New Delhi:

The powerful Financial Sector Regulatory Appointments Search Committee(FSRAC) headed by cabinet secretary, PK Sinha, on Monday has interviewed nine candidates including lone retired bureaucrat Subhas Chandra Khuntia, a former chief secretary of Karnataka, for the post the chairmanship of  insurance regulator IRDAI.

The interview conducted by five-member FSRAC  headed by Sinha, had taken place in New Delhi on Monday afternoon 

This is for the  first time that only one bureaucrat has been interviewed for the IRDA chairmanship. Khuntia  belonged  to 1981 batch of IAS(Indian Adminsistrative Service) and had retired in Nov 2017. Before being appointed as the chief secretary of Karnataka in Oct 2016, he was special secretary in the Ministry of Petroleum. He has a range of educational qualifications including LLB, MA (Sociology), MSc (Phyiscs) M.Tech (Comp. Sc.), Ph.D. (Economics), M.A (Economics), M.A (Political.Science) M.A (Philosophy).  

The other eight candidates include Nilesh Sathe, member(Life), IRDAI, BS Bhandari, member, PFRDA,  G Srinivasan, CMD, New India Assurance, AV Girija Kumar CMD, Oriental Insurance Company, VK Sharma, chairman, Life Insurance Corporation(LIC)  and three managing directors of the LIC – Hemant Bhargava, Sunita Sharma and B Venugopal.

Srinivasan is one of the longest serving CMDs of PSU general insurnace industry. After heading United India Insurance(UII) between 2007-2012, he has been heading Mumbai based NIA since beginning of 2013. 

The post of IRDAI chairmanship had fallen vacant after TS Vijayan retired on February 21, 2018 after completing a five-year tenure.

Out of the four occasions, since 1999, when the IRDAI was formed  after the IRDAI Act was in place, bureaucrats have held the position thrice. Vijayan has been the lone insurer -who was appointed  in 2013- to have held the position.

Earlier, FSRAC had shortlisted names of nine contenders out of over three dozens of candidates who had applied for the post, to be interviewed for choosing a new IRDAI chief.

Industry observers point out that the FSRAC, while selecting the right candidate for the IRDAI chairmanship, has to keep in mind government’s priorities  for the insurance sector. Modi government has  launched some of the  mass schemes  like,  Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana, (PMJJY), Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana (PMSBY) Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY). National Health Protection Scheme(NHPC) and is expected to launch a few more in future. 

There have been also criticisms from  one school of thought that believe that the current rules of the IRDAI are more focused on regulating the industry than steering the industry towards path of development. They cite the fact that the industry has not been able to achieve higher penetration in recent years as one of the lacuna of the current set of regulations.  

Meanwhile, Sujay Banerjee has already joined as member(Distribution) on March 1 while Pravin Hari Kutumbe is yet to join the regulatory body.

After almost 18 months, all the five posts of  members have been filled up. 

However, this is also for the first that government has not preferred to give anybody the additional charge of IRDA chairmanship temporarily after the retirement of the incumbent.

IRDA’s top management is consisting of  a chairman and five members.