gfiles magazine

March 10, 2015

From the editor

Everybody was surprised when the Prime Minister of India landed at Safai in Uttar Pradesh last month. Narendra Modi takes every step very cautiously; so which strategy is the Safai visit part of? He went there to attend the tilak ceremony of Tej Pratap Singh, MP, and a grandnephew of Mulayam Singh Yadav. The live TV coverage of the ceremony was watched around the country. Why he attended the festivity has not been answered by the media-savvy PM. The Bharatiya Janata Party, under the leadership of Modi, had grabbed 73 of the 80 parliamentary constituencies of Uttar Pradesh in the last Lok Sabha elections. While he was touring the state, Modi had said in the election rallies that the “Baap-bete ki sarkar nahin chalegi”. UP voters saw Modi as a colossus who can emancipate them from Yadav clan rule in Uttar Pradesh.

Vyapam woes for Shivraj

Cover Story
recruitment scam

Arguably, February 2015 has been the blackest month in the political history of Madhya Pradesh for several reasons. For one, on February 25, the embattled Shivraj Singh Chouhan government facilitated safe passage for tainted Governor Ram Naresh Yadav by a state plane from Bhopal to New Delhi a day after an FIR was lodged against him for forgery in the forest guard recruitment test conducted by the Professional Examination Board (PEB). For another, the very next day, the ruling party’s brute majority ensured scuttling of the budget session barely four days after its commencement and a day after the Budget was presented.

Back to R

field report bureaucracy

Secretaries with the Centre visit the place of their first posting to record changes over the decades and submit their recommendations to the state governments
On January 22 this year, when Ashok Lavasa, Secretary, Ministry of Environment and Forests, visited Mahendragarh, an arid town in South Haryana where he served as Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) from 1982 to 1985, he could barely recognise the place. It hardly matched the ‘frozen-in-time image’ he had had in his mind all these years.

For one, government employees who worked in the SDM office then, had retired. The building which served as his office in Maratha Fort had been abandoned. A water-harvesting structure in Madhogarh Fort, built by a Rajput ruler in the 18th century, about 12 km from the town, had dried up and undergrowth had left no trace of the 30-feet rainwater pool it once held. To top it all, the town, which only had 14,000 people in the 1980s, had bulged to over double.

Importing a nuclear albatross?

nuclear deal mg devasahayam

There has been no sign of any nuclear renaissance or revival in the US, but nuclear multi-nationals along with the US government persist in pushing it down the throat of energy-starved India and our government is playing ball
The Indo-US nuclear jugalbandi (duet)commenced in July 2005 with then US President George Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signing an agreement in Washington, DC, under Section 123 of the US Atomic Energy Act, 1954, to facilitate India importing nuclear reactors from the US despite not being a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

Will Kindle curb spying?

security shubhabrata bhattacharya

History seems to be repeating itself in the corridors of power in New Delhi. Three decades back, as Rajiv Gandhi was trying to usher in a new paradigm of governance based on his massive parliamentary majority, several spy cases rocked the Central Secretariat. Now, the Naya Daur regime of Narendra Modi, the first leader after Rajiv Gandhi to enjoy a clear mandate in Parliament, has come under the cloud of spying. In 1985, the spying was triggered by foreign interests and mainly centred around the Defence Ministry. Now, in the aftermath of the 1991 reforms, the spying is no longer of global ramifications alone, it has a ‘Make in India’ tag—corporate entities are trying to gain a competitive edge by ferreting out sensitive information.

Terrorism dilemmas

security ak jain

A genuinely responsive administration is the first line of defence against terrorism and it is in this regard that the State has to strive to move forward decisively

As it threatens to strike at the very roots of India’s unity and internal security, ‘terrorism’ has indeed emerged as the biggest challenge faced by the Indian State, comparable to that posed by corruption, poverty, unemployment and income disparities. Social and economic pressures, frustrated political aspirations and the machinations of inimical forces across the border have all contributed to the terrorist reservoir. Unresolved ethnic and religious conflicts have also been leading sources of terrorism. The virulence of terrorist activity has only increased and spread to more and more regions with every passing year. And today its impact is literally at the doorstep of about every citizen in every region and in every major city or township of this country.

Baby and the bath water

project arun kumar

The new government would be ill-advised to abandon all the projects, programmes and work done earlier. They should not be scrapped unless they have proved to be unsustainable
The needs of the country and people are centred mainly on security issues (internal and external, food, water and power), social welfare programmes like health and education, housing, employment, improving income levels, infrastructure and so on. Governance is about maximising the welfare of people and meeting these needs. Every party prepares and peppers its election manifesto with promises of meeting these concerns for garnering the largest numbers of votes in its favour. Many of the promises in reality amount to only improving the delivery status of ongoing schemes and projects,

City Architect

brijesh kumar

Greater Noida has Brijesh Kumar to thank for its roads, green spaces and garbage management
When Brijesh Kumar of the 1968 IAS batch, Uttar Pradesh cadre, passed out of the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, India was going through a period marked by shortages. Cement would be given on permits. Vanaspati ghee and fertiliser were in short supply. Even sugar would only be distributed through ration cards. The steel frame of India had powers to issue permits for cement, ghee and other essentials.

Was Mother Teresa a proselytiser?

religion debate

These were the pearls of wisdom mingled with hatred that RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat dropped while inaugurating an orphanage and a women’s home in Bharatpur the other day: “Here we will not provide service like that rendered by Mother Teresa. It is possible that her kind of work was good, but there was a motive behind that service. It was to convert those she served to Christianity.

Defaulters make merry

nsel investigation

Despite the arrest of IIFL Commodities director Chintan Modi, Anand Rathi Commodities director Amit Rathi, Geofin Comtrade director CP Krishnan, there are still many defaulters like Jagmohan who are roaming scot free. Jagmohan used the money to build an empire and is still enjoying the luxuries of life
Jab ishwar hai saath to dar kahe ka (When God is with us, why be afraid). This is the ringtone of the mobile phone of Mohan India promoter Jagmohan, who is embroiled in the Rs. 6,000-crore National Spot Exchange Limited (NSEL) scam. It is now almost 21 months since the NSEL scam was exposed. Unfortunately, there has been no action by the government against defaulting borrowers, who had taken money from the Exchange and are not returning it.

Mother Teresa and all that

humour mk kaw

The latest remark by the RSS chief that Mother Teresa‘s sole motive in the so-called service of the poor was a desire to convert them to Christianity has sparked off yet another needless controversy. This is singularly unfortunate, because such comments tend to project a strangely unfamiliar face of Hinduism which has hitherto had a highly tolerant attitude towards religious debate and discourse.

One of the earliest encounters of the Sanatana Dharma was with the Parsis. These adherents to Zoroastrianism had to run away from their native Persia because of trouble there. When they arrived by ship in what is modern Gujarat,

Emergency years

prime ministers indira gandhi

Between midnight and the early hours of June 26, 1975, Indira Gandhi closed down the world’s largest democracy. Most people awoke to a hot, sultry and oppressive day, like most summer mornings in Delhi, not knowing that the course of history had changed while they slept. On the radio, Indira Gandhi was telling a dazed nation, in a voice gone shrill, about the “deep and widespread conspiracy” which had forced her government to act. The “plot”, she intoned, “sought to negate the very functioning of democracy...How can any government worth the name stand by and allow the country’s stability to be imperilled?”

I the Minister, I the Trustee

accountability amitabh thakur

The government has every right to distribute largesse but it must be through fair, transparent and equitable measures

There is a Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar Shodh Sansthan in Rampur in Uttar Pradesh, situated in the midst of the city. This Shodh Sansthan was established in the year 2005-06 with the assigned purpose of primary research to remove obstacles hindering the successful completion of social, economic and educational programmes, for incorporating a practical approach in development works for minorities, formulating projects for socio-economic development of Muslim communities, and so on.

Look for quality

dr gs sood

Markets and Modi both witnessed correction in view of AAP’s landslide victory in Delhi. The markets, though, soon recovered, expecting the Delhi result to put further pressure on the Central government to speed up the reform process. Expectations of a market-friendly Budget was yet another reason. However, the short-term outlook may remain tense due to the lacklustre Q3 performance of the corporate sector and global factors, but the medium and long-term views remains decisively bullish.

The Economic Survey clearly points to this fact when it observes that “India has reached a seat spot—rare in the history of nations—in which it could finally be launched on double digit medium term growth trajectory”. It forecasts a growth rate of up to 8.5 per cent for FY 15-16, making India one of the fastest growing major economies, surpassing even China.

The ultimate union

yogic culture sadhguru

In yogic culture, there are two aspects to Shiva. The word ‘Shiva’ literally means ‘that which is not’. Everything that is has come from ‘that which is not’. If you look up at the sky, you will see many stars and celestial objects, but still the biggest presence out there is a vast emptiness. It is in the lap of this No-thingness that the dance of creation is happening right now. This emptiness, which is the very basis of creation, is referred to as ‘Shiva’.

Another dimension of Shiva is Adiyogi, the first yogi, who opened up the incredible science of yoga for humanity. Yogic culture moves seamlessly from invoking Shiva as the basis of creation to invoking Shiva as the first yogi.

Sidhu’s sixer

sense & sensibilities

a way with words
After doing 52 rallies in the Delhi Assembly elections, the firebrand BJP leader, Navjot Singh Sidhu, was travelling from New Delhi to Mumbai in the executive class of a private airline.

Filmstars Saurabh Shukla, Raza Murad and AAP leader Gul Panag were also on the flight. Sidhu is usually well-dressed but it is easy to see that he is superstitious. The fingers of his right hand and wrist are covered with ruby, sapphire and coral rings and bracelets. Apart from this, there are many threads in different colours also tied on his right wrist. Perhaps unprecedented fame fills a man with trepidation.

While de-boarding, a passenger suggested that he should focus on Punjab now since the Akalis are in an appalling situation. Sidhu immediately retorted that the Akalis’ rule was draconian and they should be removed at once. Panag, the famous actress and now AAP leader, came and wished Sidhu. She said that her father had asked her to convey that he felt Sidhu deserved to be the next chief minister of Punjab. Sidhu lost no time in congratulating her for doing so well in Delhi and said that the day the BJP gives him  charge of Punjab, he will invite her to join his party. Panag did not know where to look after Sidhu’s sixer.

Khattar sense

sense & sensibilities

cm silent on vadra land deal
What does Haryana have in store for Robert Vadra, the husband of Priyanka Vadra Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi’s daughter? Nobody knows. Vadra, as per sources, is in possession of land beyond the prescribed limits of the law. Sources say that he has possession of 157.5 acres, which is in contravention of the law, and in the given circumstances, the state government has the power to confiscate the entire property. Our sources on the fourth floor of the Chandigarh Secretariat have disclosed that the complete file of Vadra’s land deals was submitted to Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar for further action. The file has not been returned to the officers yet with Khattar’s recommendations. In the meantime, the Haryana government is planning to institute a committee headed by a retired High Court judge to investigate all disputed land deals in Gurgaon and Faridabad. With respect to Vadra, the government remains mute. Finally, the Khattar government seems to have learnt the art of ruling the state.

New spokesperson for Congress

sense & sensibilities

grapevine abuzz with anand sharma’s name
The question facing the Indian National Congress is: Who will be the new spokesperson? Ajay Maken has been appointed president of the Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee, which has led to a vacuum in the All India Congress Committee office. Many prominent names have surfaced. At the top of the list are Manish Tiwari, Anand Sharma, Jairam Ramesh and S Jaipal Reddy along with Kapil Sibal. It is to be seen whether Tiwari will accept the post or not. Ramesh is close to Rahul Gandhi but he does not have a grassroots-level liaison with journalists. Sibal has gone back to the courts for his legal practice and does not have time. Sharma is a good speaker but his tantrums are intolerable. Even the AICC staff is unhappy with him. Jaipal Reddy is a seasoned politician and has vast experience in understanding the newspaper industry and journalists. He is considered among the old guard of the Congress. The grapevine has it that, in all probability, Sharma will be the new spokesperson. If that does happen, the already beleaguered Congress party will have tough days ahead.

Mayawati’s many addresses

sense & sensibilities

the bsp is the ticket to home
Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati has a penchant for properties and solitaires. She started her career from a small house in Inderpuri, Delhi, but today is the owner of a number of properties worth millions of rupees across India. She has three bungalows on the posh Gurudwara Rakabgunj Road in Lutyen’s Delhi—Nos. 12, 14 and 16. She has managed to get the approval of the Urban Development Ministry for merging the three bungalows into one, defying all norms. She was allotted bungalow No. 4 on Gurudwara Rakabgunj Road for her party office and bungalow No. 3 on Tyagraj Marg as the party president of the BSP. The Tyagraj Marg house has recently been given a facelift and one can only admire the new decor. She bought a property which houses the Bahujan Samaj Trust office at 11, Sardar Patel Marg from the famous Sadia Dehlvi. She already has two prominent properties in Connaught Place. Recently, she has bought a beautiful property at 7, Jorbagh. It is located opposite the Safdarjung Madrassa. A 1,100-square-yard bungalow, it has a unique location, given its proximity to the Metro station as well as Safdarjung Airport. It has been learnt that the property was sold for Rs. 150 crore by the owner. Mayawati has put up a board, declaring it a ‘camp office’ of the Bahujan Samaj Party. Now we must wait for a palatial building with big elephant statues outside the gate.

Doval’s hand the way

There was a time during Manmohan Singh’s regime, when a majority of the bureaucrats in the ministries were either Kerala-born or of the Kerala cadre. Former Cabinet Secretary KM Chandra Shekhar and Principal Secretary TKA Nair were instrumental in playing a pivotal role in this. But the dominance of the Kerala cadre did not last long. With AK Seth coming in as the new Cabinet Secretary and Pulok Chatterjee appointed as the PM’s Principal Secretary in UPA1, UP cadre officers got a chance at their place in the sun. Again, the game has changed with the new government. But the most powerful secretaries still come from Kerala. National Security Adviser Ajit Doval is from Kerala and so is the new Intelligence Bureau chief, Dineshwar Sharma. The unceremonious exit of Home Secretary Anil Goswami, sources disclosed, led to discussions  in the PMO on who should succeed him. Everybody had their own candidates. Petroleum Secretary Saurabh Shukla was said to be the front-runner. But Doval was for the Rural Development Secretary, LC Goyal, a Kerala-cadre officer. And, of course, Goyal was appointed the new Home Secretary. Everybody in the PMO knows that Doval means business.

No crime to seek a bribe the way

Here is fresh evidence of how the culture of bribery has got entrenched in the three Authorities of Noida (Noida, Greater Noida and Yamuna Expressway) over the years. We heard it from the horse’s mouth. A few years ago, one of the home secretaries of the Uttar Pradesh government, who then reported to the Principal Secretary (Home) in Lucknow, was registering his property in Greater Noida at the Authority. As happens so often in such cases, he was told to pay a bribe for smooth and expeditious registration. The suggestion infuriated the officer. “How could an employee ask me for a bribe?” He complained to the top brass in the Authority and insisted on suspension of the employee who had asked for the bribe.  The employee was identified and given a dressing down. But the officers higher up were in no mood to place the employee under suspension. They assured the home secretary that his work would be done without a penny of a bribe and at express speed, provided he forgave the employee and withdrew his complaint. “He was prevailed upon to withdraw his complaint,” a retired top Authority officer recounted to gfiles.

Prasar Bharti will not change the way

That Prasar Bharti is in a mess is known to everyone but the fact is that the situation is so precarious that one hand does not know what the other is doing. It is a bizarre situation in Prasar Bharti. Neither is the public exchequer being used for upgrading and upscaling of what appears on the TV screen nor are they aware of their tax liabilities. In the latest instance, it has been found that Prasar Bharti has paid `100 crore as service tax when the tax had already been paid to the CBEC. When this was discovered, rather than taking immediate action, a routine approach was adopted by sending a letter to the CBEC for a refund. It will take months to get the money back. When gfiles asked the CEO for a response, he, in turn, told finance department personnel VAM Husain, Prerna Sood and VK Choubey to reply. We are yet to receive any reply. Had this been a private organisation, the CEO and the CFO would have been sacked on charges of financial laxity. However, in Prasar Bharti, both the CEO and the CFO are continuing with their roles from the Parliament Street office, unfazed.

Paper leak the way

The leaking of sensitive papers from government offices has created a furore among senior bureaucrats in the ministries. Five officials have been tasked with cleansing the system within the government. Ajit Doval, National Security Adviser, Ajit Kumar Seth, Cabinet Secretary, Dineshwar Sharma, Director, Intelligence Bureau, Rajinder Khanna, Chief of the Research and Analysis Wing, and BS Bassi, Commissioner of Delhi Police, are working in tandem to nab the culprits. The latest reports suggest that Doval is driving the surveillance operation and major infrastructure in ministries to sensitise officials about files that hold importance for Modi’s economic reforms. Sharma is working actively to expose the rot in various other ministries. This exposé was started due to the adjudication of the Panna-Mukta and Tapti oil and gas fields of Reliance Industries in 2011. If insiders are to be believed, Reliance Industries was informed of the developments but one of their higher officials did not pay heed. Finally, Cabinet Secretary Seth decided not to circulate sensitive documents to ministries in advance. He has put in place a mechanism to circulate the papers just an hour before meetings to prevent leaks. It is learnt that Seth plans to do away with hard copies of Cabinet notes by handing over a tablet to each Union Minister containing soft copies before the meeting.