Agri Business

Top position at agri scientists hiring body opened to serving and retired babus

TV Jayan New Delhi | Updated on May 31, 2021

Notwithstanding widespread consternation expressed by the Indian agricultural scientific community, the government has decided to consider serving and retired civil servants for the post of Chairman of the Agricultural Scientists’ Recruitment Board (ASRB).

An official advertisement seeking applications for the ASRB chairperson position, which closed on October 31, said not just scientists or academicians with PhDs and 25 years of experience, but also retired or serving civil servants with 25 years of experience in public administration or agriculture and related sectors can apply for the post.

This is the first time in the 45 years of ASRB’s existence that the top job has been opened to bureaucrats. “It is rather unfortunate that the government took such a decision despite the agricultural scientific community expressing its dismay over it,” said RB Singh, noted agricultural scientist, and a former ASRB chairman.

No response from PM

Sensing that there was a move to sneak in a bureaucrat from the IAS cadre as the ASRB chief, the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS), the apex academy of agricultural scientists in the country, wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the matter in June this year. It is still awaiting a reply.

Meanwhile, the government has tweaked the ASRB recruitment rules to allow a senior IAS officer to apply for the job. It also restricted the term of the ASRB Chairman and members to three years from the earlier seven and six years respectively.

“…There have been instances of circumscribing, if not usurping totally, the autonomy of the Board by some vested interests. Efforts have been made to malign the reputation of the Board by such vested interests in the recent past and for such reasons, the Board was without a regular chairman for more than a year and two members for nearly two years,” wrote Punjab Singh, NAAS President, in the letter written to the PM on June 27 this year.

A representation from the Agricultural Research Service Scientists’ Forum — a body that represents research staff at the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) — to the PM also failed to elicit any response.

Interestingly, the government had constituted a high-level expert committee under the chairmanship of RS Paroda, former ICAR Director General and Secretary, Department of Agricultural Research and Extension (DARE), to look into the restructuring of the Board.

Significantly, such a change was not part of the recommendations made by the panel, which also had two bureaucrats — one serving and one retired — as members. Also, the ICAR governing body had earlier rejected a proposal to consider bureaucrats for the posts of Chairman and Members of ASRB. “This is highly undesirable,” said Deepak Pental, former vice-chancellor of the University of Delhi and a renowned plant geneticist. “It may be because the government maybe thinking that it would be easy to handle a career bureaucrat than a scientist-bureaucrat,” Pental said.

According to a former ICAR scientist, who took voluntary retirement to launch an agricultural extension consultancy service a few years ago, the rampant corruption and nepotism that the Board suffered in the last several years may have led to this. “All I can say is that they have brought it upon themselves. But, what the government has proposed is not the solution. The latest move is unfortunate because the position is all-powerful when it comes to recruiting scientific staff,” the scientist, who didn’t want to be named, said.

Trilochan Mahapatra, ICAR DG and Secretary, DARE, did not to respond to a questionnaire sent to him a few days ago.

Published on November 12, 2018

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