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Another IAS ‘export from Delhi’: Punjab AAP govt under oppn fire over new education board chief

Satbir Silas Bedi, a retired IAS officer of AGMUT cadre last posted in Delhi, was appointed chairperson of Punjab School Education Board Friday.

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Chandigarh: The Bhagwant Mann government in Punjab is once again under fire from the opposition for choosing a “Delhi-based IAS” officer for a high-profile appointment in the state.

The criticism came after the government Friday appointed Satbir Silas Bedi, a retired IAS officer of the AGMUT cadre last posted in Delhi, as chairperson of the Punjab School Education Board (PSEB). 

The PSEB is the key body in the state regulating the setting up and functioning of government and private schools apart from holding the annual board exams. 

The other appointments criticised by the opposition for similar reasons are: Satya Gopal, a 1988-batch IAS officer of the AGMUT cadre who earlier served as additional chief secretary in Delhi, as chairperson of the Punjab Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA), and Rakesh Goyal, a retired IRS officer, as a member of the same body. Both these appointments were made in December 2022. 

Earlier this month, the Mann government’s decision to bring IIT Kharagpur alum Naval Aggarwal into the governance reforms department led to a furore as well. 

Bedi, 62, is from Uttar Pradesh. In 2014-15, she temporarily served as the chairperson of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), and has also held key positions in other education-related bodies during her service.

However, the opposition has alleged that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Punjab has once again relied on an outsider considered close to the Delhi leadership of the party, instead of choosing an eminent educationist from within the state to head the PSEB.  

Leader of the opposition Partap Singh Bajwa said Bedi was a close confidant of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, and that was the reason she was chosen for the post. 

Another Congress leader Sukhpal Singh Khaira said Kejriwal was continuously appointing his “ henchmen” to important positions in Punjab. 

Shiromani Akali Dal MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal called Bedi the third “export” from Delhi to Punjab. 

Manjinder Singh Sirsa of the BJP said the move was proof that Punjab was run and controlled from Delhi. 

ThePrint reached the Punjab Chief Minister’s Office for comment through multiple calls but there was no response.

Also Read: ‘Petty bias against AAP’ — Punjab targets central govt over rejection of Republic Day tableau

Applications invited last year

For the chairperson’s appointment, the PSEB had invited applications last year. The minimum qualification was that the person should have served in a gazetted post at the Centre or in the state for at least 15 years. 

Satbir Silas Bedi is a 1986-batch IAS officer with a doctorate in physiology.  

She retired in November 2021 as secretary of the Central Information Commission. She earlier served as secretary of the National Commission for Women, and as chairperson of the National Council for Teacher Education for over three years. 

She was a joint secretary in the school education and literacy division of the Union Ministry for Human Resource Development (now the Union Education Ministry) when it was headed by Smriti Irani. Considered to be Irani’s choice for the post of CBSE chairperson, Bedi was given the temporary charge of the school body in December 2014, when the post fell vacant. 

When the search and selection committee of the ministry proposed her name as the regular chairperson, the Department of Personnel & Training said Bedi was not eligible for the post.

In the Delhi government, Bedi served as principal secretary for social welfare/women and child development in 2014. Other roles in the UT include Delhi excise commissioner, director of education, and joint secretary health.

During her stint as Delhi chief electoral officer from 2006 to 2010, she came up with the “Pappu Can’t Vote” campaign to encourage voters to exercise their franchise. 

In 2005, she was posted to Afghanistan as provincial election officer for about 8 months.

(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)

Also Read: From ‘masterji’s son’ to stand-up star & ‘Pegwant’, how dropout Bhagwant Mann became Punjab CM


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