DO you remember the first time you purchased a condom? Or, the first time you mustered courage to ask for the first packet of sanitary napkin? Almost 99 per cent of the readers, or may be all of them, would remember the feelings of embarrassment, mixed with shyness and a bit of coyness. Cut to 2017. The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has opened three vending and three disposal machines for sanitary napkins outside three women bathrooms at its main office in the North Block. Each transaction will cost Rs 5 and the machines are equipped to accept coins of different nominations. Soon, more machines will be installed at DoPT’s other offices as part of the ongoing ‘Swachchata Hi Seva’ campaign. The six machines were inaugurated with much fanfare by two women joint secretaries in the department, K Kipgen and G Jayanthi, and attended by scores of other women bureaucrats and we hope the idea takes off. In our still-conservative society, the women are more likely to glance around, ensure that no one’s looking, and then quickly head towards the machines. Only a few are likely to approach them brazenly and confidently without a care in the world. The reason is simple: periods are believed to be ‘unclean’ and women are apprehensive and nervous to reveal it. We hope that the Swachchata Abhiyaan removes such unclean thoughts from the minds of both the men and women. More power to the women!
October 17, 2017
IF there was one area where the bureaucracy was quite efficient, it was in appointments to senior posts, especially ministerial secretaries. Although there were intense, sometimes bloody, tussles for the actual ministries, the names of the individuals were decided much in advance. Most potential bureaucrats knew that they would become a Secretary by a particular year, and so did the DoPT. This system was disrupted a bit three years ago as another layer of control and decision-making-the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO)-was added. As the South Block decided to go through the appointments-related files, the process became more complex and layered. It had both its positives and negatives-either the secretaries were appointed much before the existing one retired or left, or much after the due date. It is, therefore, not surprising that the three central departments-administrative reforms and public grievances, corporate affairs, and justice-don’t have full-time secretaries. Naveen Verma, Secretary, development affairs, was given additional charges of administrative reforms and public grievances, and pension and pensioners’ welfare. Subhas Chandra Garg, Secretary, economic affairs, is also in-charge of corporate affairs. And, G Narayana Raju, Secretary, legislative department, was given additional charge of justice. The net effect: potential and deserving secretaries are confused. They are unsure if and when will they get the coveted post, or ride the ultimate bureaucratic horse.
Who runs the Home Ministry of India? The answer would be obvious, former UP Chief Minister and Home Minister Rajnath Singh administers the pivotal ministry of India. But, if insiders are to be believed, the situation states otherwise. Even the recommendations of top-ranking RSS office bearers are turned down by the PMO. Sources informed that the most important decisions, especially concerning Union Territories, are being taken by the PMO directly. The recommendations sent by the Home Ministry are either kept in abeyance, or sent with new recommendations. The paradox is that the Home Minister also keeps the new recommendations in abeyance. Hence, there is decision paralysis in the ministry. The selection of Delhi State Election Commissioner is a glaring example of the altercation between the PMO and the Home Ministry. The Home Ministry recommended three names to the PMO after consulting top-ranking RSS leaders. The PMO kept the file in abeyance for some time. The file was send back to the Home Ministry after one month with a new name to be appointed as the State Election Commissioner. The Home Ministry officials were astonished to find that their recommendation had been turned down. Now the file is hanging and no further decision has been taken as the final authority to issue the orders lies with the Home Ministry, that too with the signature of the Home Minister. Rajnath Singh, a powerful politician of the BJP, is keeping mum on the developments but RSS leaders are aghast. Wait and watch this space.
EVERY Kingdom had its own language and style of working developed over centuries. Sometimes palace courtiers spoke in sign language and the message was passed on. This was to keep a check on intrigues. Our Prime Minister’s Office is following this century old dictum. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not very well conversant with English language. He is fluent in Hindi but he is more comfortable in Gujarati. He first reads Gujarati newspapers in the morning. Insiders reveal that whenever any important issue is discussed, which is not supposed to be known to others in the PMO at that point of time, the top-ranking officials, who hails from the Gujarat cadre, speak in Gujarati. Modi took extra precaution when the decision of demonetisation was being taken. He and his close officials, including one important secretary of the concerning ministry, opted to talk in Gujarati. Sources disclosed that even otherwise the top-ranking Gujarati cadre officials prefer to speak in Gujarati. So, in the PMO when the officials started talking in Guajarati only, it is an indication that an important issue is being discussed and a decision is being taken on it.
THE BJP is determined to make inroads in Tamil Nadu after Kerala by all means. The biggest hurdle for them is to find a credible leader. The ruling AIAMDK is on the verge of the collapse. The BJP does not want the reins of the state to slip into the hands of the DMK. There are two film superstars–Rajnikanth and Kamal Hassan–who can create a political road map for the BJP. According to sources, Hassan is not enthused about having any links with the BJP. So Rajnikanth is the only hope left for the BJP. Sources disclosed that Rajnikanth has agreed to campaign for the BJP provided the Rs. 180-crore loan taken from Indian Bank by his wife to start her real estate business is taken care of. With the real estate sector in slowdown, she has suffered heavy losses. The BJP’s top leadership desires Rajnikanth to join the BJP first but the shrewd superstar cited deteriorating health concerns and excused himself. Rather than join the party, Rajnikanth is ready to campaign for the BJP if the loan issue is resolved amicably. Well, at one level, Rs. 180 crore is peanuts if the BJP flag is unfurled in Tamil Nadu.
Former minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy and Faggan Singh Kulaste are among some of the MPs who are furious with the style of the functioning of the PMO since they have been ejected as the Minister for Skill Development and Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare, respectively. After the tantrum by Uma Bharati, both Rudy and Kulaste were quite agitated when they were asked to resign from the ministership. Both have the grudge that they have never been given an opportunity to explain their achievements before the Prime Minister. Sources close to Rudy informed that he has been seeking an appointment to meet the Prime Minister for past eight months, but the PMO did not give him any time. Even during the appraisal of his ministry, the PMO used to call the secretary of the ministry. Sources, however, informed that inefficiency was not the only reason for Rudy’s ouster. His honesty and integrity as a minister was allegedly in doubt. It is learnt that in the corridors of the ministry, it was known that people who have work with the ministry had to go to a jeweller’s shop in South Delhi before meeting the minister. This was brought to the notice of RSS stalwarts and Rudy was shown the door. Kulaste, however, became a victim of fellow state politicians who are more settled and aggressive in Delhi.
IF the tide of politics turns the table, will Gujarat and Gujaratis be again instrumental in choosing the new Prime Minister of India. It may not be far fetched to say that the political survival of Amit Shah and Narendra Modi depends on the outcome of the Gujarat assembly elections. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi too has realised this fact. As per sources, Rahul has adopted a two-fold strategy. He has activated himself in Gujarat and is also working on another front of Non-Resident Indians, a core constituency of Mr Modi. The Indian diaspora has all along been clamouring for attention and Modi gave a voice to them even without visiting with a vast network of Gujaratis. But all Gujaratis or members of the Indian diaspora are not Modi supporters. Rahul has realised this and recently visited the US to cultivate the attention-seeking diaspora. Gujaratis across the world are very active in business and they dominate in most of the areas of economy in their respective abodes. Gujaratis also dominate and dictate the politics sitting across the border. Most of the social media supporters of Modi are the members of Indian diaspora. As per the plan, Rahul will tour across the world and mobilise the Indian diaspora and expose Modi and his policies. Surprisingly, the Chanakya of the plan is none other than the Gujarati Sam Pitroda who is a mentor of Rahul Gandhi. Sam has bigger plans for Rahul in the days to come. Wait and watch.
TO grow in size sounds good but size too can create problems. The BJP has started to feel the pinch of becoming a big size party. It has 8.8 crore members across India and is the biggest political party India has ever had. If one visits the BJP headquarters in New Delhi, one can see the workers desperately in search of leaders and ministers. The party has six morchas and around 40 committees. These morchas and committees comprise approximately 200 top ranking leaders of the BJP. Apart from that, morchas are spread across India. It has been observed that most of the rich and influential have managed to grab the morcha posts by greasing the palm of the national morcha leadership. After grabbing the posts, these novices are touring the nation claiming to be national leaders of the BJP. This is not happening in isolation. Apparently, some senior RSS leaders are reported to have facilitated the entry of persona non grata into the party system and in the process are tasting the fruits of being powerful members of the ruling elite. Top ranking RSS leaders are aware of these black sheep but are not able to take any action. Is RSS guruji Mohan Bhagwat listening?
IT was with a sense of déjà vu that one heard the new slogan coined by Narendra Modi to delineate the future policy on Kashmir. One could have dismissed the slogan as an obiter dictum freshly minted on the spur of the moment. But the significance of a statement made from the ramparts of the Red Fort cannot be taken lightly. Modi said that we should treat the Kashmiri separatists in accordance with the rhyme: “Na gaali se, na goli se, balki gale se lagake (neither with abuse, nor with the bullet, rather embrace them in your arms).”
IT was a taunt and better prospects of growth and emoluments that brought Kamal Krishna Sinha into Indian Administrative Service (IAS). Otherwise Sinha, son of RKP Sinha, a provincial civil servant (PCS) in Bihar Capital, and Phool Kumari Devi, a housewife, was more than content teaching students of Regional Institute of Technology (RIT) in Jamshedpur. He had got into teaching at the age of 18 after completing his post-graduation in Chemistry from Patna University in 1958. To add gravitas to his young outlook, he then kept a beard.
PLACES of worship have special place in our lives. How and why this came about is difficult to say. It may well be a corollary of fear of natural phenomena, leading to appeasement practices by communities. They developed in due course, but the basic psychology remained intact. Different religions gave their places of worship different names like church, mosque or synagogue, but temple seems to have been a generic name long in use. Not only India and east Asian countries, there are references such as Greek temples, Fire Temple of Zorastrians, King Solomon’s temple, Bahai temple, among others.
SINCE June this year, good news seems to have stopped coming for the Shivraj Singh government in Madhya Pradesh. Worse, frequency and intensity of bad news have only gradually increased since then. The farmers’ stir in June that claimed six lives in Mandsaur police firing marked a sort of start for unfolding of a series of crises for the beleaguered chief minister. While his shoddy handling of the stir exposed the hollowness of the disingenuously built citadel of “pro-farmer” regime, the Rs. 800-crore onion scam that surfaced in the aftermath aggravated Chouhan’s crisis of credibility. His troubles mounted further as the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar’s fast for rehabilitation of 40,000 families in 200 villages
IN the mid-sixties, there was a popular play titled ‘Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf’?’ a parody of the song ‘Who’s Afraid of Big Bad Wolf?’ from Walt Disney’s The Three Little Pigs. The story revolves around two couples trying desperately to suppress certain truth which to their consternation manages to come out leading to thunder and fury. In her writing, Virginia Woolf attempts to expose the truth: all of the things that the couples try to cover up. When the couples sing the song together, they make mockery of their own fear of the truth and are attempting to project, a false image.
THE debate on Indian economy has become feverish with top politicians sharing their diverse views. The Modi government is facing allegations of mishandling Indian economy, not only from the opposition but from their own senior leaders as well. Former Finance Minister and senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, in an aggressively headlined column in The Indian Express on September 27, wrote: “Private investment has shrunk as never before in two decades, industrial production has all but collapsed, agriculture is in distress, construction industry, a big employer of the workforce, is in the doldrums, the rest of the service sector is also in the slow lane, exports have dwindled, sector after sector of the economy is in distress, demonetisation has proved to be an unmitigated economic disaster..
PLACING responsibilities statutorily on companies to undertake socially beneficial activities for the masses out of their profits to the prescribed extent was hailed as a unique feature of the Companies Act, 2013 (Act), not found in the companies’ legislation of any other country. This feature was achieved by the insertion of Section 135 in the Act titled ‘Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)’, which provides for spending of net profits to the extent specified in the section.
THE National Waterways Act, passed in both Houses of Parliament in March 2016, increased the number of national waterways across the country from the earlier 6 to 111, with plans of connecting the country with Myanmar via Bangladesh through waterways. In an interview to PTI in May 2017, the Union Transport and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari said, “The Cabinet has approved Rs. 2,000 crore from CFR and we can easily get works done worth Rs. 12,000 crore from that by raising more funds. It is my endeavour to operationalise 10 waterways before December 2018.
Karti Chidambaram has allegedly accumulated unprecedented and unaccounted wealth. His is an unabashed saga of the failings of Indian polity and governance. His rise and rise, and now may be a fall, and the lust to earn tainted money proves how a father-son nexus, especially if the father (P Chidambaram) was thrice the country’s Finance Minister, can plunder a nation. Imagine a nation, where leading businessmen paid $15,000 each, or thereabouts, to the son to fix a meeting with the latter’s father.
CONGRESS’ Rahul Gandhi criticised and justified ‘Dynasty Politics’ in India. He rightly maintained, “Most (political) parties have that problem.” He wrongly assumed, “So that’s how India runs.” The real, and the most obliterating, truth about the country is the manner in which Dynasty Politics transforms into Dynasty Inc., and corrodes the system from within. One can understand a lawyer’s son becoming a lawyer, a doctor’s doctor, and a politician’s obviously a politician. What decimates a nation is when the son of a lawyer corrupts the judiciary, daughter of a journalist destroys the credibility of the legislature, and a son-in-law of a politician becomes an extra-constitutional authority to maul the executive.
September 18, 2017
FOUR former bureaucrats—two IAS, one IFS and one IPS—were made ministers at the Centre giving a clear signal that Prime Minister Narendra Modi banks more on former bureaucrats than political leaders when it comes to performance. It’s not that simple; all the top former civil servants had the right connections. Here’s how the dice rolled in their favour. Whereas former Kerala cadre IAS officer KJ Alphons was given independent charge of the ministry of tourism, former IFS officer Hardeep Singh Puri will now handle urban affairs, independently. Also, former Home Secretary Raj Kumar Singh will handle two ministries—power and the ministry of new and renewable energy; and ex-Mumbai police commissioner Satyapal Singh has been made the MoS in two ministries—HRD and water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation. A 1979 batch former IAS officer, KJ Alphons joined the BJP in 2011. A former Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer of the 1974 batch, Puri is the chairman of New Delhi-based think tank—Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS). As an IFS officer, he rose to the rank of Ambassador and Permanent Representative of United Nations. He briefly taught in St. Stephens College before joining the Foreign Service. Sources disclosed that both civil servants were appointed with the recommendation of National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. A former Bihar cadre IAS officer of the 1975 batch, RK Singh became union home secretary before joining politics and winning the 2014 Lok Sabha poll from Arrah in Bihar on a BJP ticket. Rajiv Pratap Rudy and RK Singh are close to Home Minister Rajnath Singh. When Rudy was removed in a reshuffle, RK Singh was brought in to balance the Rajnath faction within the cabinet. A former IPS officer of the 1980 batch who rose to become Mumbai’s police commissioner, Satyapal Singh is BJP’s Lok Sabha MP from Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh. Satyapal Singh was brought in mainly to calm down the Jats of western UP and make inroads into the fiefdom of prominent Jat leader Ajit Singh. According to the grapevine, a top industrialist house of Mumbai recommended his name for the ministerial berth.
PRIME Minister Narendra Modi is passionate about implementing his dreams. He is the first Prime Minister who is interacting with top ranking Secretaries, Additional Secretaries and Joint Secretaries. He makes the effort to explain his dreams to the civil servants. All wings of the government must work in harmony, Modi said while interacting with 70 additional secretaries and joint secretaries in his office recently, emphasising how the officers need to take a lead in breaking the silos in the government. This was the first of five such interactions being planned with senior bureaucracy in the government. Modi emphasised in the meeting that the combination of development and good governance is essential for the welfare and satisfaction of citizens. Good governance should be a priority for the officers. All wings of the government need to work in harmony, and in synchronisation, to achieve the best possible results. All officers must keep the poor and the ordinary citizens in their minds while taking decisions. The world is looking to India, he reminded, with positive expectations. The entire world feels that a successful India is vital for global balance. There is also a strong undercurrent for excellence from the common citizens of India. Youth from humble backgrounds, with very limited resources are achieving best positions in competitive exams and sports. The officers need to work to promote that spontaneous upsurge of talent, recalling the spirit and energy that they themselves would have possessed in the first three years of their service. This is a unique opportunity for officers to deliver their utmost for the benefit of the nation. There is a need for speed and efficiency in decision-making. Honest decision-making with good intentions would always be encouraged by the Union government. The officers need to focus attention on the 100 most backward districts of India, he said. All good, however, some Additional Secretaries who attended the meeting were miffed as they have little or no work with the ministries being run mainly by Secretaries and Joint Secretaries.