New Delhi: High profile retired bureaucrat Ajay Dua, former secretary at the department of industrial policy and promotion, or DIPP, and Dhanendra Kumar, executive director for India (he also represents Bangladesh, Bhutan and Sri Lanka) at the World Bank, are the front-runners for the position of chairman of the Competition Commission of India, or CCI.
“Ajay Dua and Dhanendra Kumar, along with a judge, are the three contenders shortlisted by the selection committee for the position of the chairperson. For (the) other five members, the committee has recommended three names each. The shortlisted candidates are from the field of economics, law and finance,” said a senior government official associated with the selection process who did not want to be named.
Kumar could not be reached on Friday evening and Dua declined comment.
Both Dua and Kumar are from the Indian Administrative Service. Kumar, who joined the World Bank in 2005, has long years of experience in finance and infrastructure. Dua became secretary at DIPP in 2005 and retired in 2007.
In the fray: A file photo of Dhanendra Kumar, executive director for India at World Bank. He has many years of experience in finance.
In response to a call for applications that was also open to people not working for the government, Arvind Virmani, chief economic adviser in the finance ministry, and Pradeep Mehta, secretary general, CUTS International, a non-governmental organization that works in the area of competition and consumer protection, also applied for the post of chairman of CCI. Their names, however, seem to have been ignored by the selection committee which, according to the government official, gave its recommendations to the government.
Supreme Court judge Altamas Kabir, a nominee of the Chief Justice of India, heads the selection committee which also includes Planning Commission member B.K. Chaturvedi and Nitish Sengupta, chairman of the Board for Reconstruction of Public Sector Enterprises.
CCI will be the apex body ruling on anti-competitive practices such as cartelization, monopolies and mergers and acquisitions. It is currently playing an advisory role and is staffed by around a dozen officials.
Parliament cleared the Competition Bill last year. CCI is now looking to fill its six top positions—a chairman and five members—immediately. That done, it will look to hire at least 240 professionals in economics, finance and law in the first year.
“The ministry is working on the final list and we should be able to come out with the names in a week’s time. The selected candidates will be a mix of those from the fields of law, economics and finance,” said a senior official at the ministry of corporate affairs.
The ministry received 200 applications for the six posts and a large proportion of these were from within the government. Applicants included at least a dozen who are currently serving as secretaries in several ministries.
“We did not expect anybody from the private sector to make it to the chairperson’s positions, thanks to the provisions made in the advertisement. But I still feel simply 15 years’ experience is not enough. The ministry should focus on practising professionals such as lawyers, chartered accountants, financial analysts and economists for all positions. I don’t think bureaucrats can be put in the category of practising professionals,” said a senior New Delhi-based lawyer who did not want to be named.