Dilip Rath, the chairman of National Dairy Development Board (NDDB), is set to retire this month-end. However, there are several questions still unanswered about Mr Rath's joining NDDB months after taking voluntary retirement from the Indian Administrative Services (IAS). In fact, he was also on the board of NDDB as a government nominee for some time. Several attempts by many people, including whistle-blowers and insiders, to procure information on Mr Rath's appointments, first as managing director (MD) and then as chairman of NDDB, have been stonewalled.
Mr Rath joined the NDDB as its MD on 1 December 2011 after taking early retirement from the IAS. He is also acting as mission director in the World Bank assisted scheme, National Dairy Plan (NDP), which is being implemented by the Indian government through NDDB.
According to information available in the public domain and from RTI replies, Mr Rath, a 1979 batch IAS, was serving as additional chief secretary in the government of West Bengal. On 5 October 2011, he appeared for an interview for the post of MD at NDDB. On 11th November, he took voluntary retirement and, on 1 December 2011, he was appointed as MD of NDDB.
Replies received under RTI from the department of personnel and training (DoPT) and NDDB reveal that as a serving IAS officer Mr Rath never sought any permission from the government before applying or appearing for an interview at NDDB for the post of MD. He also did not seek previous sanction of the Central government for accepting employment as MD of NDDB, which as per evidence now available, is commercial employment as per the explanation to Rule 26(1) of the AIS (DCRB) Rules 1958.
Usually, for any government department or a public sector unit of a government undertaking, serving candidates are mandated to apply through proper (internal) channel for any post outside their own employer.
However, the advertisement published in 2011 for the post of MD, asks the candidates to directly send a letter or email to the chairman of NDDB. At that time, Dr Amrita Patel was heading NDDB.
In March 2020, while replying to a question in the Rajya Sabha, Dr Sanjeev Kumar Balyan, minister of state for fisheries, animal husbandry and dairying, clearly stated that the All India Services (Death-Cum-Retirement Benefit) Rules1958 do not apply to NDDB. He also conveyed that the involvement of the Central government, or any of its departments or agencies in the recruitment of MD of NDDB does not arise, since the service conditions, pay and appointment of NDDB employees are governed by the respective regulations made under the NDDB Act.
"This itself proves that NDDB is a private organisation and employment in such an organisation by an officer who has just retired from service in the central government must necessarily either seek prior government approval (through DoPT) to join NDDB within one year of retirement or alternatively wait out the cooling period of one year before taking up employment in NDDB," a whistleblower points out.
After becoming the chairman of NDDB, Mr Rath, on 23 November 2017, wrote a letter to Bhaskar Khulbe, secretary to the prime minister, about the appointment of serving IAS officers in private institutions. The letter says, "...clause 6(2)(ii) of the IAS (Cadre) Rules, 1954 provide for deputation of cadre officer for service under 'an international organization, an autonomous body not controlled by the government, or a private body'." Mr Rath also sought in-principle approval for deputation of an IAS officer as MD of NDDB in this letter.
In an RTI reply dated 8 August 2019, regarding authorisation to DoPT to fill up the post of MD of NDDB, the dairy board stated, “Recruitment of employees of NDDB is done as per NDDB regulations and by NDDB.”
"There is no mention is made of involvement or control by the government, the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC), Public Enterprises Selection Board (PSEB), Staff Selection Board (SSB) or Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). In short, the case of MD of NDDB is analogous to IAS officers, who were required to seek prior permission of government to serve in Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Ltd (IL&FS)," the whistleblower says.
According to insiders, Rath was bought into NDDB by the then chairperson Dr Amrita Patel. After retiring in 2014, she was immediately made chairman of the management committee for semen station and breeding at NDDB Dairy Services (NDS). Before that in 2010, Dr Patel was also made a permanent invitee to the board of NDS. When Dr Patel retired in 2014, T Nanda Kumar was appointed as chairman of NDDB. However, within two years, he resigned.
At that time, the DoPT gave additional charge as chairman to Rath, until the appointment of a regular incumbent. Mr Rath was working as MD of NDDB that time.
Mr Rath's term as chairman of NDDB ended on 1 December 2018. However, on 3 December 2018, the government issued a notification (S.O. 5949(E)) extending Rath's first term 'until further orders'.
Later on, 6 March 2019, just before the model code of conduct came into force, the government decided to extend retrospectively Mr Rath's term for two more years.
Earlier this week, Rath was unanimously elected to the board of the International Dairy Federation (IDF) during the general assembly of IDF.
India will host the first post-COVID -19 IDF World Dairy Summit 2022 in New Delhi in which over 1,000 participants from 55 countries, including experts, academicians and dairy professionals are expected to participate from about 55 countries.