gfiles magazine

September 28, 2011

Spreading Scourge


The ongoing loot of the nation has devastating economic consequences
 Capital flight from India to the US through abnormal pricing lost India Rs 50,000 crore in 1993-94 in trade
 The Government in 2004-05 should have collected Rs 5.64 lakh crore out of India’s GNP of Rs 28.20 lakh crore, whereas the collection was just Rs 2.25 lakh crore
The US sold tetracycline to India at over one hundred times per gram compared to the rate charged to other countries... for video cassettes 40 times higher...
 The country lost Rs 2,38,999 crore against a trade deficit of Rs 1,24,995 crore. The country is cheated by Rs 2.5 lakh crore annually in foreign exchange
   Indian money in Swiss bank accounts in 1996 was around $2,550 billion or Rs 119 lakh crore—equivalent to 40 years of the Budget of India at the time
  The first Voluntary Disclosure of Income Scheme to unearth black money was announced in 1951—barely a year after India received its Constitution!

by BR LALL  
AS a newly independent nation in 1947, India was on very solid ground compared to other economies for it was saved the destruction of World War II. Besides, during the war, the British had raised public debt in India and owed us the equivalent of Rs 1,713 crore in pound sterling. This amount came to be known as sterling balances. It was a large sum and, if put to development, could have led to tremendous progress as those were times of low costs globally and more so in India. But we slackened in work culture, moral codes and ethics, and indulged in vulgar display of wealth and wasteful expenditure. The abuse of office for personal ends became a sort of perk and norm. Corruption became rampant. 
In 1951, a Committee on Public Administration under AD Gorwala was set up to suggest ways to improve public administration to ensure speedy execution. Its report included a special chapter on integrity. The findings of the committee hold true even today. It is intriguing that the country had degenerated to that extent in just four years. The report laments the lack of transparency and the tendency not to take any action against higher-ups and also to keep secret reports of corruption: “While small men are often troubled quite unnecessarily, tax-evaders, whose assessment should run into lakhs, seem to escape. The failure of the Income Tax Investigation Commission to produce any real results and the ease with which the most blatant tax evaders seem to be able to manage their affairs undisturbed has caused a very wide-spread belief in the impotence of the government when pitted against the really influential and wealthy people.” Sixty years later, the only change is that “billions” has replaced “lakhs”. 
In corruption, apparently anyone may pay but the actual loser is the lowest. The buck is passed but the lowest 60-70% cannot do so any further. It is for this reason that no scam has ever been worked out. The consequences of this loot are deep. Resources are diverted, leading to (a) lack of infrastructural development; (b) lack of education, health, hygiene, sanitation and such other services and facilities; (c) lack of growth of employment opportunities; (d) increased pressure on land; (e) pressure on land leads to Naxalism; and (f) the country is forced to spend on guns in place of development. Besides, black money has a tendency to flow into the unproductive channel and also take flight abroad. Thus, the pyramidal top not only corners the productive resources but also turns them into idle, unproductive or stagnant assets and even carts them abroad. 
 A1995 study by Florida University, “Capital Flight from India to the United States through Abnormal Pricing in International Trade”, concluded that over-invoicing and under-invoicing led India to lose Rs 50,000 crore in 1993-94 in trade with the US. 
Tariff by IBIL for electricity to Sanghi Industries was Rs 1.60 per unit, as against Rs 2.10-3.15 being applied all over India. 
Power projects were allotted during the 1980s and ’90s at much higher costs. The Economic Times discovered the tariff of a captive plant set up by Ignifluid Boilers India Ltd (IBIL) to supply electricity to Sanghi Industries was Rs 1.60 per unit against a rate of Rs 2.10-3.15 being applied all over the country. The paper finds the reason: “The IBIL plant will cost only Rs 1.33 crore per MW, against more than Rs 4 crore per MW for ‘public sector projects’.”
Deadly legerdemain
AT a social gathering in 1995, I came across a practical instance of how the resources of the country were being drained and costs of production hiked, making ours a high-cost economy not competitive in world markets. The General Manager of a urea plant who had imbibed enough to throw caution to the winds, described to me how he had once been asked to prepare a scheme for a new plant designed for a particular capacity. He prepared a proposal for Rs 350 crore. The management asked him to raise it to Rs 700 crore in such a way that Rs 300 crore could be kept abroad. Of it, Rs 100 crore would go to the authorities in the Central government as hush money and the remaining would constitute deposits for the industrial house abroad. The remaining Rs 50 crore would create the necessary cushion for use within the country, that is, it would be black money within. 
However, the government authorities refused to settle for less than Rs 200 crore. There was a stalemate for a few years. In the meantime, the fair estimate rose to Rs 700 crore. Finally, the share of those in government was pegged at Rs 400 crore. The industrial house planned its own deposits abroad, amounting to Rs 400 crore, and kept another Rs 100 crore for any exigency. The project cost was hiked to Rs 1600 crore. If fixed costs are hiked from Rs 350 crore to Rs 1600 crore, the costs of production have to go up. The man blamed the corruption in the government. What about his masters, I asked. If only the people in government were clean, they could have prevented his masters, he replied. He proudly declared that their old plant, set up in the good old days, was producing urea at Rs 3000 per tonne as against Rs 8000 per tonne of this new plant. There was a subsidy of Rs 4000 per tonne and they sold their entire produce at Rs 4000 per tonne in the market. His factory
as well as other factories of the group were making huge profits. The industrial house had recovered its entire investment by withdrawal of its own funds even before the factory commenced operation. 
The detailed account as given by our friend from the urea sector and corroborated by other sources, raises certain questions while answering some others and rationalizes still other situations. First, a project of Rs 350 crore is hiked to Rs 1,600 crore, yet everyone is satisfied and it passes through various checks. Finally, the subsidy settles everything else. The country stands to lose in at least five ways directly: (i) foreign exchange to the extent of Rs 800 crore; (ii) drain of resources to that extent; (iii) subsidy has to be given; (iv) production becomes high-cost and cannot compete in a world market, threatening the survival of our industries and even agriculture; and (v) production loss of urea and ultimately of agricultural produce during the period of stalemate.

Second, in economies with comparable rates of taxation, the collection of central taxes is much higher. At 8.6% of GDP, India was one of the lowest against the world average of over 20%, though our business and industry will want us to believe that our rates of taxes are much higher. At the world average rate, the Union Government in 2004-05 should have collected Rs 5.64 lakh crore out of India’s accounted GNP of Rs 28.20 lakh crore, whereas the collection was just Rs 2.25 lakh crore. The collection should have been Rs 18 lakh crore if unrecorded income was also included.

Other countries also face tax evasion but they have made continuous efforts and even backward economies like Ghana, the Philippines, Peru and Bolivia have raised collection from 4% to 16% in just a decade.


The Hindustan Times, reporting on Florida University’s study for 1993-94, said: “India charged 200 times less for selling its exercise cycles to the US. The similar concession for industrial miners’ diamonds was 100 times less, for unworked diamonds nearly 120 times less, storage batteries 40 per cent less and regulators were found under-priced to the extent of 30 times.” The picture was just the opposite in case of exports from the US to India: “If in a unit-form US sold tetracycline at 11.74 per gram to other countries, the rate was 1102.50 per gram for India….for video cassette recording India paid 40 times higher, for chlorine India paid over 22 times higher.” 

The study, repeated for 1994 and 1995 and reported in The Times of India, found similar facts and estimated maximum and minimum losses that might have been caused to the economy through the dual processes. It placed the losses caused to India at a minimum of 20% on imports and 40% on exports. The US is among the cleaner countries in international trade. 

All the black assets are not kept in Swiss banks. There are other banks, real estate, business, purchases abroad while on a visit.
 Even if the same percentage is extended to trade with other countries, India lost more than its annual balance of trade deficit on this score. Extending the same rates for 2004-05, when Indian exports touched $79,247 million and imports touched $1,07,066 million, the losses amount to $31,692 million and $21,413 million, respectively. In total, the country might have lost $53,111 million (Rs 2,38,999 crore) against a balance of trade deficit of Rs 1,24,995 crore. The country, according to the study, is cheated to the extent of Rs 2.5 lakh crore annually in foreign exchange. 
This ill-gotten money is used for conspicuous consumption in India and abroad or in creating assets in the black sector, inflicting an immediate corresponding loss on our economy as the resources are frozen, taken outside the economy, carted abroad and spent or stored, giving a fillip to economic activity in other countries. 
  Journalist Olga Tellis, referring to a statement by a Swiss bank official, states that holdings of Indian money in Swiss bank accounts was around $2,550 billion or Rs 119 lakh crore –equivalent to 40 years of the Budget of India at the time. The law of the land does not authorize anyone to keep money in a foreign bank abroad. So it is all black money. Such holdings must have doubled to at least $5 trillion. Much noise is made about our outstanding external debt of $100 billion, which is peanuts compared to these huge holdings.  
 IT is often said that the black economy runs parallel to or is bigger than the accounted economy. Various estimates of black money in the country have been made from time to time. It can be studied through various modules, aided by making certain realistic assumptions but the results would only be indicative and not definitive.  


India charged 200 times less for exercise cycles to the US, 100 times less for industrial diamonds, 40 per cent less for storage batteries, and 30 times less for regulators.
 Basing our calculations on the declared income would be inaccurate and misleading as whatever goes into the unaccounted stream is to be reckoned as part of total income. Since the two are in the ratio of 60:40 or 3:2, the unaccounted income has to be taken as two-thirds of the accounted income. The accumulation of black money is thus Rs 135.18 lakh crore in a single decade. For the last few years, the media puts the current rate at 50%, that is, the volume of accounted and unaccounted income is the same. In that case, the black money generated will be over Rs 200 lakh crore in this decade. The money/resources thus diverted from the mainstream would also have grown. It is anyone’s guess how much black money has been generated in the five decades of independence. In the light of this, the figure of Rs 119 lakh crore deposits in Swiss banks in 1996 could be probable.
WHY & HOW IT HURTS
The money thus cornered becomes a separate entity by itself in the economy. A part of it is then drained out abroad. Some part of this is again brought back into the country, but the bulk remains abroad. The mechanism is as follows:
The country turns poorer by that amount directly.
Income and employment by this investment accrue abroad and India stands to lose.
India loses by way of loss of economic activity within the country.
Losses are not only direct but also on account of non-accrual of benefits by operation of multiplier and accelerator effects.
Conspicuous wasteful expenditure to flaunt one’s riches has a demonstration effect and various consequential vices. 
Note: The first Voluntary Disclosure of Income Scheme (VDIS) to unearth black money was announed in 1951—barely a year after India received its Constitution! Subsequent schemes came in 1965, 1975, 1985, 1987 and 1997.
All the black assets are not kept in Swiss banks. There are other banks, and also other forms such as real estate, investment in business, expense on children’s education abroad, purchases abroad while on a visit, lavish spending abroad for which certain sections of Indians are well known. Assets are also held in various other forms such as gold, diamonds, other jewellery and business.

The bulk of the money is from the black sector, as they do not pay taxes. All this becomes possible and defies any action by the state, as secure, well-laid and tempting infrastructure for such crimes is available. Unless these countries relax banking secrecy, as they have in the context of drug money, the poor nations are helpless. Even the mighty US was helpless as long as the secrecy laws were in force but has done very well in going after drug money following the relaxation of secrecy laws. But there is resistance against such relaxation regarding slush born out of corruption which is a Third World problem. g  

The writer was joint director of the CBI and DGP, Haryana

September 8, 2011

STATESCAN-west bengal government-bureaucracy clash

Mamata vs babus

 
The new CM wants rapid development but the bureaucrats are bound by procedure in sanctioning funds
 
by DIPTENDRA RAYCHAUDHURI
 
THE West Bengal Finance Secretary, CM Bachawat, wants to be relieved of his duties. Though Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said on TV that he wants to be eased out because of illness, those close to him say he is physically fit but does not want to serve the State government anymore.
 
He is seeking an assignment at the Centre because, in Kolkata, he is expected to do what he is not supposed to do. Bachawat’s detractors call him timid. Former Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta wanted him to sign government orders even after the announcement of Assembly elections. Bachawat refused and sought Chief Secretary Samar Ghosh’s directive. The matter was referred to the Election Commission, which adjudged Bachawat right. Then the government changed.
 
But the new government, in its first vote-on-account placed before the Assembly, pegged the Budget at Rs 87, 646 crore without divulging details of how much revenue would emanate from where. Thereafter, the Finance Secretary was asked to sign various orders allotting money for projects. The Chief Minister is on an announcements spree and her Ministers and advisers want immediate release of money for the projects being announced. Bachawat feels he cannot sign as the government has no authority to allot money like this without placing a Budget detailing the allotments of each department. Once more, the “timid officer” has become a thorn in the path of the “dynamic” government which wants to act fast to solve developmental problems. Is this a classic example of the clash between a super-active political authority and a rule-abiding bureaucracy?
 
There are other equations also. In the initial days after assuming power, the government got an ordinance acquiring the entire land of the Nano project in Singur signed by the Governor. It was grossly improper as the Assembly was in session. When this was pointed out by the Left, the government was forced to withdraw the ordinance. Banerjee proffered an excuse for the gaffe by claiming that, while she is well-acquainted with the rules and procedures of Parliament, she is unfamiliar with those of the Assembly. However, in this particular case, there is no procedural difference between Parliament and an Assembly. It is said that when the Governor later queried the Chief Secretary on the faux pas, Ghosh confessed that he had been in the dark about the move.
 
It is also rumoured that the kingpin behind all major moves by the government is a non-IAS officer in the Chief Minister’s Office – Gautam Sanyal. He is a Secretariat staffer who was with Banerjee when she was Railways Minister. Though he runs the CMO, he has no official designation. He cannot be given a designation that puts him on a par with senior IAS officers nor can he be given a lesser position because he is, after all, the “boss”. The IAS lobby is peeved and has no qualms about leaking out tales of how Sanyal ignores even the Chief Secretary.
 
Sanyal is said to have blocked Sanjoy Mitra’s heading of the CMO. Mitra has worked in the PMO and is far more experienced than Sanyal but was apparently done in by a rumour that he is on good terms with the CPI (M) leadership. The story was credible because he had been in the PMO when the CPI (M) supported the government from 2004 to 2008. So Mitra was shunted to the unenviable post of Health Secretary.
 
Home Secretary DD Goutama is another officer who finds himself out of the loop. His absence at meetings where Home-related matters are taken up is conspicuous. All this indicates that something has gone wrong in West Bengal. There are some extraneous factors such as the new government not having enough faith in the old bureaucrats, who have served the Left for almost their entire careers in the State. And, sometimes, personal equations do not gel. Yet, the argument of a stand-off between an over-active government and a slow-moving bureaucracy holds water.
 
The Chief Minister is on an announcements spree and her Ministers and advisers want immediate release of money for the projects being announced.
 
IT is likely that the Singur ordinance was not discussed with the Chief Secretary out of apprehension that the seasoned bureaucrat would bring forth objections that would delay it. And maybe the Home Secretary is being sidelined because the CM wants some quick measures to change the functioning of the police. No doubt good governance often calls for quick decisions, and Banerjee is trying to go about it in an unconventional way. But IAS officers are still bound by the rules.
 
On the bigger canvas of the entire country, the consequences of bureaucracy-dependent governance are more visible. Those without any vision calmly occupy the chairs of Ministers, knowing the government is run by the bureaucracy. At the same time, it is said that many a first-time Minister learns the art of corruption from the bureaucrats. Again, the Ministers do not bother to oversee the implementation of the projects they announce. Instead, they read out reports about the success of their governments. So these sets of people have patted each other on the back regarding magical reduction of the number of those below the poverty line in the past 20 years, ie since liberalization of the economy. The reality was far from the claims. Banerjee does not want a repeat of this. But, for rapid development she needs money and inter-departmental mobilization of funds. She has fought with the Centre over money and the Union Finance Minister grudgingly acquiesced – not due to unwillingness to help West Bengal but due to the State government’s unreadiness to observe financial discipline. Finally, the Centre sanctioned a package of Rs 21,614 crore, including a grant-in-aid of Rs 9,240 crore. This came after the State agreed to make efforts to generate revenue.
 
AND then the State government passed a finance Bill increasing allotment of development by 183.30%, school education by 104.97%, Sunderbans development by 70.99%, transport by 238.10% and so on. Finance Minister Amit Mitra has promised to reduce the salary-pension and interest payment burden from 93% to 74% of the Budget. He has promised to increase the State’s revenue by 31.39%, from Rs 21,300 crore to Rs 27, 690 crore. But this is far too ambitious.
 
The kingpin behind major moves by the government is non- IAS officer Sanyal (above with bouquet). He is a Secretariat staffer who was with Banerjee when she was Railways Minister. He runs the CMO but has no official designation.
 
Though there is no doubt that Banerjee is setting about doing what the State needs, the bureaucrats remain sceptical. They know that ultimately they will be questioned on whether they followed procedure. If not, the channels of aid will dry up and then they will face the wrath of their political bosses. Already, on July 26, Union Home Secretary Raj Kumar Singh warned the Chief Secretary that the State government had not provided utilization certificates for Rs 40 crore given by the Centre for infrastructure development in extremism-affected Bankura, West Midnapore and Purulia.
 
So, basic changes are needed in the process of governance so that such confrontation between the political leadership and the bureaucracy can be avoided. But no effort has been made to find the contours of such changes. The opposition to “red tapism” in the past decade was aimed at serving the interests of industrialists and businessmen. Now, there is an alarming rift between the common classes and the middle and upper classes that has spawned the growth of the Maoists.
 
Yet none is prepared to review the process to ensure speedy functioning shorn of corruption so that the interests of the common man are served. g

No pink, only blue will do


India must follow South Korea in empowering women if we are to tackle the preference for male children
 
YASMIN Khan, a middle-class woman living in a Mumbai suburb, already had two daughters. Anxious for a son, she went in for a third pregnancy and was desperate to find out the sex of her unborn child. So she did something illegal: she went to a clinic where the doctor-owner (also illegally) performed an amniocentesis and told her she would have another girl. Yasmin opted for an abortion and then tried to dispose of the dead foetus.
 
Unfortunately for her, she was caught. Her response? “Main sabse mafi maang rahi hoon, isse zyada kya karun? (I seek everybody’s pardon, what more can I do?)” She added that she could not afford to bring up three daughters. All this was reported in detail on the front page of the Mumbai Mirror, with a picture of a tearful Yasmin.
 
The case highlights one of the most shameful aspects of our society, namely, the utter neglect of the Indian girl child. Despite the big talk supporting reservation for women at all political levels –from the panchayat to Parliament – the sad fact is that we remain an essentially male-oriented people. Yasmin was only doing what millions of Indian women feel they are forced to do because of the compulsions arising from obsolete Indian customs and traditions.
 
Daughters are an economic burden to their parents due to the costly dowries that have to be provided for them when they get married. What’s more, they usually leave their parents to enter the households of their in-laws, whereas sons, even when they get married, tend to stay with their parents and look after them. In developing countries like India, with no proper social support system like free healthcare and old-age pension, the dependence on sons is that much greater. There’s also the silly Hindu custom that a son is required to light his father’s funeral pyre (though former Cabinet Minister Renuka Chowdhury defied this recently by lighting her father’s pyre since she has no brothers).  

In north India, where female foeticide and female infanticide are 
particularly prevalent, there is an average ratio of 120 boys to 100 girls.
 
The result is a shocking statistic: in north India, where female foeticide and female infanticide are particularly prevalent, there is an average ratio of 120 boys to 100 girls. The only other country that has a similar statistic is China (in developed and socially advanced countries, on the other hand, the ratio is more or less equal). In China, too, there is a strong preference for male children, which is made far worse and complicated by Beijing’s “one child per family” policy.
 
To control China’s population growth rate, Beijing has been stipulating for many years that couples should have only one child. It has produced results but since Chinese families, much like Indian families, have a preference for males, many of them have ensured that their one child is a boy. Which is why female foeticide and female infanticide is just as prevalent there as in India. Be that as it may, what can be done to reverse matters and make Indian society more equitable and less male-centric? The answers are all long-term. There are no short fixes.
 
In a foolish and thoughtless knee-jerk reaction to check the declining girl-child ratio, the Maharashtra government recently proposed that female foeticide be treated as murder and culprits booked under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). In other words, should such legislation go through, Yasmin could be prosecuted for murder. However, as the Forum Against Sex Selection, a group of NGOs, has rightly pointed out, this will only increase illegal abortions and make access to safe abortions more difficult for women.
 
PART of the answer is, of course, greater female literacy. The 2011 Census shows that, while the literacy rate for males has gone up to an encouraging 82%, that of females remains a dismal 65%. Educated women are more likely to make more enlightened decisions about their children than illiterate ones. That’s common sense. But it is only part of the answer. Even in fairly literate states like Punjab and Haryana, where the families tend to be relatively small, there is still a male child preference.
 
South Korea was also once obsessed by the male child, right up to the 1990s, and had a skewed sex ratio. Then, a dramatic change took place. Women began to earn as much as men at the workplace, sex discrimination legal suits were filed and there were equal rights rulings by the courts. Women became not just politically empowered, but economically empowered as well. Son preference became old fashioned and South Korea’s culture changed. That is the road that India has to take. g 
The writer, former Editor of Reader’s Digest and The Indian Express, is a population expert and author of Family Planning Success Stories: Asia, Africa, Latin America. (singh.84@hotmail.com

Mathai: Great expectations

 The new Foreign Secretary, armed with professional experience and insight, has promises to keep
 
by SHASTRI RAMACHANDARAN
 
RANJAN Mathai has got off to a good start as Foreign Secretary and enjoys a lot of goodwill. His seniority being generally accepted, his ascent to the top diplomatic post was hardly contentious. He is well regarded by seniors, respected by his peers and admired by more than a few in the service for his leadership and people skills. “He is a team player, not egocentric,” commented a seasoned diplomat.
 
According to former Foreign Secretary Lalit Mansingh, he has the requisite professional experience as he has served in the neighbourhood and in capitals such as Tehran, Tel Aviv, Vienna, Brussels, London and Washington. In his very first statement, Mansingh pointed out, Mathai rightly emphasized the importance of the neighbourhood. The region has not received enough attention although the present government gave it the importance it deserves with the Prime Minister speaking of “asymmetrical relations”. Doubtless, relations with our neighbours would top any list of challenges facing the new Foreign Secretary. India cannot be a global player nor sustain a 9-10% growth rate without peaceful relations with our immediate neighbours.
 
Therefore, it was hardly surprising that soon after assuming office he named “trust and confidence” in India-Pakistan relations and “maintaining an era of constructive cooperation in the immediate neighbourhood” as his priority. Whether the present dialogue with Pakistan is described as “composite” or otherwise, Mathai appears determined to keep it substantive.
 
Relations with Bangladesh, which dropped from the euphoria of the 1970s to the other extreme, are vibrantly upbeat with the Prime Minister’s visit holding out the promise of new and rewarding vistas. Nepal would be a test of India’s striving for stability in the region as well as its supremacy in Asia, especially given China’s increasing interest and influence in shaping the political course of the Himalayan country.
 
 
One of the first initiatives to emerge after Mathai’s taking over will be the South Asian Forum (SAF) with Mansingh in the chair. Although it is not an official government agency, SAF is expected to be an idea house for SAARC, shaping both the broad direction and content of South Asian cooperation. The first hints of how SAF may impact SAARC, especially the SAARC summit next year in the Maldives, will be known during its three-day inaugural session from September 7.
 
Whether the present dialogue with Pakistan is described as ‘composite’ or otherwise, Mathai appears determined to keep it substantive.
 
India is already present at most global high tables and, as a leading player in for a such as BRICS and IBSA, needs to find its feet and make its presence felt in others such as the East Asia Summit and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Mathai must be acutely aware of the larger role expected of New Delhi by a number of countries which see India as a power. Diverse fora make for diversified relations with many countries. This is an area of great challenge in foreign policy where Mathai’s leadership would be measured against expectations, perceptions and performance.
 
THERE are countries of varying importance and relationships of differing strategic value. India has a strong strategic partnership with the US. But it is not without its problems, which need to be resolved without stoking antagonism. At the same time, older friends and interests represented by, for example, Russia, the UK, France and Germany should not feel neglected by the cementing of ties with new strategic partners such as Japan, Brazil and South Africa.
 
Mathai needs to be wary of diverse, even conflicting, sensibilities in negotiating these fraught diplomatic spaces. At the same time, under his helm, the Ministry of External Affairs has to prepare for global issues like climate change, terrorism, nuclear disarmament, piracy on the seas and protection of the global commons. At home, this translates into how the MEA – which deals with the rest of the world – works on these issues with the concerned ministries.
 
As Mansingh aptly put it, Mathai “has a full basket on his hands, and he has the experience to face the challenges”. g

‘The political class is uncomfortable working with a woman officer’

The first woman to head several departments in Maharashtra recalls breaking the glass ceiling. She is currently Election Commissioner, State Election Commission, Maharashtra 


neela satyanarayana

I joined the Maharashtra cadre in July 1972, just days after the worst drought the State had witnessed in recent memory. I began my career as Supernumerary Assistant Collector, Nagpur. But my first real break came as Additional Collector and later as Collector of Thane district. To be posted as a Collector of Thane district, so close to Mumbai, so soon was unimaginable for many. In those days the political class was not comfortable working with or having women as bosses, that too of important government departments. Instead of key departments like Infrastructure, women IAS officers were considered fit to head departments like Women and Child Development, Health or Education.
But if you, through your honest and upright conduct and impartial decision making, are able to establish your image then you are given important postings. I was the first woman officer to head many departments like Social Welfare, Women and Child Development, Health, Education, Cultural Affairs, Maharashtra Maritime Board and so on. One of my semi-fictional Marathi novels, Ratra Vanvyachi (Night of the Forest Fire) talks about the career experiences of a woman officer, Anjali Verma. The kinds of people that she has to interact with while discharging her duties as Collector of a district. The way the middlemen and politicians size you up, how they extract information about an officers’ likes and dislikes and get their work done. Over the years, the interiors or the fa├žade of the Collector’s office or any government office have hardly changed. But even in these challenging situations she has to dispense justice and be impartial.
It is not just the political class that finds itself uncomfortable working with a woman officer, but also your male counterparts and subordinate staff. In those days, key departments like Home, Revenue or those related to Infrastructure were exclusively meant for male officers. [After Satyanarayana, another woman officer, Chandra Iyengar, became ACS, Home. But no woman officer in Maharashtra, which has had a number of women’s empowerment crusaders, has become Chief Secretary.]
My first real challenge came when I was posted as Secretary, Food and Civil Supplies, in the 1980s. It is one of those departments that come in direct contact with people from the middle or lower middle classes. In those days it was not just wheat, rice, kerosene and sugar that were sold in the ration shop, but also cloth! Even the middle class depended on the ration shops for their monthly quota of essential commodities.
DURING the festive seasons dealers, in their habitual arm-twisting exercise, would stop lifting supplies from government godowns. The situation was worse during 1985-86, you had to use all your administrative skills to ensure that all the essential items reached the people on time before the festival season started.
Another turning point in my career came when I was posted as Additional Chief Secretary, Home. The lowly constable is the most neglected in the whole system. He is the most overworked and over-stretched. He has to put up with long hours of bandobast duty on VVIP visits, he has no proper house, he has to live with domestic hardship. And his holiday is cut drastically due to the festive season and he is expected to do his best job.  

The constable is the most neglected in the whole system. He has to put up with long hours of duty on VVIP visits, he has no proper house, he has to live with domestic hardship.
After taking over this present posting as Election Commissioner in the State Election Commission, I once again came across gross injustice being meted out towards constables who also have to do election duty during municipal elections. While all the rest of the staff engaged in poll duty got an honorarium or allowances, the constables got nothing. So I have decided that in the coming 2012 civic elections, the constables shall be included among the election staff and given honoraria.
During my tenure in the Home department, I was also in charge of Jails. Ninety percent of the inmates are not hardened criminals. They are there because they have committed some crime in a fit of rage. Often they come from good homes but now have a “criminal” stamp on their foreheads. The situation was more so after the textile mills strike effectively shut down all the mills. My hands used to tremble as I signed extermination orders of unemployed Maharashtrian youths aged around 29 years, the sons of jobless mill workers who had taken to crime to augment the family income. The young girls were sucked into undesirable professions. Another problem I came across was related to women inmates. In 2006, I tried to implement my concept of open jails at Attpaddi in Sangli district wherein inmates, especially women in the last year of their incarceration, were allowed to live amongst their families. My intention was that they should be able to earn something from the trades they had learnt in jail and effortlessly mix in with the rest of the family after release.
IN January 2012 the State Election Commission (SEC) will hold civic elections to important bodies like the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), Thane and numerous other civic bodies. In the case of bigger corporations like Mumbai and Thane, the challenge is to hold elections to multi-member wards. To ease the problems and facilitate office-goers’ voting, the SEC is going to launch online voting in the coming civic elections while ensuring that the security and identity of the voter are kept total secret.
In the ensuing civic elections, for the first time the SEC is going to introduce a Braille strip on the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) so that the visually challenged can easily identify the candidates and political parties. We have asked the Electronic Corporation of India, Hyderabad, to develop a feature on the EVM which will ensure that once a voter presses a button against the name of a candidate, the vote will be registered against that particular candidate’s name alone.
Amidst all my work I have kept alive my passion for poetry and prose. I began writing poetry at the age of seven. But it was the birth of my son, Chaitanya, in 1983 with Down’s Syndrome that changed my life. My daughter, Anuradha, my husband, PV Satyanarayana, my personal assistant, Ramchandra Waghmare, Pramod Pandit and a host of other people and colleagues helped me in managing my career and home. But it took me 13 long years to write onefull, onehalf as, every time I tried to write, I was overcome with grief. I was particularly overwhelmed when President APJ Abdul Kalam paid a moving compliment to the book. 


Amidst all my work I have kept alive my passion for poetry and prose. I began writing poetry at the age of seven. But it was the birth of my son, Chaitanya, in 1983 with Down’s Syndrome that changed my life.
It was due to years of painstaking help, care and coaching from the doctors, teachers, friends, colleagues and the governess that Chaitanya is today able to lead a normal life. I got a glimpse of that when he asked the BEST bus conductor for “one full, one half” tickets for him and myself and so I titled the book accordingly. Since its publication in 1996, the book has been translated into Hindi and Marathi. The drawing on the cover is by Chaitanya.
Another book in Marathi, Satya Katha (True Stories), is aimed at educating Marathi youth about entrepreneurial skills. I wrote Ek Divas JeeVanatla (A Day in One’s Life or A Day in the Jungle) when, as ACS, Forests, I toured the forests in Maharashtra. Being a nature lover, the forests taught me a great deal. They offer a lot to anyone who wants to understand what nature has to offer or the true meaning of life.
I have penned 14 books and also composed music. Some of my poems have been converted into songs for Marathi feature films like Tuch Majhi Aai. I also have 11 CDs and cassettes in Hindi and Marathi. I won the Government of India award for non- Hindi-speaking writers in 1985, the Mahatma Gandhi Award from Karnataka in 1986 and the Editors Choice Award in 2005 from the International Library of Poetry, Maryland, US. g
 
—As told to Prashant Hamine

Reform the code


GUEST DESK
amitabh

Safeguards are needed to boost people’s confidence in the police
 
THERE are two issues that have remained in the realm of police discussion for long and have generated heated debate but for certain reasons have remained in limbo. The first relates to the Evidence Act of 1872, the second to the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC ) – formulated in 1973 after amending the earlier Code of 1898. Sections of these laws require urgent amendment. Evidence Act, Section 25: No confession made to a police officer shall be proved as against a person accused of any offence.
 
Evidence Act, Section 26: No confession made by any person whilst he is in the custody of a police officer, unless it be made in the immediate presence of a Magistrate, shall be proved as against such person. CrPC, Section 162: Statements to police not to be signed: Use of statements in evidence.
 
No statement made by any person to a police officer in the course of’ an investigation under this Chapter, shall, if reduced to writing, be signed by the person making it, nor shall any such statement or any record thereof, whether in a police diary or otherwise, or any part of such statement or record, be used for any purpose, save as hereinafter provided, at any inquiry or trial in respect of any offence under investigation at the time when such statement was made.
 
Sections 25 and 26 of the Evidence Act make it clear that, in India, any statement in the shape of a confession made to a police officer has no value. Thus, making any statement before a police officer is legally equivalent to having made no statement at all. This is not good at all for delivery of justice. It makes a farce of the entire process of investigation; any clever accused can play with the evidence, fool policemen and misdirect the investigation. It also questions the very legitimacy of the Indian police. 
 
In the case of Section 162 of the CrPC also, the purpose of taking the statement of the witness and putting it in writing gets defeated and becomes a mockery. Moreover, it might also be used as a stick to beat the police with by other agencies, including the judiciary. 
 

The Evidence Act makes it clear that any statement in the shape of a confession made
to a police officer has no value.

 
In the West, the situation is quite different. The US has the “Miranda warning” or Miranda rights, required to be issued by the police to criminal suspects in police custody before interrogation to inform them about their Constitutional rights. In the UK, the law pertaining to custodial confessions is regulated by Section 76 (2) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, 1984. In Australia, Section 84 of the Evidence Act of 1995 legitimizes confession under a few conditions. The situation is the same for the statement of the accused and the other witnesses which are given a lot of weightage in these countries.
 
Just as the Western countries have prima facie moved from disbelieving to believing their police forces, we also need to change the legal situation with the same spirit and in the same direction. At the same time, we also need to introduce important measures of checks and balances as well as a large number of conditionalities. They could include: (1) Only officers of the rank of Station Officer and above get these powers; (2) Interrogation to be done only in a specified interrogation room; (3) closed circuit television to be installed in the interrogation room; (4) Video recording to be done; (5) One copy of the video to be provided to the accused or person interviewed; (6) In case of interrogation elsewhere, again video recording and one copy to be provided to the person concerned; (7) An attorney/legal counsel to be present; (8) A minimum of two police officers to be present; (9) A relative can also be present, in case the person asks for it.
 
Once such conditions are imposed and such safeguards taken, this change in the current provision of the law would help in redeeming the people’s confidence in the police and would also make the Criminal Justice System more efficient and effective. g 
 

(The views expressed are personal.)

The writer is an IPS officer from the UP cadre, currently posted in the Economic Offences Wing at Meerut

The Olympic movement: myth and reality

The Indian Olympic Association is mistaken in trying to use the International Olympic Committee to forestall the sports Bill
  
by HARPAL SINGH BEDI
 
FOR decades, self-serving sports officials and administrators, especially in developing countries like India, have been perpetuating the myth of the infallibility of the Olympic charter. They have used the Olympic charter as a shield to protect themselves from charges of wrong-doing, saying that the charter clearly mandates that the National Olympic Committee (NOC) of a country is autonomous and the government cannot interfere with it.
 
The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has done precisely this whenever the government has sought transparency and accountability from it. Now, after the scandal-marred Commonwealth Games, the IOA’s functioning is under the scanner and it is scurrying for cover and urging the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to come to its rescue. The sports bosses in the country, used to unbridled power, are now a worried lot because they feel that that power is slipping out of their hands. The government proposes bringing in legislation to make the sports bodies more accountable and transparent. The Bill seeks transparency from the IOA and national sports federations, it fixes age and tenure limits for officials and wants more involvement of athletes in sports administration.
 
Unsurprisingly, the media department of the IOC has written umpteen letters to the Indian government, threatening dire consequences if the Bill is passed. The IOC maintains that the Bill violates the Olympic charter as it will give the government the right to interfere in the functioning of the IOA and the national sports federations. But the principle of inviolability of the Olympic charter has been more abused and violated than adhered to, giving rise to a number of myths.
 
Myth number 1: The charter clearly states that all member NOCs should have women sportspersons in their contingent for the Olympics and other Games conducted under the IOC umbrella. But Saudi Arabia and Kuwait have never sent any women’s teams to the Olympics and there is no likelihood of their doing so in the near future.  

The arrest of the Indian Olympic Association bosses proves
that no National Olympic Committee can work outside
he Constitution of the country. 
 
Myth number 2: The government has no role in the functioning of the NOCs and any violation of this rule will lead to sanctions by the IOC. This is a bizarre and contradictory assertion because the IOC has made it mandatory that any NOC bidding for the Games (Olympics, Asian, Commonwealth and so on) must have its government’s approval. Also, the IOC has never asked China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Iran and North Korea, to name a few, how they run their NOCs and how they treat their sportspersons who fail to perform well in these Games. Myth number 3: Once the Games are allotted to any country, the NOC of that country is responsible for running them. This is a ridiculous myth. Look at the case of the Commonwealth Games. The government did everything while the organizing committee was involved in unprecedented corruption and chaos. The arrest of the IOA bosses proves that no NOC can work outside the Constitution of the country.
 
Myth number 4: The IOC says the government cannot fix the age and tenure terms for the NOC officials. The IOC itself has formulated age and tenure stipulations. It has abolished life membership, it has fixed a maximum of three terms for its office-bearers, and it has stipulated an age limit also.
 
In any case, the Parliament of any country is supreme. The IOC cannot challenge the sovereignty of the Parliament and its right to enact law. Myth number 5: By allotting the Olympic Games to a particular country, the IOC gives the hosts a chance to reach out to the world and opens up immense economic opportunities. India has never got such negative publicity in recent times as before and after the Commonwealth Games because of the corruption of sports officials who swear by the Olympic charter. The bitter legacy of the Montreal Olympics of 1976 lingers. Taxpayers still bemoan the cost. The Athens Games of 2004 were described by Sports Illustrated magazine as no more than a shoddy bazaar.
 
MYTH number 6: The Olympic movement and the Games are based on ethics and spread the message of peace, honesty and integrity. The less said about this, the better. The latest example of unethical behavior has come from the British Olympic Association and the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) who have appointed Dow Chemicals one of the main sponsors. This company has a dubious history. In 1999, it bought Union Carbide – whose plant in Bhopal suffered a gas leak in 1984 that is one of the worst industrial accidents in the world.
 
“Dow as sponsor for the Olympics is like a dance on the graves of the Bhopal gas victims,” said Satinath Sarangi of the Bhopal Group for Information and Action. On the one hand, Dow is running away from its liabilities in Bhopal; on the other, it is engaged in a public relations exercise at the Olympics. The reaction of Dow rubbed salt into the Bhopal wound: “The Olympic Games are about peace, progress, sustainability and the world coming together to celebrate our common humanity. We share that vision and are committed to achieving it.”
 
For all those who shout from the rooftops about the moral and apolitical nature of the Olympic movement, here are some startling facts to show that politics and ideologies have plagued the movement since its inception: Nazi Germany wished to portray the Nationalist Socialist Party as peace-loving and great when it hosted the 1936 Games. The Games were also intended to show the superiority of the Aryan race, though the Nazis failed to achieve that because of Jesse Owens, who won four gold medals. Also, India clinched the hockey gold under Dhyan Chand. The Soviet Union did not participate until the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. During the 1920s and 1930s, communist and socialist organizations in several countries, including the United States, attempted to counter what they called the “bourgeois” Olympics with the Workers’ Olympics.
 
THE boycott of 1980 and the 1984 Olympic Games by the US and the Soviet Union, and their respective allies, exposed the hollowness of the Olympic charter. In 1985, as a way of persuading East Germany to compete in Seoul, IOC chief Juan Antonio Samaranch awarded the Olympic Order, the IOC’s highest honour, to the dictator, Erich Honecker. By doing this, he implicitly sanctioned the state-sponsored system of doping in East Germany that was widely suspected at the time and that was later revealed to have involved up to 10,000 athletes. A number of female athletes later gave birth to children who were blind or had club feet. Even the 2008 Beijing Olympics were marred by protests before the start and during the Games. 
 
It was widely rumoured that Coca-Cola, a key IOC sponsor, was highly influential in the 1996 Olympics in its home city of Atlanta. In 1998, it was uncovered that several IOC members had taken bribes from members of the Salt Lake City bid committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics. After losing the bid for the 2012 Olympics, Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe specifically accused British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the London Bid Committee (headed by Lord Sebastian Coe) of breaking the bid rules. The Turin bid for the 2006 Winter Olympics was also shrouded in controversy. g