gfiles magazine

April 9, 2015

From the Editor

The arrival of 2015 observed a new churning on the political horizon of India. Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP outfit captured the throne of Delhi with a thumping majority of 67 out of 70 MLAs. But the subsequent squabble between Kejriwal, Yogendra Yadav, Prashant Bhushan and Prof. Anand Kumar is a sordid saga within a party which professed to bring in swaraj in Delhi and India. This has sparked a debate whether political parties run or dominated by individuals are becoming intolerant of sane voices; whether it is Mayawati, Jayalalithaa, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Prakash Singh Badal, or even the Congress or BJP—all are under the sway of intolerance. This is the beginning of a dangerous trend.

‘Environment is not only about project clearances’

ashok lavasa secretary, moefcc

Ashok Lavasa, a 1980-batch IAS officer of the Haryana cadre, is an MPhil in defence studies, also holds an MBA and is currently Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. He has immense administrative experience in the Ministries of Civil Aviation, Power, Home Affairs, and the Department of Economic Affairs in the central government and in Haryana where he began as SDO, Mahendragarh, and has served as Principal Secretary, Department of Power, and Chairman, Haryana Power Generation Corporation.

El Dorado for sand mafia


mining madhya pradesh

The blatant flouting of the law by the sand mining mafia in Madhya Pradesh is set to get worse with the state government coming out with an even more liberal policy. The nexus between the mafia, politician and bureaucrat is very strong, emboldening the sand mafia even more

by Rakesh Dixit

THE coming days will be marked by hectic activity in the sand mining business in Madhya Pradesh since lease periods of a majority of the state’s 1,700 sand mines have lapsed in March. The state government’s liberal mining policy, announced on March 12, has ensured that the multi-billion-rupee sand mining business attracts more players to the bidding.

Where is it heading?

environment mg devasahayam

With development the buzzword, environmental concerns are increasingly being given a short shrift. A recent government committee report also fails to address the problems besetting environmental governance
Way back in 1894, a report by the State Fish and Game Commissioner of North Dakota cautioned that short-term thinking on environment and narrow monetary motivations might lead to the destruction of the ‘last tree’ and the ‘last fish’.

A systemic rot

probe bureaucracy

The death of IAS officer DK Ravi has revealed the full extent of the corruption that has set into the political and administrative system of the country

by MG Devasahayam

karnataka’s crusader-IAS officer DK Ravi’s murder or ‘coerced’ suicide—yet to be established through independent investigation—has thrown the system into a tailspin and has exposed its rot. Within hours of discovery of the body, hanging from a ceiling fan in the officer’s apartment, and even before an FIR was registered, Bengaluru’s Police Commissioner pronounced it as a case of ‘suicide for personal reasons’. This was endorsed by the state’s Home Minister, KJ George, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and the entire ruling establishment.

Retired, but not tired

surrinder lal kapur

Surrinder Lal Kapur lived a full and interesting life as a civil servant, and he continues to do so even years after retirement
It was sometime in the summer of 1985. Surrinder Lal Kapur, the 1960-batch IAS officer, the then Financial Commissioner (Taxation) in his home state, Punjab, was in Srinagar to participate in a meeting of sales tax and excise officers of the northern zone. He was introduced to a young IAS from Jammu & Kashmir, Sham Singh Kapur.

The farce called electronic media

humour mk kaw

There was a time when Times Now claimed to be the most watched show on television. Arnab Goswami was touted as the most ardently watched anchor. A time came when reams of newsprint were devoted to a close analysis of the reasons for the immense popularity of Arnab’s prime time show, Newshour.
Experts pointed out the reasons for the mass appeal. Arnab was famous for posing a question and then refusing to hear the answer.

Indira’s comeback

prime ministers indira gandhi

The hurriedly cobbled coalition of parties was swept out in 1980 largely because all its leaders were a squabbling bunch of men, who spent nearly all their time abusing one another in public view, unmindful of what it was doing to the people. They took their power for granted.They had finished Indira Gandhi, and with her the Nehru dynasty, never to rise again. Or, so they thought in their wisdom.

An ode to Rahul Sharma

tribute amitabh thakur

He has played his role as a true IPS officer successfully, in periods of acute crisis, without being partisan to one and all
Rahul Sharma was an Indian Police Service officer of the Gujarat cadre, belonging to the 1992 batch, who sought voluntary retirement on November 20, 2014. His request was finally accepted on February 28, 2015. Thus, today Rahul is an ex-IPS officer. At the time of his retirement, he was DIG (armed unit) at Rajkot, Gujarat. Almost all his batchmates are in the rank of Inspector General. In contrast, Rahul was only a DIG, and hence a superseded officer.

nature sadhguru

Spirituality with trees
A question I am frequently asked is, ‘Why is a mystic, a spiritual leader, planting trees?’ 
The reference is to Project Green Hands, an Isha environmental initiative, under which 22.9 million trees have been planted since the year 2004 in Tamil Nadu state. 
My usual rejoinder is, ‘In this tradition, people always attained enlightenment under a tree. I am preparing so many people with the necessary yogic sadhana. But where are the trees?

Slow, but steady

dr gs sood

tHE market is going through a very tricky situation with a lot happening on the policy front, including insurance and mining Bills being cleared and allocation of coal blocks progressing with satisfactory speed, yet the widely held perception of not much happening at the ground level is taking its toll. Though this may be due to a multiplicity of factors—both global and local out playing— the tension between the market participants and the government can be best described in this cricket season as resulting from the former wanting to play a One-Day International and the government having no option but to play a Test match.

New CM for Gujarat?

young & old

anandi ben’s failing health causes concern
Who will be the next chief minister of Gujarat? Don’t be surprised at this question. No doubt, Anandi Ben Patel enjoys a majority and is ruling as a chief minister of the state. She does not have any threat from opponents as long as Narendra Modi remains at the helm of affairs in India. Then why will she be replaced? Sometimes in politics, one can control circumstances but health issues are unmanageable. Sources in Ahmedabad disclose that Patel has not been keeping well. She is fighting an undisclosed serious disease. The top BJP leadership is aware about the health problems of the chief minister and is in the process of relieving her. Under the circumstances, the most prominent name emerging for the coveted post is that of Saurav Patel. He is at present the Minister for  Finance, Energy and Petrochemicals, Mines, Minerals, Cottage Industries, Salt Industries, Printing and Stationery, Planning, Tourism and Civil Aviation, among other portfolios. Some of these are very important departments in the state. Saurav, interestingly, is related to the most powerful business house, Reliance Industries. He is married to the first cousin of Mukesh and Anil Ambani and is the son-in-law of Ramnikbhai Ambani, elder brother of the late Dhirubhai Ambani. With the ongoing corporate war in Gujarat, it remains to be seen if Saurav will be the next chief minister or somebody else will be chosen.

Case of a missing aide

young & old

kanishka singh pays a heavy price
Where is Kanishka Singh now? Kanishka was the most trusted aide of Rahul Gandhi, the heir apparent of Sonia Gandhi. He is a bright young man who studied at St Stephen’s College and did his MBA from Wharton. His father, SK Singh, was a reputed foreign secretary of India. With humble beginnings during the Sheila Dikshit election campaign, he finally joined Rahul’s inner coterie. Kanishka was administrating Rahul’s political activities in his heydays.Most Congress leaders were aware of him and knew his importance but he maintained a low profile. Sources have disclosed that he is out of the close circle of Rahul. How did that happen? It is learnt that when he was all-powerful, he reportedly started asking India’s top industrialists to be in touch with him directly. Within the Congress party, finances are looked after by a very powerful group and it doesn’t like outsiders to interfere. It is not tolerated by Sonia at any cost. She doesn’t want to break the existing system of fund collection and storage of resources. However, even if annoyed by loyalists, the Congress party does not throw them out instantly. Loyalists are transferred and accommodated. Kanishka is thus technically transferred from Rahul and is now Priyanka Gandhi’s assistant.

Better-connected AI

young & old

wi-fi for modi’s plane
As far as VIP travel is concerned, India has a long way to go. There is no dedicated aircraft for the Prime Minister of India. Whenever or wherever he has to travel, an aircraft is spared from the Air India fleet. Thought economical, it has some constraints. The seating arrangement is redesigned every time as per the needs of the passengers whenever the PM decides to travel. The aircraft does not have world-class communication apparatus. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is very fond of electronic gadgets. He spends quite some time keeping track of the party’s activities by using them. Whenever he is in office or at home, he never feels any difficulty in connecting and operating the gadgets. Recently, on one of his international trips, he discovered that he could not operate and communicate during the flight. One of his co-travellers pointed out that most modern aircraft today have wi-fi facilities. He enquired about it and that was enough of an indication to the Air India officials. Sources say it took some time but now any Air India aircraft ferrying the PM or VIPs has the most modern wi-fi system installed.

Economical Khattar

young & old

train travel for this CM
Haryana’s Chief Minister, Manohar Lal Khattar, is a man of simple living and high thinking. So what if he wears varied spanking Modi-style jackets all the time. His predecessor, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, was just the reverse. Hooda used to travel by Mercedes  cars and the like, accompanied by about 100 security personnel, wherever he went. The tiny state had to bear the expenses of a high-flying chief minister. Now, Khattar and his team have adopted economical measures and feel the message should flow from the chief minister’s office itself. It was proposed that the Haryana government buy an aircraft to decrease travel time for the chief minister. The government already has a Kingair 10-seater aircraft. Khattar chose to reject the proposal and told the officials that he would prefer to travel between Delhi and Chandigarh by train and within the state by the official car. In case of urgent work, the aircraft will be used. The officials and the suppliers of the aircraft company are disappointed but the state is relieved that finally Haryana has a chief minister who not only preaches austerity but implements it in letter and spirit.

NDMC needs Chairman the way

The Home Ministry has been searching for a competent officer to replace Jalaj Shrivastva, a 1984-batch IAS officer of the AGMUT cadre and Chairman, New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC). As NDMC chairman, an officer has access to the all-powerful dignitaries who reside in Lutyens’ Delhi. There are many contenders for the coveted post. It’s an additional secretary’s post so many senior officers of the AGMUT cadre are aspiring for this prized position. There are two prominent names in the running. The only issue is that one of the concerned officers has served as principal secretary to Ajay Maken. Another officer who is also trying for the post has served Uma Bharati on her staff. So hectic lobbying is on. It has been learnt that a very senior officer, whose name emerged prominently in the Commonwealth Games scandal, is trying to instal his own confidant, so all the files still lying in the NDMC can be taken care of comfortably. The Home Ministry is facing a dilemma, as whoever it is likely to choose is in one way or another connected to Congress leaders—a natural corollary as the Congress ruled Delhi for 15 years. Home Minister Rajnath Singh has tasked his officials with searching for an efficient officer but they have not succeeded till now. There are many efficient and honest officers in the AGMUT cadre but the point is, does the Home Ministry really need such officers or are they looking for an officer who has the right connections and recommendations? Let us wait and watch.

Marathon meet in Haryana the way

How will one feel, as a senior officer, when he is supposed to sit the whole day to attend a marathon meeting with the chief minister of a state and other Cabinet ministers along with his seniormost colleagues. Obviously, it will be tiring. The new dispensation in Haryana does not care much for the comfort and dipping efficiency of the officers. Haryana officials have not seen such a long session of meetings ever. The Haryana government has never believed in meetings. The trend in the government had been such that the chief minister or the chief secretary would brief the agenda on a one-to-one basis and the respective heads of departments would hold a meeting to implement the briefed agenda. Manohar Lal Khattar, the current Chief Minister of Haryana, has reversed the trend in the last week of March. He called a full-day meeting of the Divisional Commissioners and Deputy Commissioners of Haryana. It was the longest-ever meeting of bureaucrats to discuss the agenda of the state. The meeting is said to have started at 9.30 in the morning and finished at 9.30 in the evening. Bureaucrats were perplexed at the change in attitude of the new government. Though lunch and tea were served, yet sitting for such an extended period was a herculean task. After the meeting, some of the officers were complaining of headaches, backaches and swollen feet. A lady officer, while exiting the meeting, remarked to her colleague, “Why are you looking so fatigued? Just think that we all travelled from Delhi to New York.”  Everybody laughed.

Absence of equality? the way

How is it that the Department of Urban Development in the Delhi government has the most number of Dalit (Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes) officers? It is surprising to learn that the Principal Secretary, Joint Secretary (Municipal Bodies), Deputy Secretary (Administration) as well as the Deputy Controller of Accounts are all from the Scheduled Caste category. Had it stopped here, the officials could understand the focus of the government. But the Special Secretary, Joint Secretary, Additional Secretary (National Livelihood Mission) and also the Joint Director (Planning) are all Scheduled Tribe officers. The Urban Development Department is a very important one as it not only deals with unauthorised colonies in Delhi but also governs the MLA Local Area Development Funds, Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, all Municipal Corporations of Delhi, NDMC and the Jal Board. Nobody is able to pinpoint why all the Dalit officers are being posted in only the Urban Development Department. Not surprisingly,  most of the officers have never lived in Delhi and are not aware of the geographical nuances of the capital. Dealing with unauthorised colonies is the most complex subject of this department. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal should take the initiative and reallocate the Dalit officers rather than grouping them in a single department. 

Alert for CVC the way

The Modi government is looking for a new Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC). We learn that there are 40 serious contenders for the post. The position has been lying vacant since September last year and the Commission is virtually being run by its Secretary, Alok Kumar, a 1984-batch IAS officer of the Assam-Meghalaya cadre. A strong contender is Devender Sikri, a retired 1975-batch IAS officer of the Gujarat cadre. He has served as Secretary, Law & Justice. Sikri has also served in Home and Women and Child Development. His Gujarat connection is an added advantage. Also in the running is Arun Kumar Jain, a 1977-batch Nagaland-cadre IAS officer, retired as Secretary, Women and Child Development. Arun has vast experience of serving in Home, Prasar Bharti and Heavy Industries. His expertise in finance is an additional advantage. Arun is also known for his impeccable integrity. Pankaj Jain, another  contender, is a retired 1978-batch IAS officer of the J&K cadre and former Secretary, Drinking Water and Sanitation. Pankaj is considered a fast-track officer. Vishwapati Trivedi (1977, IAS, MP cadre) who retired as Secretary, Shipping, in November 2014 is also in the race. Trivedi has served in Finance, Commerce, Civil Aviation and Home Affairs. There’s GC Chaturvedi, former Petroleum Secretary (1977) and currently serving as Member, Warehousing Development Regulatory Authority. Then there is Amarjeet Singh Lamba, a retired 1977-batch officer who was appointed Member of Securities Appellate Tribunal (SAT) in 2013. He has also served as Secretary, DONER, and Special Secretary,  Agriculture. One wonders who will be the chosen one! Files are piling up and major decisions have to be taken. So the government needs a new CVC.