The widening of the scope of the June 19 order means that no one who served on the personal staff of a minister in the last 10 years can be appointed to any gazetted post in the personal staff of an NDA minister. Only Group C and Group D employees now remain eligible to continue.
The order, which reached ministries on Thursday, will affect some 40 officials already working informally with NDA ministers as Additional PS, Assistant PS and First PA. The appointments, so far awaiting a final clearance, are now scrapped. These officials had earlier worked on the personal staff of UPA ministers, or with ministers before them.
In its order dated July 23, the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), which functions directly under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, clarified that
the June 19 circular would be applicable in respect of Private Secretary, OSD, Additional Private Secretary, Assistant Private Secretary and First PA who have worked in the personal staff of any minister for any duration during the last 10 years.
The circular bears the signature of DoPT director Vandana Sharma.
The June 19 communique had said that any officer/official/private person, who has worked earlier in the personal staff of a minister in any capacity for any duration, may not be appointed in the personal staff of Ministers in the present government.
Following persistent pressure from several quarters, however, DoPT issued a clarification on July 8, saying that the June 19 circular shall apply only in respect of Private Secretaries who had worked in the personal staff of any minister for any duration in the last 10 years.
The July 8 communication also said that the June 19 circular shall also not be applicable to such lower personal staff in class 3 and class 4 (now designated as MTS) such as drivers/attendants/peons.
But the clarification created further confusion.
On July 9, sources in the DoPT said, Secretary of Parliamentary Affairs Afzal Amanullah wrote to DoPT Secretary S K Sarkar, saying: It is not clear whether the term Private Secretaries includes Additional Private Secretaries, Assistant Private Secretaries and OSDs also as the OM [office memorandum] dated June 19, 2014 is not applicable to lower category of personal staff, similar clarity is not applicable in respect of Additional/Assistant Private Secretaries and OSDs.
The sources said that the July 23 communication was issued to further clarify the matter, after getting comments from the Prime Ministers Office.
The government also clarified on July 23 that an instruction issued by the UPA government that barred any person who had been on the personal staff of any minister for any 10 years of his/her career from further employment in a similar capacity, would continue.
DoPT has cleared the appointments of private secretaries for around 30 of 44 union ministers. But appointments of Additional PS, Assistant PS and First PA have been on hold in most cases.
Sources said several ministers were lobbied by the 40-odd affected persons, and they in turn took up the matter with the PM. Among those who reportedly spoke to Modi were Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Chemicals and Fertilisers Minister Ananth Kumar and Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan.
Modi reportedly asked his MoS Jitendra Singh and Principal Secretary Nripendra Misra to look into the matter, and the result was the July 8 clarification which, however, failed to end the confusion.
An officer working with a senior minister and who will have to now go as a result of the July 23 circular had earlier told The Indian Express, The problem is that I cannot be here officially. So whenever I travel with the minister, we write in all our letters that an attendant will accompany the minister without mentioning any names.