Tarun Bajaj, currently an additional secretary at the Prime Minister’s Office, will take over as the economic affairs secretary after Atanu Chakraborty retires on April 30, according to an official order on Sunday.
In his current capacity, Bajaj, a 1988-batch Haryana cadre IAS officer, has handled over a dozen ministries and subjects, including home affairs, electronics and IT, communications, Aadhaar, DBT, digital payments, information and broadcasting, monitoring of PM’s announcements and unit monitoring the implementation of crucial programmes. Chakraborty, a 1985-batch IAS officer of the Gujarat cadre, will retire after an over nine-month stint at the helm of the economic affairs department.
The appointment of Bajaj comes at a time when the economy has been facing an unprecedented crisis due to the Covid-19 outbreak, and is expected to grow at just 1.9% in FY21, according to an IMF estimate, or even lower. The government needs to roll out stimulus packages to prevent large-scale job losses and rebuild the economy, even though tax mop-up is expected to drop by at least Rs 2 lakh crore this fiscal.
Rajesh Verma, currently the special secretary in the agriculture department, will be the new corporate affairs secretary after Injeti Srinivas retires at the end of May.
Official sources have indicated that the total fiscal intervention could be to the tune of 3-4% of GDP (or `6-8 lakh crore). However, the government will come out with several rounds of measures to respond to the evolving situation, instead of declaring one big-bang package. NITI Aayog has projected the need for an even higher fiscal stimulus of Rs 10 lakh crore, including income assistance to the poor, equity support to corporate India, absorption of a portion of MSME bad loans and increased health care spending. The government had last announced a Rs 1.7 lakh crore relief package for the poor and the vulnerable on March 26.
According to the official order, the term of health secretary Preeti Sudan has been extended by three months beyond April 30, ostensibly in view of the pandemic.
Sudhanshu Pandey, currently an additional secretary at the commerce ministry, has been appointed new food secretary in place of Ravi Kant. Tarun Kapoor, a 1987-batch IAS officer of Himachal Pradesh cadre who is currently vice-chairman of the Delhi Development Authority, will be new petroleum secretary.
Consumer affairs secretary Pawan Kumar Agarwal will be the special secretary for logistics in the commerce ministry. Pradip Kumar Tripathi, current a special secretary at DoPT, will be new steel secretary, while Nagendra Nath Sinha will take over as the new rural development secretary.