gfiles magazine

January 7, 2015

From the Editor

Atithi Devo Bhava’ or ‘A guest is akin to God’ is an ancient Indian credo. India will have the most powerful personality of the world as its atithi on Republic Day. US President Barack Obama’s visit is likely to be highly significant for Indo-US relations. Though the White House has been silent till now on the agenda of the visit, America’s sudden regard for India is the underlying connotation. Obama is not attending the India Gate parade to witness the self-proclaimed mighty defence system of India or its colourful jhankis. Whenever and wherever the US President travels, he means business and business on America’s terms. The US business delegation bowls over nations in such a way that the entourage appears to be doling out largesse for the poorest of the poor in the particular host country.


gfiles awards 2014

The gfiles Governance Awards 2014 felicitated civil servants who strove to make a difference by taking good governance practices to the people

additional Secretary in the Union Coal Ministry AK Dubey proudly remembers an incident involving his friend and Kerala cadre colleague KM Abraham, now posted as Secretary (Finance) in the Kerala Government. The incident took place when the two served in a central ministry.
The duo were once in a meeting with their minister. The latter wanted Abraham’s consent for a decision which could have had a negative impact on the government exchequer. According to Dubey, Abraham, a mechanical engineer and a martial arts black belt, as usual, put his foot down. Moreover, when the minister, also from Kerala, reminded Abraham of their common religious roots, the latter shot back, “Leave God in the church.

Modi Governance: Quo Vadis?

agenda mg devasahayam

The Modi government has been in power for nearly eight months now. Yet, there is no sign of an architecture or blueprint of Modi’s governance agenda
Christmas (December 25) was observed as Good Governance Day to celebrate the birthday of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. On this occasion, present Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated his commitment towards providing transparent, effective, accountable and good governance and exhorted the people to embark together on this mission. A question has risen as to whether Modi’s ‘governance agenda’ has substance or it is mere tokenism! 

Jignesh Shah The end game begins

nsel scam follow-up

Jignesh Shah is selling his stake as he and his company, FTIL, have been declared unfit to run any exchange

The higher you go, the greater your fall. Two, there are no permanent mai-baaps to break your fall each time you land in trouble. These are the biggest lessons to be learned from the fate of businessmen like Subrata Roy, Jignesh Shah, B Ramalinga Raju of the Satyam group, Shahid Balwa of DB Realty, Sanjay Chandra of Unitech Wireless and Vinod Goenka of Swan Telecom.

The end game has begun. Shah is going to withdraw from the stock exchange business he painstakingly created, but not before the Economic Offences Wing of the Mumbai police filed a 9,360-page chargesheet against him in the Rs. 5,574-crore fraud at the National Spot Exchange Ltd (NSEL).

Inspector Raj bleeds economy!

obstructing rules

Reforms have not improved the ease of doing business in India and everybody knows why. There has to be a check on the still pervasive inspector raj.

ajay Jain and Saurabh Jain regret the day they decided to shift their textile industry from Jind (Haryana) to Greater Noida (Uttar Pradesh). Unlike Haryana, where they bribed inspectors of 10 different departments—industries, labour, ESI, PF, sales tax, fire and safety, pollution, excise, weight and measurement, and electricity—systematically, in Greater Noida the demands are arbitrary.
For instance, in Jind they paid a specific amount to the labour enforcement officer through their industry association every quarter and had the Deputy Labour Commissioner playing mediator in case of a dispute between an industrialist and an enforcement officer.

Unlocking value for shareholders

corporate market value

Owner groups should understand that the long-term interests of different shareholder groups, be it minority or majority, are always aligned

Companies must be managed in a manner so as to create maximum value for all its stakeholders. Over the past few years, several corporate houses have tried and undertaken various steps such as demerger, delisting, buyback, open offers and so on. However, there is hardly any example of a holding company unlocking intrinsic value, especially for its minority shareholders. We all know, in India it is not unusual to find holding companies quoting at massive discounts compared to the sum of the parts valuation of their constituents. At times, these discounts can go up to as much as 70-90 per cent of the sum-of-the-parts valuations of quoted/listed investments. Some of the reasons cited for such discounts are poor corporate governance, inconsistent or volatile dividend policies and numerous deterrents in friendly/hostile takeovers. Also, in several situations, formation of these holding companies appears irrational; the parts of holding companies are completely unrelated businesses serving no purpose or logic except helping promoters or promoter-families continue their control.

‘I joined the army to fight the Nazis’

lt gen jfr jacob

Lt Gen JFR Jacob, the only Jew to have risen to the highest echelons of the Indian Army, speaks of a bygone era

He hails from a family that migrated to India some 200 years ago and he proved himself a great warrior. One of the heroes of the 1971 war, he led India to a decisive victory and retired as the Army Commander of the Eastern Command. He later went on to serve as the Governor of Goa and Punjab.
But behind all this there is the story of an officer who was on the verge of putting in his papers. But General PP Kumaramangalam, the last of the Sandhurst-trained King’s Commissioned Indian Officers in the Indian Army who later went on to be the seventh Chief of the Indian Army

Who owns Gandhi, anyway?

humour mk kaw

When Nripendra Misra escorted Narendra Modi to his prime ministerial chair, perceptive observers, apart from noticing that Modi signed his charge assumption report with a Mont Blanc pen, could not have missed the startling fact that there were no photographs of his spiritual or political gurus on the mantelpiece. No Golwalkar, no Savarkar, no Hegdewar, no Madan Mohan Malaviya  or Shyama Prasad Mookerjee either.

Mahatma Gandhi stood alone in his pristine purity and Modi worshipped him with a few convenient flowers placed there by a resourceful PMO. In that moment pregnant with history, Modi snatched away the Mahatma from the grasp of the Indian National Congress and washed away all the innuendoes and allegations about the murder of the Mahatma by the Hindutva brigade, whether of the Hindu Mahasabha variety or its RSS clone.

The making of Yadav Singhs


corruption amitabh thakur

It is scary to realise that the Yadav Singhs of the country get the best support from the system and that they have a number of friends among peers, superior officers in the department, senior bureaucratic circles and the political class
yadav Singh does not need an introduction any more. The suspended ex-Chief Engineer of the Noida Development Authority, Greater Noida Development Authority and Yamuna Expressway Authority is now among the uncrowned kings of the great Indian corruption bazaar. A person who joined the Noida Authority in 1980 as a junior engineer, finds his place among his illustrious brothers in the UP engineering sector who are said to have siphoned off billions from the State exchequer. These people are among some leading examples of extreme distortion of the present-day bureaucratic system where deceitful, enterprising, unscrupulous, dishonest and corrupt people can hijack the entire system through the aid and assistance of powerful political masters and equally unscrupulous powerful bureaucrats. 

Parliament: A political institution and not merely a debating club


politics non-fiction

Shubhabrata Bhattacharya reviews The Dramatic Decade, the first of a trilogy penned 

The genesis of the United Front (multi-party alliance) politics in India and the strategy to successfully manage the dialectic associated with such eventuality is perhaps the core of the first volume of political biography penned by the Chanakya of modern India, Pranab Mukherjee. It is a chronicle written by an active participant in the events of a period which would serve as a watershed in the history of  democracy in India. It is a must-read for students of politics and practitioners of ethical governance.

Dedicated “to the millions of political activists who have protected and nurtured democracy in India”, the book upholds the supremacy of the political class. It underscores that Parliament is “a political institution and not merely a debating club”

Energising spaces

energy sadhguru

many years ago, when I first said, “Let’s build a temple,” people around me were incredulous. They said, “A temple? Because of you we stopped going to temples! And now you want to build one?” They couldn’t believe a die-hard sceptic like me could propose this.

What people often forget is that the Indian temple was not intended as a place of prayer. It may be turning into a place of petition now. But traditionally, this was a culture that told you to simply sit and imbibe the energy of a temple for a while. This ensured that you passed through the world and all its transactions smoothly. It lubricated your passage so you were able to glide through life situations without getting trapped, and eventually enabled you to transcend them altogether.

Temples were simply energy centres. If you were on a spiritual path with your own practice, you had your own self-charging method and did not need to visit them. (Nowhere else in the world does such wisdom exist.) But, otherwise, the temple was a public charging place. There was a time when every street in South India had as many as five temples. These were never in competition with each other because the underlying premise was that no human being deserved to live in a space that wasn’t consecrated.

Anand Sharma hangs on

airs & fairs
leader of which house?

Anand Sharma, a former Congress minister, thinks he is still in power. It’s a long-cherished desire of his to be the leader of the Congress party in the Rajya Sabha. But things are not too smooth in the Congress, even if someone is claimed to be the most competent leader. Sharma is known for his English writing as well as Hindi speeches. So there is nothing wrong if he thinks that he is the obvious choice to be the Leader of the House. As the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, was away campaigning for the Jammu & Kashmir elections, Sharma did not let the opportunity go and masqueraded as the Leader of the Opposition in the House. Not only this, he reportedly went around saying that he was the Leader and that, to address the Opposition, the government should talk to him. The ruling dispensation retorted that he was not even the Leader of his own party in the House, let alone the Opposition. Then he claimed he was the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Finally, the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, PJ Kurien, had to make it clear that there was no such post according to the Constitution. But who can make Sharma believe that reputation is not claimed but earned and one cannot earn it in a day. This is not commerce, Anand!

Legend of Rajesh Pilot

airs & fairs

from real to reel life

It was May 15, 1999, when Sharad Pawar, PA Sangma, Tariq Anwar and the late Rajesh Pilot met at Pawar’s residence to debate the right of the Italian-born Sonia Gandhi to lead the Congress party. It was decided that a new political party would be launched, for which all four would be the public face. The leaders decided that the new formation would be announced the next day at a press conference. Pilot moved out from the meeting at midnight and went straight to 10, Janpath to discuss the conspiracy and coup d’├ętat of Pawar. Sonia Gandhi was obviously thankful to Pilot for the information. The following day, Pawar, Sangma and Anwar announced the launch of a new party by the name of Nationalist Congress Party. Pilot was not seen till the end of the press conference. But Pilot was a fiery leader. He would have reached great heights if he had not met with an accident and died in his constituency, Dausa. His phenomenonal rise is a motivational story for Congressmen. The son of a poor Gujjar farmer from Dadri, he joined the Air Force. In his career in politics after that, he became a prominent leader within the Congress in no time. Rama Pilot, his wife, is making a documentary film on him and is in consultation with scriptwriters, musicians and other technical experts. It is to be seen how she depicts her husband to the world.

Gujarat shines on

airs & fairs
pravasi divas blues

Vibrant Gujarat is a flagship event of the State government and was launched by Narendra Modi when he was Chief Minister of the State. This year, it coincides with the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas which has been organised by the Ministry of Indian Overseas Affairs in Ahmedabad with much fanfare. This time Modi, a former host, will be attending the programmes as a guest. But this is not news. Sources say that the Gujarat government requested all the State governments to sponsor the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas. There is no dearth of government sponsors of the event. All States were eager to participate but in the background there were murmurings among the Congress-ruled States. The BJP-ruled States have already fallen in line. Sources disclosed that Congress-ruled States’ Chief Ministers were of the opinion that their States should not sponsor the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas as it coincides with Vibrant Gujarat. According to them, it is an event to promote only Gujarat and no other State will benefit from it. These States could not do much as the Prime Minister himself was taking a keen interest so no State could dare not to participate. Finally, the Congress-ruled States fell in line as well to promote the Gujarat conclave. When the Prime Minister himself is in charge of the ceremonies, who would dare speak out openly?

Now playing

airs & fairs
queue for fm licences 

Radio can be a very powerful weapon to reach out to the masses at minimum expense. Prime Minister Narendra Modi understands this and has delivered two talks, “Man Ki Baat”, on the radio. Entrepreneurs have been quick to sense the power of the radio after its sensible use by Modi and are rushing to Shastri Bhawan, which houses the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, to get radio licences at the earliest. The ministry is making a move to issue more and more FM radio licences to spread the reach of the government to the masses. Businessmen running other businesses who have not been able to enter the mainstream media do not want to lose this opportunity. Surprisingly, it has been noticed that business houses who are running Ponzi schemes in the financial sector and siphoned millions of rupees by duping the poor are also applying for FM radio licences. Most of the Ponzi scheme operators are under CBI and Intelligence Bureau scanning. It has to be seen how the fiery and energetic advocate-turned-politician, the Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Arun Jaitley, keeps a watch and sees to it that no unscrupulous or financial jugglers get licences. Will the Shastri Bhawan officials keep manipulators away?

Lateral appointments the way

Bureaucrats in the government are a worried lot nowadays. Their concern is not due to the change of the government or hectic schedule within the ministries but the changing pattern of the governance within the ministries. As per sources, the government is in a mood to hire professionals on a lateral basis. This means that the government is likely to appoint professionals outside the bureaucratic domain for delivering best results. Sources have disclosed that the professionals/experts will be brought into the Petroleum, Communication, Environment and Infrastructure ministries from the corporate sector of the same nature. These professionals are likely to be appointed Joint Secretaries, Additional Secretaries and Secretaries. The professionals are required to be experts in their domain, have an outstanding performance track record and must be working with a reputed corporate house, NGOs, think-tanks or multinational companies. These professionals will be appointed for short durations: three to five years. The bureaucrats are naturally apprehensive. They do not have any issue as far as hiring the best talent is concerned, but what would their accountability be and who will check their antecedents? With the opening of the economy, there is already pressure within the government from different lobbies. So, when a Secretary or Joint Secretary is appointed as a lobbyist himself or herself, who will check their intentions, motives and the possibility of their serving bosses outside the ministry?

Federal freedom the way

What is the power of the central government when it deals with the States? The central government manages the finance, defence and foreign affairs in letter and spirit. In his announcement from the Red Fort on August 15, Narendra Modi disbanded the Planning Commission and opened a new debate in the ministries. If sources are to be believed, the new planning dispensation is of the opinion that the budgetary provision for the States will be transferred to the respective States in one tranche. Now the Secretaries and Joint Secretaries in the ministries are bewildered. The States report to different ministries for financial sanctions from time to time and ministries keep monitoring the schemes. If the money is transferred in one go, there will be no control or audit mechanism. Senior bureaucrats feel that Modi must have been offended by the federal mechanism of the Congress party but the new mechanism being implemented will open a Pandora’s box as the States have poor financial management and most of them are running on overdraft. The bureaucrats are afraid that if the money is passed on to the States in one go, it will be very difficult to stop misuse of the funds. It may create more financial indiscipline among the States. But who is bothered?

62 to 58! the way

The government was honest enough while replying to the Rajya Sabha question of Mahendra Singh Mahra regarding the increase in retirement age from 60 to 62 years with a categorical denial by the Minister of State in the PMO, Dr. Jitendra Singh. However, it did not reveal its intention to, rather, reduce the retirement age from 60 years to 58 years. Bureaucratic circles are agog with rumours that the government is going to retire babus at the age of 58. gfiles talked to several officers and learnt that the cabinet note regarding reducing the retirement age is ready. It’s only a matter of time before this decision will be seen through. Perhaps immediately after the Delhi assembly elections! Providing employment opportunities was one of the major planks on which Modi came to power. However, the economy is not obliging the government by turning around. So some intelligent people in the government must have thought, Why not retire the lot of babus and go for fresh recruitments? If the government does not go in for fresh recruitment, the decision would still be hailed as an achievement. Do you remember Modi’s slogan of “maximum governance, minimum government”?  gfiles, however, feels the decision, if taken, may boomerang in ways not anticipated by the wise man.

Its Dhesi in Haryana the way

Finally, after a long struggle, Chief Minister of Haryana Manohar Lal Khattar has appointed DS Dhesi, a 1982-batch IAS officer, as the new Chief Secretary of the State. Dhesi will retire in 2019. In a way, he has a total of five years on hand. The administrative systems are being replaced slowly as another competent officer, Dr Dilip Singh, has also joined as Additional Chief Secretary and FCR, a No. 2 position in the bureaucratic hierarchy. PK Gupta, an outgoing Chief Secretary, tried hard to get an extension of three months. As per sources, his wife, Anuradha Gupta, also flew in from abroad to lobby for her husband but Khattar planned otherwise. He chose the roadmap of smooth governance and avoided the ad hocism. The selection of Dhesi was not an easy task, as Khattar has been approached by his followers, leaders and supporters regarding other competent candidates. Sources disclosed that Sanjiv Kaushal, a 1986-batch IAS officer and Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, played a crucial role in the selection of the Chief Secretary. Kaushal and Dhesi had worked together as a team when Om Prakash Chautala was the Chief Minister. Dhesi is considered to be an expert in country and town planning as he has handled the department when he served the State in his earlier stint. Kaushal has a comfort level with Dhesi as compared to other aspirants for the post. Haryana observers say that Khattar does not have much experience of the administration and now the government will solely and completely be run by Kaushal, son-in-law of BS Ojha, former Chief Secretary of Haryana, Dhesi, and Khattar’s OSD, Jawahar Yadav. Wait and watch how the trio brings about change and development in the State.