Live Mint, New Delhi, July 18, 2008

With requirements that seem skewed in favour of bureaucrats, most of the 200 applicants are government officials

Poor salaries and requirements that seem tailored for bureaucrats have ensured that India hasn’t met with much success in its attempt to attract professionals from the private sector to fill key positions in the Competition Commission of India (CCI), the country’s apex body that will rule on issues related to monopolies, competition, even mergers and acquisitions.

Who’s next? Vinod Dhall, the acting chairman at CCI, resigned in June. (Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint)

The ministry of corporate affairs (MCA) has received at least 200 applications for the six posts it wants to fill—a chairman of CCI and five members—and a senior official at MCA, who does not want to be identified, said most are from government officials. “Over a dozen officials, who are serving secretaries from different Union ministries, besides senior officials from within the ministry have also applied,” this official added. The last date for filing applications was 16 June.

With Parliament passing the Competition Bill last year, CCI needs to fill its top six positions immediately. After these people are hired, it will look to hire at least 240 more professionals in economics, finance and law in the first year.

“Some lawyers and economists have applied, but nobody significant—that’s a bit disappointing. In fact, a lot of jokers have applied, including some from the social sector,” said the MCA official.

Lawyers are unlikely to apply as CCI will likely be the domain of bureaucrats, said an eminent New Delhi-based lawyer, who did not want to be identified. “Officials from the Indian Administrative Services (IAS) think they are the custodian of all wisdom. Besides, the selection committee, which will interview candidates, itself has three senior bureaucrats. On the top of all this is poor salary, so it’s neither prestige nor money,” this lawyer added. Of the 39 regulators in india, more than 95% are IAS officers, he said.

The CCI chairman will earn Rs26,000 plus allowance per month. The members will also get the same remuneration. The salaries offered are contrary to suggestions made by the Sixth Pay Commission, which recently submitted its report to the government. The commission recommended hiring private sector employees in the upper tier of government, especially those who serve as regulators overseeing economic and pricing functions, including the chairman and members of CCI.

The pay commission recommended that while members of such agencies be paid a consolidated salary of Rs1.5 lakh a month, the chairperson be paid Rs2 lakh a month in case the job comes with a car and house. If no such frills are offered, the chairperson should be paid a consolidated salary of Rs3 lakh and members Rs2.5 lakh a month.

The advertisement also listed requirements that seemed to be skewed in favour of bureaucrats. For instance, it asked for 15 years of experience in fields such as international trade and economics to business and commerce, law and finance, accountancy and management, industry and public affairs, and competition matters—tailor-made for civil servants, who typically serve across ministries.

Supreme Court judge Altamas Kabir, who heads the selection committee and is a nominee of the Chief Justice of India, and a panel of experts will decide on the members and the chairperson by August.

Vinod Dhall, who had been heading CCI as sole member and acting chairman, resigned in June and his term ends on Friday. Amitabh Kumar, director general at CCI, and S.L. Bunker, secretary at CCI, will jointly look after the affairs of the commission till the new officials are appointed.

According to the MCA official, senior government officials, who have applied for either the post of chairman or that of a member include K.L. Dhingra, chairman and managing director of the Housing and Urban Development Corp. Ltd, Dhanendra Kumar, executive director of World Bank, Anita Das, secretary at the department of Ayush (Ayurveda, yoga and naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and homoeopathy), and K.P. Kala, former member at the Central Bureau of Excise and Customs. “Two regional directors from the ministry and a couple of income-tax commissioners have also applied, besides CCI director general Amitabh Kumar and Gajendra Haldea, adviser (infrastructure), Planning Commission,” said the MCA official.

The only name the official mentioned from the private sector was that of Pradeep S. Mehta, director general at CUTS Institute for Regulation and Competition, an independent agency that operates in the area of consumer protection. Mehta was not available for comment. However, his office confirmed that he has applied for a post at CCI.

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