gfiles magazine

February 9, 2015

From the Editor

I met a senior Secretary in the Government of India last year. Belonging to a middle-class family in Uttar Pradesh—his father was a school teacher in a small town and mother was a housewife—he was in a mood for introspection. He felt that while his schoolteacher father could built an independent house while educating him and his siblings—one of his brothers is an IAS officer, the other an IPS officer and his sisters are professional doctors—he finds it difficult to do so. “When I analyse, I feel I can’t have an independent house, being a Secretary in the Government, and can’t educate my sons the way I want,” he said, adding, “I can’t believe that in the past 30 years, decent education, healthcare and housing are out of reach for a middle-class man. Where is India heading, I don’t know?” The answer to this needs to be debated.

Modi’s mission for transforming India


six-decade-old Planning Comission has been disbanded and the new Niti Aayog has been launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the target of giving more autonomy to the States to plan and utilise the resources in a true sense of the federal spirit of the nation. Prabhat Kumar, MG Devasahayam, MK Kaw and Shubhabrata Bhattacharya analyse the Niti Aayog.

Define the nuts and bolts

niti aayog prabhat kumar

The functions of the Niti Aayog and how it will proceed to transform India need to be spelt out clearly and without much delay
In his first flush of governance reforms, the Prime Minister announced the abolition of the Planning Commission and its replacement with the National Institution for Transforming India. Almost everyone, except the Nehruvian ideologues, welcomed the decision as it was generally agreed that the Planning Commission had outlived its purpose and utility and that something had to be done about it.

I wish the Niti Aayog succeeds in fulfilling the promise with which it has been created. And I hope that in its first meeting on February 6, 2015, it spells out its mission as well as the mechanism to do it.

From Planning to Transformation: An uphill task!

niti aayog mg devasahayam

The task is cut out for the new avatar of the now disbanded Planning Commission
At The Economic Times’ Global Business Summit in mid-January, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid out his Transformation Agenda in no uncertain terms. After presenting a poser—“India is a $2-trillion economy today. Can we not dream of an India with a $20-trillion economy?”—he unveiled his ‘doctrine of development’ in lucid terms: “The government must nurture an ecosystem where the economy is primed for growth; and growth promotes all-round development. Where development is employment-generating; and employment is enabled by skills. Where skills are synced with production; and production is benchmarked to quality. Where quality meets global standards; and meeting global standards drives prosperity. Most importantly, this prosperity is for the welfare of all.” With such seamless segueing, India will be transformed from a poor/low-income to a high-income/rich nation and poverty will stand eliminated.

Niti Aayog or Atithi Aayog?

planning mk kaw

Simple solutions lie buried in the reports of a myriad Commissions and Committees. All we need is implementation
When I first heard the policy pronouncement of the new government that the Planning Commission was going to be abolished, I felt like celebrating. Since the early 1960s when I joined the service, I have harboured a deep-rooted prejudice against this leviathan.

The reason was simple. Even a blind man with his eyes bandaged could plainly perceive the incandescent truth that the Deputy Commissioner and the Superintendent of Police were the two draught animals who pulled the bullock-cart of peace and progress in the field. Yet the Planning Commission was totally blind to this reality. So much so, that the revenue and police were the only departments which did not have a Plan scheme to their name.

Bose : pioneer of planning in India

niti aayog shubhabrata bhattacharya

In keeping with Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s thinking, rename Yojna Bhavan as Subhas Sadan
Contrary to popular belief, the now deceased Planning Commission was not a legacy of Jawaharlal Nehru. The blueprint for this institution was outlined by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in his presidential address at the Haripura session of the Indian National Congress in February 1938. Netaji envisaged that the first task of the government of free India would be to set up a ’National Planning Commission’.

In pursuance of his thought, which had received the endorsement of the AICC, Netaji set up a National Planning Committee in December 1938 and appointed Jawaharlal Nehru as its chairman. Differences of perceptions and opinions between Netaji and Nehru has been widely discussed. But these differences did not deter Netaji from recognising the potential of Nehru, who was emerging as a favourite follower of Mahatma Gandhi and was appointed the head of the body which was Netaji’s dream. 

All for a price

state scan
corruption noida

Politicians of all hues have incorporated the Noida, Greater Noida and Yamuna Expressway Authorities into their fiefdoms

Right from recruitment of employees to their promotions, transfers and revocation of suspensions to allocation of tenders for works in different residential and industrial sectors of the Noida, Greater Noida and Yamuna Expressway Authorities, politicians, particularly those belonging to the party ruling in Lucknow, have a definite say. Political parties seem to follow the principle ‘corrupt and let corrupt’, reportedly filling their coffers from the commission collected from tender allocations and allowing government officials, right from junior engineers to senior managers to their higher-ups, to collect bribes.

It is the system, stupid!

administration prajapati trivedi

A change in systems contributes much more to the performance of an organisation than mere change in persons working in it 
The now famous slogan, ‘It’s the economy, stupid’, is given a big chunk of the credit for the election-winning campaign of Bill Clinton in 1992. Slogans work in elections because they effectively capture the current aspirations of the electorate.  

Similarly, Modi’s campaign of 2014 successfully captured a great yearning among the Indian electorate for a change in the prevailing system. He cited a large number of problems confronting the electorate—corruption, inflation, lack of electricity and roads, poor quality of education and health facilities, and so on. He promised to deliver on these fronts not by throwing more money but by changing the system, including the political system. Therefore, people voted for Modi and not necessarily for the BJP.  

Be wary of lobbyists

bureaucracy appointments

Shubhabrata Bhattacharya analyses the possible move for lateral inductions in public appointments and cautions against the perils of unsavoury lobbying
In order to take the reform process—the Naya Daur (new era) initiated by Narendra Modi—to its next level, it may be imperative that people from a wide range of backgrounds take up public appointments. In order to reflect the rich diversity of our society, it may be necessary to source public appointees from among those who have experience and a better understanding of the mosaic that is India. While sourcing human resource from various fields—private sector, academia, civil society, et cetera—due caution ought to be observed to ensure that unsavoury lobbying does not receive a fillip. The interests of the Indian State must be safeguarded.

Tobacco: A Catch-22 situation

health tobacco ban

It’s easy to say that there should be a ban on tobacco. But, till the farmers get an equally profitable option, it is a difficult step to take
  • Annual loss of over Rs. 25,000 crore (over Rs. 19,000-crore excise duty and around Rs. 6,000-crore worth of foreign exchange) which accrue to the national exchequer on account of excise duty and export of raw tobacco and tobacco products. 
  • Loss of gainful employment to over 30 million farmers growing flue-cured Virginia (FCV) tobacco in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka and farmers growing beedi tobacco in Gujarat.
  • Closure of around three dozen government offices belonging to the Indian Tobacco Board and Central Tobacco Research Institute (CTRI), employing around a thousand employees.

Lofty promise, tardy action

economy madhya pradesh

The impact of delay in investment implementation is going to cost the State dear, according to an ASSOCHAM report
Madhya Pradesh is centrally located and it is very important from the perspective of the Indian economy. The State’s contribution to India’s GDP at constant price is 4.1 per cent in 2013-14, and which was 3.80 per cent in 2004-05. In terms of the size of the economy, currently the State is ranked 10th amongst the major 20 States in India.

IPS Rebel

ks subramanian

A Communist orientation and an Oxford stint combined to make this IPS officer socially sensitive and pro-poor
KS Subramanian is perhaps the first victim of Hindutva forces as represented by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). It was on November 6, 1966 when he, then a young Indian Police Service (IPS) officer, was attacked by VHP agitators outside the All India Radio (AIR) building in New Delhi.
The Parishad was taking out a procession towards Parliament demanding a ban on cow slaughter and the 1963-batch Delhi-Himachal Pradesh cadre IPS officer, then SDPO (Sub-Divisional Police Officer), Lajpat Nagar, was deployed on Sansad Marg.

Indira vs old warhorses

prime ministers indira gandhi

Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had started with hesitant steps. She had a ‘kitchen cabinet’, composed largely of the earlier members of the ‘Back-benchers’ Club’, who advised a low-key approach. For a time she retained LK Jha as her Principal Secretary. She had respect for his ability, but a major point against him was that he had been ‘too close to Shastri’. Even so, she was not for any drastic changes around her.

For a time, Indira just followed the path chalked out by her advisers and went along with the new economic policies initiated in the days of Lal Bahadur Shastri. She had travelled to the US some months after becoming the Prime Minister.

Victim of rape?

crime amitabh thakur

The concept of burden of proof shifts to the accused, both legally and socially. This is the real threat and danger involved in the crime and herein lies the need for having a relook at the criminal provisions related with it

Life is known to have huge and startling surprises in store for all of us. One such bolt from the blue knocked on our door on January 17 when a journalist from a lesser known newspaper in Lucknow called my wife, saying that a Ghaziabad woman had accused me of raping her and he wanted my wife’s reaction, and mine, to this news.

This definitely was news to us as well—completely bizarre and unthought-of. The story narrated as regards this alleged rape was akin to a political pot-boiler. This woman had approached the UP State Women Commission alleging that some politician got her acquainted with us in Ghaziabad and my wife, Nutan, called her to Lucknow, falsely luring her with the promise of a job.

‘Me too’ syndrome

civil service non-fiction

THE author was a member of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) of the Tamil Nadu cadre from 1968 to 2005. The book deals largely with his experiences as a bureaucrat at the district, State and Central levels. He had further assignments in public sector undertakings (PSUs) during 2005-2012. The use of the term ‘reluctant’ in the title is puzzling. Can an officer be considered to be ‘reluctant’ when he has not only completed, largely successfully, his entire career in government without getting into a major controversy and has gone on to serve in PSUs for five years after retirement? Or, is he to be described as ‘reluctant’ because he resisted political interference in a rural development project during his term as Collector and DM? Or do his experiences of humiliation during a few of his Central assignments or postings justify the description?

Decline in near future?

dr gs sood

The Sensex is fast galloping towards the 30,000 mark, riding on the global environment that is turning less negative and India shining in a world starved of growth. Flush with liquidity unleashed first by the US Fed followed by the Chinese and Japanese and now the European Central Bank (ECB), India is amongst the rarest bright spots experiencing steady rise in growth rate, relative currency stability with steadily increasing forex reserve, declining inflation and interest rates, moderating fiscal deficit, strong reforms push leading to a decisive shift in the policies aimed at giving a boost to public investment-driven macro stabilisation and a potential sovereign rating upgrade. All this has tremendously increased its attractiveness for investors across the world.

Discard the baggage

memory sadhguru

Human memory is the very basis of civilisation. It is the fundamental ingredient responsible for all science, technology and culture on the planet. But this source of empowerment can also become a source of enslavement. Memory is like a doorway. Doors can open, but they can also close. If doors open, you experience them as wonderful. If they keep slamming in your face, they can be horrible.
Mere intelligence cannot produce civilisation. The transmission of memory from generation to generation enables us to build a foundation and forge ahead. Otherwise, we would be doomed to keep reinventing the wheel.

The great Naidu dream a capital like singapore

high & dry

Nara Chandrababu Naidu, Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, is a one-man army in the State. He is also the President of the Telugu Desam Party. In his party and government, there is no No. 2 leader. He is the ultimate boss. Chandrababu Naidu has a profound knowledge of business and entrepreneurship. Most of the MLAs from the Telugu Desam Party are entrepreneurs or belong to prominent business houses of the State. He likes all the best things in life. He is modern and open in his approach. He likes and reportedly has business interests in Singapore. His supporters state that he has a dream to build a new state capital like Singapore. Sources disclose that he is surrounded by town planners and big city developers most of the time, discussing his dream. It is in the public domain that Chandrababu Naidu is one of the richest politicians in the country. This can be gauged from one important fact, whether he is in or out of power, whenever or wherever he travels within India, he travels by a private aircraft along with his trusted ministers or friends. High living and big dreams is the new mantra of Naidu.

Ahead of BCCI election

high & dry

amit shah’s absence costs him presidentship
Cricket is no longer a gentleman’s game. It has always been about the money but that has been exposed only recently. The Supreme Court of India has delivered a historic judgment; it has restrained N Srinivasan from contesting the election of the BCCI due to a conflict of interests. The BCCI is such a fat milch cow that Srinivasan does not want to loosen his grip on it, even if he has to shelve his IPL franchise, Chennai Super Kings. Clearly, BCCI politics is becoming murkier by the day. Sources have disclosed that the government is keeping a watch on the activities of the BCCI. The new BCCI president has to be elected in six weeks. If Srinivasan is not able to control BCCI himself, his group is planning to have its pawn as President. As the Congress regime has gone, things are not as simple for Srinivasan now. The cricket fort is held by Arun Jaitley, Vice President of BCCI, and Amit Shah, President of the Gujarat Cricket Association. Jaitley, being the Finance Minister, is loaded with work and is not the obvious choice for BCCI president. Shah is competent to hold the post and he would have contested and won but fate does not support him all the time. Being the President of the BJP, he has a very hectic schedule and seldom attends the BCCI board meetings. To become BCCI president there is a rule that the contestant should have attended a predecided number of meetings. Shah is short of attendance and is out of the race. It will be interesting to see who luck favours as the chief of this cash-rich sports body.

My way or the highway rp singh on his way out?

high & dry

Nitin Gadkari is gearing up to control the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. Nine months have passed but there has not been much movement. Vijay Chhibber, Secretary of the Ministry, is completely in tune with Gadkari. Sources say that the biggest bottleneck in the smooth running of the ministry is RP Singh, a 1976-batch IAS officer of the Andhra Pradesh cadre, who is unable to keep pace with the government’s ambitious target of building 30 km of highways every day. Singh has worked as a backroom boy in Manmohan Singh’s government and is considered a tough taskmaster. Gadkari wants to speed up the projects of 2013-14; NHAI has been able to complete just 1,436 km of highways as against the target of 7,500 km. Besides, some 28 projects worth `43,918 crore failed to attract bids since 2012. The speed of building NHAI projects is implemented and monitored by the Chief General Managers (CGMs). Most of the CGMs are from NHAI but Gadkari has succeeded in breaking the monopoly as he managed to appoint the CGMs directly from the ministry in January. The way things are taking shape in the ministry, Gadkari will manage to pack off Singh soon.

Rawat’s floating! ramdev is his new friend

high & dry

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat has to save his position by all means. Rawat has been systematically demolishing opposition within the party. His targets are Kishore Upadhyay, President of the Pradesh Congress, and Vijay Bahuguna, former Chief Minister of the State. Upadhyay got the first jolt when his name was cleared for the Rajya Sabha seat but in the end a relatively insignificant former President of the Mahila Congress, Manorama, snatched the coveted seat from him. The last blow by Rawat was in the Cabinet reshuffle, when he inducted some Independents in his government, including Dinesh Dhaney, who had defeated Upadhyay in the Assembly elections. To safeguard his position, Rawat is out to woo all the independent MLAs, whether they are arch rivals of the party leadership or not. A neglected Bahuguna is so upset that he has threatened to launch a massive campaign against Rawat. Bahuguna has warned Rawat that only the Chief Minister has changed in the State and not the ruling party. Rawat, in the meantime, sensing the political urgency, has started developing relations with Baba Ramdev. Even BJP leaders are cautious about Rawat’s moves. He seems to have mastered the art of floating when one is on the chair!

Chhibber’s poll promise the way

The members of Delhi’s elite Gymkhana Club are waiting for the implementation of an election promise made by the current president, Vijay Chhibber. A 1978-batch IAS officer of the Manipur-Tripura cadre, Chhibber made this promise during the elections. Chhibber is currently working as Secretary, Road Transport and Highways. The boundary of the Club is located opposite the residence of the Prime Minister and runs parallel to its front gate. The Land and Development (L&DO) authorities in the Ministry of Urban Development had acquired 3.5 acres of land on the premise of a possible security threat as the club is a public place. The management of Gymkhana went to the High Court to get the land back but the Delhi High Court rejected the case stating that the Gymkhana does not have the right to take a stand on national security issues. During the Club elections, Chhibber did not know what to do, so he promised the members that he would bring back the land once he was elected to office. Clearly, like many Indian politicians, Chhibber is not worried about his election promise now that he has already won the election.

Lavasa’s passion the way

A secretary in any ministry in the Government of India maintains a very hectic schedule. Their day starts at nine in the morning but there is no guarantee of when it will end. If a secretary manages to keep his passion alive in such a schedule, it is truly commendable. Ashok Lavasa, a 1980-batch IAS officer from Haryana who is currently posted as Secretary, Environment and Forest Ministry, is passionate about photography and always spares time to pursue it along with his wife, Novel. The couple has an eye for photography and both understand the subject and the camera well. Lavasa has recently put his passion to good use. He has designed a personalised calendar titled “Footprints of our future”, using Indian wildlife as a theme. The calendar has 26 pictures depicting the couple’s sensibilities. Although the calendar does not mention the time when the pictures were taken, it still gives an idea that the two travel a lot whenever they get time, to see wildlife. Lavasa has the calendars in stock; if you call him you may be among the few who can sample this treasure.

Sanghi’s doldrums the way

Chetan Bhushan Sanghi, a 1988-batch IAS officer of the AGMUT cadre and Chief Secretary of Puducherry, has been transferred as Joint Secretary, Women and Child Welfare. Sources disclose that Sanghi is stressed with the transfer in the Central Government as this post is routine in nature. He wants to get the transfer cancelled by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT). As per the rules, if he does not join he will be debarred from further postings. Chief Minister of Puducherry N Rangaswamy has also written to DoPT, seeking to retain Sanghi for some more time but the DoPT is not amused. The logic given to DoPT is that when KK Sharma, a 1983-batch IAS officer was posted as Additional Secretary in Women and Child Welfare, his posting was cancelled and he was posted instead as Chief Secretary, Goa. But DoPT is in no mood to oblige Sanghi. If Sanghi does not join the designated office and is debarred from future postings, he will face serious problems in his career. There is another twist to this story: other officers are waiting for Sanghi to join as JS. One prominent lady officer in the Delhi government is eager to take his position as Chief Secretary, Puducherry, as soon as Sanghi demits office. Sources disclose that a lady officer, with considerable influence, sitting on Raisina Hill, is eager to help the female candidate. We will just have to wait for the DoPT order and see if it bails Sanghi out or not.

Spying on the boss the way

Working within the government system is becoming a very delicate matter. On the surface, everything looks calm and composed but you will never know who will stab you in the back and one always has to be cautious. If one visits North Block, where the Home Ministry is located, everything seems routine but behind the curtains and closed doors, no one is spared from probing eyes. The corridors of North Block are agog with the latest buzz that one of the senior most officials of an investigative agency, recently reposted, spied on the friends of his immediate boss. It is also quite astonishing that while no one dared to track his immediate boss, he kept a very close eye on the movements and discussions of his boss’s friends on the phone. Now, the immediate boss is also concerned with the only relief being that the officer concerned has been divested of office. The immediate boss’ only worry is that nothing should come out in the public domain before his retirement. Sources say that Home Ministry officials have become cautious after the reported incident and are trying to find a way to evade the investigative agencies’ network, which works under their domain.