if you are a celebrity. And this the government realised when it came to Oprah Winfrey. By the time government approvals came for the visa fee waiver,Oprah had already paid up. All her office requested was timely delivery of the visa.
Television journalist Pankaj Pachauris entry into the PMO as the new communications adviser not only came as a surprise in media circles but also led to Prime Ministers media adviser Harish Khare putting in his papers on the ground that he was kept out of the loop over the appointment. Pachauri,it appears,had been keen to give journalism a breather and cross over to the other side for some time now. According to sources,he had sounded out those in the corridors of power his willingness to accept an assignment as member of the Prasar Bharati Board. Though he never gave a formal application,his name subsequently figured in the list of candidates of the selection panel. His name will obviously have to be dropped from the panel of candidates now.
Commerce Minister Anand Sharma,who also holds the Textiles portfolio,can be quite persistent. His new Cabinet colleague V Kishore Chandra Deo got a taste of this when Sharma wanted to get Kiran Dhingra as Secretary weeks after she had been appointed Secretary,Panchayati Raj Ministry. He had a strong case because Dhingra had spent five years in the Textiles Ministry in different capacities. But Deo was equally happy with her,as she was handpicked by the Cabinet Secretary following his request for a good officer for Panchayati Raj. But Sharma pressed ahead with his request and finally got the Cabinet Secretary to agree,who,in turn,gave an apologetic call to Deo. He assured him of an equally good replacement and that has turned out to be UP cadre officer (1977) Loretta Mary Vas,who is being moved from the Department of Economic Affairs.
With Enforcement Directorate (ED) chief Arun Mathur set to retire in February this year,the race for the top post has started. The front runner for the top job is 1979 batch IAS officer Bimal Julka,presently on deputation with Ministry of Finance. Julka who is from the Madhya Pradesh cadre had earlier served at various positions in the Finance Ministry and comes with a wide range of experience. Another name doing the round is of Gireesh Pradhan,a 1977 batch IAS officer of Maharashtra cadre.
The visit of MoS (Home) Bhanwar Jitender Singh to the CBI headquarters at a time when it is probing high profile cases of alleged political corruption has set tongues wagging. Ostensibly,the minister had come to review the work of the Central Forensic Science Laboratory,which comes under MHA purview,but he used the opportunity to interact with top CBI officers,receive briefings and even lend a patient hearing to the agencys pitch for sharing funds from the Centres Police Modernisation Scheme.