gfiles magazine

March 21, 2017

Our very own Kishore


Not many IAS officers get time to pursue their hobbies, and this is even more surprising when he is serving as the Private Secretary of one of the most sought after ministers of Government of India. Nitishwar Kumar, 1996 batch IAS officer of the Uttar Pradesh cadre, is such an officer. He is serving as Private Secretary to Minister of State for Communication Manoj Sinha. Nitishwar, who hails from Bihar, has a passion for singing. He likes to sing the famous singer Kishore Kumar’s songs along with local Bhojpuri and Maithili folk songs. Most senior civil servants in the Modi dispensation shy away from public discourses, but Nitishwar is an exception. To carry on his passion, he organised an evening in the memory of singer Kishore Kumar in the main auditorium of NDMC, Delhi. His boss Manoj Sinha attended the evening with full paraphernalia. JS Deepak then Secretary of the Ministry of Communications, Balvinder Kumar along with senior ministry officials enjoyed the musical evening. Even the Cabinet Secretary PK Sinha enjoyed the music. The evening rose to the new heights when Nitishwar sang the famous song of Kishore Kumar “Mere naina, sawan bhadon, phir bhi mera man pyasa”.


Jio aur Jenay do…


It is well known that Telecom Secretary JS Deepak, a 1982 batch IAS officer of the Uttar Pradesh cadre, is a no-nonsense officer. So many were surprised at his appointment as OSD in the Department of Commerce, as it came in the guise of a future plum posting as India’s Ambassador/Permanent Representative to WTO (Geneva), with effect from June 1, 2017, till his retirement on July 31, 2018. When the appointment was announced, Deepak was in Barcelona attending the Mobile World Conference. This is said to be one of the most unceremonious exits of a secretary from the telecom ministry. Deepak’s tenure as Telecom Secretary was quite successful as far as the spectrum auction was concerned. When Deepak joined as Telecom Secretary in January 29, 2016, he had a lot of challenges to face – auction of spectrum, call drop problem, implementation of National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN). The real tussle started regarding some TRAI decisions relating to the entry of a powerful new operator. On February 22, one of the last decisions of the Telecom Commission with Deepak its chairman was to apprise TRAI of the “alarming decline” in government revenue due to its recent tariff orders and its overall negative impact on the growth of the industry.
Sources disclosed that the PMO was not satisfied with the progress of laying network in North East, (which is a non-starter) and the second phase of Left Wing Effected (LWE) areas. The North-East project has missed its deadline by many months and its future is not decided. The PMO held a review meeting in February, where it’s learnt, the displeasure on non-performance was conveyed to Deepak. His sudden transfer too is indicative of the government’s displeasure, albeit in a sophisticated way. What was the hurry? Why was he shifted to commerce ministry as OSD, a director level position, upgraded to accommodate him. Why couldn’t the government wait for three months when the tenure of the existing Ambassador to WTO would be over? Insiders reveal that though the NOFN work is going slow, the intricate politics within the ministry and  the growing influence of a new operator also contributed to his exit.


CoCSA clamour for change


After the 7th Central Pay Commission failed to address the grievances of non-IAS officers, the Confederation of Civil Services Association (CoCSA) representing 20 services, including IPS, IFoS, IRS, IIS, and IRAS, has demanded total civil services reforms in an “unbiased manner”. Representatives of the association met Minister of State in the PMO and Personnel Jitendra Singh and discussed that reform initiatives could not be decided by those who are beneficiaries of the status quo. They further argued that reforms called for a deviation from the status quo, but there is tremendous resistance against change from a “particular” civil service. The delegation which met the minister included the convener of CoCSA Jayant Misra, IRS-IT, PV Rama Sastry, IPS, Dr Anup K Srivastava, IRS (Customs and Central Excise), Alok Kumar, IRSE, Namita Mehrotra, Indian Railway Accounts Service, Jaykant Singh, Indian Trade Service, BP Yadav, Indian Audit and Accounts Service, Shailendra Singh, Indian Forest Service, Anindya Sen Gupta, Indian Information Service, Ajay Shankar Singh, Indian Civil Accounts Service, Kashi Nath Jha, Indian Post and Telecommunication Accounts and Finance Service and Sandeep Shankar, Indian Defence Accounts Service. The CoCSA wanted Narendra Modi’s intervention, pointing out that the procedure followed so far has helped only a particular service and discriminated against all others, thereby resulting in monopolising of posts at higher level by IAS officers. The delegation demanded a “disruptive change” of the procedure adopted so far and a new system where competent and suitable persons, irrespective of the service they belonged, are selected for appropriate posts.


Awaiting poll results in UP


Civil servants in Uttar Pradesh are a fidgety lot these days. The ongoing assembly elections and fast-changing political scenario has forced even senior civil servants to plan the next five years cautiously. Though there is a conducive atmosphere for UP civil services in Delhi as the Cabinet Secretary himself hails from the cadre, most have wilfully chosen to stay in Lucknow rather than to move on deputation to the central government under the Modi dispensation. The divided house of Mulayam Singh Yadav has, however, made their job difficult. The UP civil servants were quite comfortable till the formal split in the ruling family took place. Most of the civil servants were divided in three camps, one camp of those loyal to Akhilesh Yadav, another associated with Mulayam Singh Yadav and the last and the most powerful coterie was of Shiv Pal Singh Yadav. Nobody is sure what will happen after the UP assembly election results. Even if Akhilesh Yadav comes back in UP, the scenario is likely to be very different.
Whatever the outcome, it is especially going to be tough for loyalists of Shivpal Yadav to maintain the status quo. Insiders inform that a very powerful Brahmin lady civil servant is on the radar of many agencies. It has to be seen what will happen to her after the UP elections.


Counting the pennies


WHY does a political worker look for a party ticket. There are two main reasons: first, he gets a recognisable symbol, and second, he gets funds from the party to contest. It’s a hard fact; elections cannot be fought without money. But in the current round of state elections, politicians were a worried lot. Scribes who travelled in the field, especially UP, reported that BJP candidates were comfortably spending on the elections but candidates from other political parties were seen struggling for more resources. One scribe informed that the Samajwadi Party faced a peculiar situation as Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav distributed resources only to his loyal candidates.
Candidates recommended by Mulayam Singh Yadav, and Shivpal Yadav were bluntly informed about the resource crunch. Surprisingly, Mulayam and Shivpal too were not inclined to distribute funds to their loyal candidates. So what kind of numbers were in play? The scribes informed that the BJP reportedly distributed around Rs. 50 lakh to each candidate whereas Akhilesh managed to allocate Rs. 20 lakh to his loyal candidates. The expenditure limit by Election Commission in the assembly elections is Rs. 28 lakh!


Missing out on mudhi


APPARENTLY, when one reaches to the top, it’s not easy to eat whatever one likes. Pranab Mukherjee, the President of India, is facing such a situation as disclosed by those close to him. Pranab da is a very simple eater and he likes dishes especially from his home state West Bengal. Pranab Da is fond of mudhi (puffed rice) and especially from Bengal. It is said that the quality of mudhi from Bengal is unparallel in taste and texture. Pranab da planned to bring mudhi from Bengal but could not do so due to security reasons; it has to be checked and tested at different points. The more it is opened, the more it loses its flavour, freshness and crispness. Pranab da tried carrying mudhi several times but was informed that the rules are very clear and strict and nobody can help. Finally, Pranab da has given up!


No criticisms here, please


IMAGINE this: A Nobel Laureate agrees to an interview with a reputed newspaper of India; the scribe does it faithfully but interview never appears. Sources disclosed that Nobel laureate Dr Amartya Sen is unwell and has come to reside and recuperate at his daughter’s home in Kolkata. Hearing this, a senior scribe hailing from Bengal from one of the biggest media houses approached Sen for an interview. Dr Sen agreed and spoke his mind on a range of subjects, from demonetisation to the economic policies of the Modi Sarkar. Dr Sen apparently said that in countries where socio-­economic disparities peak, a frustrated populace tends to elect an ultra ­rightist government, which is the case in India with the Modi government and Donald Trump’s triumph in the US. Buoyed by such a hard-hitting interview from such an eminent economist, the reporter flew back to the Capital and filed the report. To his utter surprise, the next day the interview was nowhere in the paper. The scribe waited for a few days and finally talked to the editor. He was informed that it would not appear because it was critical of the country’s top leadership, and the management had decided not to carry the interview. So what if it was a Noble Laureate!

Bonding over tea


THERE was a time when Mayawati, former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh used to roar in the state. The biggest victim was media. She had her own style at press conferences. She used to have the press release ready in hand, stand on the dias, read it out and move on. There was no debriefing session. Even her cronies used to vanish immediately after the press conference. Journalists did do their job but half-heartedly. Mayawati was the Chief Minister of the biggest state of India; it was a compulsion to report her activities under any circumstances. Times have changed. Mayawati has also changed. She is now all honey and milk with the media. A week before the first phase of polls in the state, she invited senior scribes of Lucknow for tea. Amongst them was the editor of one of UP’s top newspapers. Also present at Behanji’s tea meet were two of her closest confidants, Satish Mishra and Ambith Rajan. Just when they sat down at the table for tea, Behanji asked her confidants to leave. Then she asked the journalists: “Tell me, why is it that you portray me as a small player in the elections. Is Akhilesh behind this?” The media persons were surprised; she was told: “Behanji, such decisions come from the bosses, the top management.” Then came the masterstroke from the journalists, “you have never cultivated relationships with either journalist or with media houses. You do not even give advertisements for your election campaign in the newspapers. So how do you think anyone will support you?” The message was loud and clear: elections are business for political parties, so why should newspapers lag behind.


Democratic system of self-knowing

yoga | sadhguru

A few years ago, when I was interviewed by an American magazine, I was asked, “Who is the most significant person in the West to have worked for human consciousness?” Without hesitation, I replied, “Charles Darwin.” The journalist said, “But Charles Darwin is a biologist!” I said, “Yes, but he was the first to tell people in this part of the world that it is possible to evolve; that life can move from one dimension of existence to another.”


Grassroots administrator

Narendra Kaushik

NOBODY in Bal Krishna Chaturvedi’s family ever had any doubts about him getting into Indian Administrative Service (IAS). The suspense was only about where he would figure in the list of top ten at all-India level. After all, the second eldest son of Jai Krishna Chaturvedi, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DySP) who served at several places in Uttar Pradesh and later practised in Allahabad High Court as a Senior Public Prosecutor, was considered the brightest among his five siblings-(late) Bhoop, Amiya, Azad and Anil.


Ghost of Jignesh Shah

Alam Sriniwas

I have read Alam Srinivas’ critique of my book and must take the bull by the horn.
As things stand, Jignesh Shah has never been called a fraudster, though he has been maligned, hauled over the coals and even sent to a dreary prison, not once but thrice, without any result. Even the Bombay High Court said no money trail was traced towards him or the Financial Technologies India Limited (FTIL).
Was FTIL a house of tinderbox with its more than 4,500 employees under various subsidiaries valued at Rs. 60,000 crore that drew global acceptance and praise? The answer is a big ‘No’.


Signs of Congress revival!

by RAKESH DIXIT

 

C-19, Shivaji Nagar is one of the two most famous addresses in Bhopal, the other being 6, Shyamla Hills, the Chief Minister’s official residence. The then Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, late Arjun Singh, had the C-19 allotted to him after he demitted office in 1985. Later the veteran Congress leader left Bhopal to Delhi, leaving his son Ajay Singh, aka Rahul Bhaiya, to occupy this magnificent bungalow. Six-time MLA from Churhat assembly seat, Ajay Singh was re-elected leader of opposition after a gap of three years on February 23.


The Chinnamma drama

– by MK Kaw

WE in the Aryan belt of India are lucky. We are not subjected to the kind of melodrama that was recently witnessed in the matter of the succession to the Tamil throne. When Jayalalitha passed away, leaving a comfortable majority in the Vidhan Sabha and a clearcut line of succession, one did not anticipate the kind of stage show that was to be witnessed. Old Paneerselvam was a tried and tested sycophant, trained to wag his tail when stroked. He was the ideal person who could be trusted with keeping a seat warm and to vacate it without demur. He had a pleasant smile and sported a large teeka on his forehead, thus appearing to be a goody goody person, with all the traits of an ardent devotee who would act his designated role as per the script with not a tremor in his large eyes.


Unbecoming of an exchange

-by dr. gs sood

 

NATIONAL Stock Exchange (NSE) has in the recent past been in the news for all the wrong reasons. A stock exchange has two primary functions to perform. One, to provide a platform to enable investors to buy and sell securities in the most efficient and transparent manner. Two, it essentially functions as the ground level regulator to ensure that the market functions smoothly wherein all participants follow the rules of the exchange to avoid any default or crisis and protects the interests of investors, especially small or retail investors who are considered more vulnerable than other participants. Unfortunately, the exchange has not only been found wanting on both these counts, but has indeed been indulging in what can best be described as unbecoming of an exchange of the stature of NSE.


CAPPING IRON ORE PRICES : A myopic view

– by K SUBRAMANIAM

INDIA’S beleaguered iron ore mining industry is lurching towards yet another crisis. After being battered with production cap, environment-related clampdowns, labyrinth of taxes and duties and export restrictions, the threat of a price ceiling for domestic iron ore producers looms large. Reason: the government wants to ensure cheaper iron ore supplies to steel manufacturers “reeling” under high material costs to rein in prices of finished steel products.


All options open

by MK SHUKLA

INDIA is pressing ahead with the development of its stealth Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) despite facing a host of engineering and designing problems. Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) director, CD Balaji, recently informed ‘Flight Global’ that the great majority of work for the shape of the AMCA has been completed. Yet, the first flight of the indigenous AMCA, according to Balaji, is planned for 2025. This reveals a significant departure from the ADA’s position in 2013 when the deadline for the first flight was scheduled for the end of the decade.


Long shadow of the past

– by Shubhabrata Bhattacharya

GOVERNANCE in India continues to suffer the populism unleashed in 1980s by Vishwanath Pratap Singh in his bid to seize power. A junior politician till Sanjay Gandhi took fancy to him, VP Singh was pitchforked as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh in 1980. Singh’s tenure in UP was marked by encounters against dacoits; the phenomenon called Phoolan Devi (a Backward, Mallah by caste, who killed Rajputs) was the byproduct of Singh’s populism. Unfortunate slaying of Singh’s brother by dacoits put an end to the nightmare and he quit as the Chief Minister. As Union minister, thereafter, he flagged the Bofors issue. This unsolved CBI case cost Rajiv Gandhi power and Singh rode to power on his slogan, “Paisa khaya kaun dalal?” As the Prime Minister, identity of the “dalal” eluded him. His regime, backed by the Left and the Right political forces, was threatened when BJP unleashed the Ram Mandir agitation and LK Advani’s rath rolled from Somnath.


Equalising force

-TN Pandey

WITH the budget fervor and excitement having settled down after introduction of the Finance Bill, 2017, in Parliament on February 1, 2017, it is time to think of long-term reforms for socio-economic betterment, which can be ushered in through the tax laws. Regretfully, the budget presentation in the country has been made a great occasion, which, in essence, is merely an account of revenue receipts and expenditure of the Central Government. The budget exercise, being an exercise to be done in a time bound way, long-term reforms, needing policy changes from long-term perspectives, cannot be rushed through the Finance Bills, though sometimes, finance ministers have found it convenient to bring some such provisions, requiring detailed debates through Finance Bills because of the experience in the past few years where the Finance Bills get passed summarily in Parliament for varied reasons, including paucity of time.


Dynamics of Reservation

– by ALAM SRINIVAS

IT is indeed ironical. The job reservation policies, especially in the government and public sector jobs, has worked so well that the erstwhile powerful castes, including the upper ones and traditionally well-to-do ‘other backward classes’ that are not a part of the quota system, feel threatened. They have fear this would affect their jobs, incomes, lifestyles and future of their children. Apart from the deep economic impact, they have concerns about the slow, but sure, erosion of their political and social powers. The power cycle, which kept the lower and backward castes out of the system, stands disbanded and is in disarray.


Agitation facing implosion

-M K Shukla

THE Jats of Haryana, actively supported by their cousins across the Yamuna river in western UP, are once again up in arms, pressuring the State and central governments to grant them ‘backward status’. They had similarly agitated in February 2016 despite the Supreme Court nullifying on March 17, 2015, a notification for Jat reservation issued by the dying regime of UPA2. The Supreme Court order said, “We set aside the notification to implement the inclusion of Jats in the Central list of OBC.” The order added, “Caste, though a prominent factor, can’t be the sole factor to decide backwardness… Backwardness has to be social backwardness and not educational or economic backwardness.”