Abroad Indian-American attorney Kiran Ahuja to head US Office of Personnel Management

Indian-American attorney Kiran Ahuja to head US Office of Personnel Management

Indian-American attorney and rights activist Kiran Ahuja was on Tuesday elected as the head of the Office of Personnel Management.

She was elected after Vice President Kamala Harris decided to vote in her favour in a tie-breaking vote in the Senate.

Indian-American attorney Kiran Ahuja to head US Office of Personnel Management Kiran Ahuja spent six years as executive director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders during the Obama-Biden Administration.

Indian-American attorney and activist Kiran Ahuja was on Tuesday elected as the head of the Office of Personnel Management, a federal department responsible for managing and hiring civil servants in the US. Ahuja, 49, will be the first Indian-American to serve in this top position in the US government.

Ahuja was nominated for the top post by US President Joe Biden in February this year. She was elected after Vice President Kamala Harris decided to vote in her favour in a tie-breaking vote on Tuesday.

The bitterly divided US Senate had voted 50-50 on the nomination of Ahuja, with Republicans united in her opposition. The US vice president has the right to cast a tie-breaker vote if the Senate casts equal votes on a matter. This is the sixth time this year that Harris has voted in tie-breaking. Kiran Ahuja

Born on June 17, 1971, Kiran Ahuja grew up in Savannah, Georgia and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Spelman College and a law degree from the University of Georgia.

During the Obama-Biden Administration, she spent six years as executive director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, leading efforts to increase access to federal services, resources and programs for underserved Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs).

She also served as the Chief of Staff to the Director of the US Office of Personnel Management from 2015 to 2017.

On her selection, Senator Dianne Feinstein said Kiran Ahuja has more than two decades of experience in public service and philanthropy. “She has a breadth of knowledge and experience that will serve her well in the role,” PTI quoted her as saying.

“In particular, I’m looking forward to working with her to resolve a critical pay disparity issue between state and federal wildland firefighters. State firefighter salaries can be as much as double that of their federal counterparts, making it difficult to hire and retain skilled federal wildland firefighters,” she added.

Senator Raphael Warnock said, “Throughout her career, Kiran Ahuja has built a tremendous record of championing federal personnel matters and remains a strong advocate for women of color.”

Republican objection

The Republicans objected to Kiran Ahuja’s appointment to the Office of Personnel Management on two factors — her outspoken favour of abortion and critical race theory.

Critical race theory holds that racism is an everyday experience for most people of colour in the US and the law and legal institutions in the country function to create and maintain inequalities between whites and non-whites

“I’m concerned that as the federal government’s HR director, Ms Ahuja could use her platform to promote radical ideologies that seek to divide rather than unite the American people,” Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri was quoted as saying by The New York Times.

“She wrote that we must free the nation from the daily trials of white supremacy,” Hawley continued. “Critical theory appears to have become the animating ideology of this administration, and that is cause for great concern,” Hawley was quoted as saying by The Washington Post.

His remark was about a post written by Kiran Ahuja on the website of her organisation Philanthropy Northwest in June 2020, following the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

“You can’t be a true ally to Black communities until you take it upon yourself to understand our racialized history in its most intimate and heinous forms,” she wrote. “And learn, as I did, that all forms of discrimination flow from the subjugation of Black and Indigenous people.”

Another Republican, Senator James Lankford, said he did not believe the head of HR of the federal government should be so outspoken in favour of abortion and pushing the need for critical race theory training.

In a press statement, he said, “OPM has been plagued with paperwork backlogs, survivor benefit delays, cyber-security issues, and more. The leader of OPM should focus on addressing those issues, not divisive social justice policies and abortion.”

Many see the Biden administration’s decision to appoint Kiran Ahuja at OPM as a move to diversify the civil service in the country.

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