Chawla new I&B ministry secretary

NEW DELHI: The new Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government has started making bureaucratic appointments and information and broadcasting ministry is amongst the first batch of units to get a new crop of officials.

Navin Chawla has been named as the I&B ministry secretary. He will replace Pawan Chopra who would retire from government service on 31 May, having worked under two ministers ---- Sushma Swaraj and Ravi Shankar Prasad --- and had been at the helm when some of the controversial issues like conditional access system (CAS) had pitch forked the ministry into limelight.

Chawla, who takes over from Chopra, is not completely new to the I&B ministry as he had been here as a joint secretary some years back.

Chawla, himself an author of sorts --- he has penned the biography of the late Mother Teresa --- is also said to be close the family of Sonia Gandhi, the chief of the Congress party. The Delhi chatterrati circles have it that  Chawlas wife, Rupika, an art historian, is a personal friend of Sonia.

Chawla comes at a time when the ministry is not being racked by any major issue like CAS and also has a minister, Jaipal Reddy, who is regarded as a levelheaded person. But the new secretary would have to dive headlong into the issue of private FM radio operators licence fee issue and may also have to work on the proposed setting up of a broadcast regulatory body, a pet theme of Reddy reiterated several times.However, Chawla would have the benefit of the broadcast bill that had been tabled in Parliament by Reddy himself during his stint as an I&B minister in 1997. Moreover, some work in this regard has also been done by Chopras team, including additional secretary (broadcasting), Vijay Singh.

The I&B ministry would have to look for an additional secretary (broadcasting) too as Singh is likely to move out of the ministry as he is slated to be empanelled for a secretary's post by July.

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