The Narendra Modi-led central government is shuffling bureaucrats at a hectic pace, and this is not limited to ministers' private secretaries (PS) and officers on special duty (OSD).
The jury is out on whether it is a witch-hunt by the new government to weed out loyalists of the previous government or a clean-up exercise to increase efficiency and contain corruption, while it is learnt these appointments and transfers have the stamp of the prime minister himself.
This is another departure from the usual practice, as earlier prime ministers were rarely seen bothered about who was appointed ministers' PS or OSD.
In a telling sign of the current National Democratic Alliance's (NDA's) governance style, the department of personnel & training (DoPT) on Tuesday issued an office memorandum saying four officials, who had worked as PS or OSD to ministers in the UPA government, were being placed "at the disposal of their respective cadre".
The reason cited was the remaining central deputation tenure of these officials was less than a year.
These bureaucrats - Shunchongam Jatak, R Selvam, K Satish Nambudripad and Vijay Sharma (two of them Indian Administrative Service officers, one from the Indian Forest Service and another from the Indian Information Service - had worked with the ministers of shipping, commerce & industry, consumer affairs and information & broadcasting, respectively, during the UPA regime.
In another order issued on Tuesday, the government approved the appointment of Sameer Verma, a UP-cadre IAS officer as PS to Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti.
In the past four working days, about 20 senior-level personnel changes have been carried out across ministries - and, the number is expected to at least double in the coming days.
Earlier this month, in his interaction with secretaries without ministers being present, Modi had indicated he would not transfer officials without any reason.
In fact, the latest move to cherry-pick OSDs and PS for ministers is being interpreted as another way in which Modi can keep a direct channel open with officers.
Apart from ministers' staff, many other bureaucratic changes have been executed lately.
A recent DoPT circular said the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet had approved premature repatriation of two central government joint secretaries (in the power and fertiliser ministries) - G S Prasad and Satish Chandra, both Andhra-cadre IAS officers - to the "successor state of Andhra Pradesh".
Pallavi Jain Govil, a Madhya Pradesh-cadre IAS working in the Prime Minister's Office, has also been prematurely returned to her parent cadre.
Other changes in the PMO include shifting of Additional Secretary Shatrughna Singh (Uttarakhand-cadre IAS) to the department of industrial policy & promotion. Rajiv Nayan Choubey (Tamil Nadu-cadre IAS) has been brought from the power ministry to PMO to replace Singh.
As reported last week, Fertiliser Secretary Shaktikanta Das replaced Rajiv Takru as revenue secretary. Takru, a Gujarat-cadre IAS officer, has been appointed secretary in the ministry of development of the north eastern region.
Also, some officers on "compulsory wait' during the UPA rule have been given a posting. One example is of Debjani Chakrabarti (Odisha-cadre IAS), who was on compulsory wait in the urban development ministry.
She has been posted in the road transport and highways ministry as deputy secretary.
Even as many ministers await clarity from the top office on their private secretaries, Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh has already got the approval for Santosh Kumar (Bihar-cadre IAS) as his PS.
Minister for Commerce & Industry Nirmala Sitharaman, too, has been given a go-ahead for Ashish Chatterjee as her PS. Chatterjee, a Tamil Nadu-cadre IAS officer, was a director in the commerce ministry. Among others who have got clearances for their PS are Railway Minister D V Sadananda Gowda and Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises Minister Kalraj Mishra. Gowda gets V Ponnuraj (Karnataka-cadre IAS), who was OSD to the chief electoral officer in Karnataka, as PS. Mishra will have Manoj Kumar Dwivedi (J&K-cadre IAS), who was a director in DoPT, as his PS.
Those in waiting include Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who had started working with Alok Kumar Singh (UP-cadre IPS), who earlier was secretary to former external affairs minister Salman Khurshid before joining the home minister as his PS.
Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani might also have to go for a change. Vinita Shrivastava, who was earlier with former steel minister Beni Prasad Verma, had joined Irani's ministry as OSD. But the PM might now like to vet the appointment.
Shunchongam Jatak (Shipping ministry)
R Selvam (Commerce ministry)
K Satish Nambudripad (Consumer affairs ministry)
Vijay Sharma (I&B ministry)
SOME OTHER CHANGES
Sameer Verma of UP-cadre made private secretary to Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti
Appointments panel approves premature return of joint secretaries G S Prasad and Satish Chandra to 'successor state of Andhra Pradesh'
Pallavi Jain Govil, a Madhya Pradesh-cadre IAS working in the Prime Minister's Office, prematurely returned to parent cadre