gfiles magazine

May 9, 2015


There is popular discontent on the issues of farmers and their lot, land acquisition and proper utilisation of available land. All political parties are anxious to appear as champions of the cause of farmers. The paradox is that none has suggested a concrete solution. The contribution of agriculture to the GDP is approximately 13 per cent, according to data available for 2013, but more than 50 per cent of India’s population is dependent on agriculture.

‘Sheelam Param Bhushanam,’ Modi tells civil servants

You should be proud to tell your grandchildren what you did, affecting the lives of common people by taking decisions in favour of the people, and not be telling them about your material accomplishments,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said to civil servants on Civil Services Day.


For next-gen governance

The celebration of Civil Services Day also saw an exuberant churning of the mind. The cream was churned vigorously and up came the butter after separating from milk. The same was the case with the two-day panel discussions on as many as five topics, including Social Sector, Housing, Employment, Agriculture and, to cap it all, challenges before the civil services in which the crème de la crème participated in the deliberations. Three main points came up during the discussions. One was that skills are of paramount importance in any sector.

Pension jolt

After being dubbed anti-farmer, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government faces the prospect of being branded anti-labour as serious discontent is brewing in central trade unions of the country over changes in labour laws, the proposal to invest part of Employee Provident Fund’s (EPF) incremental corpus of Rs. 6 lakh crore in conventional equity and delay in extension of the Rs. 1,000 minimum monthly pension scheme in the financial year 2015-16.

Money has no colour

In para 102 of the Budget Speech, Finance Minister  Arun Jaitley announced a new comprehensive law on black money to specifically deal with such money stashed abroad. To this end, he introduced a Bill in Parliament titled Foreign Income and Assets (Imposition of Tax) Bill, 2015 [referred to as Black Money Bill in short).

Outwitting Mufti

Sarvanand is the pen name of an astute Kashmiri Pandit who has been a close observer of the mind games being played out over the decades in Kashmir. He was for long in the Intelligence Bureau and was involved in the manufacture of half the tales spun by the mandarins of North Block. Long after he retired, he once wrote a masterful analysis of why the Kashmir problem could never be resolved. He proved beyond a shadow of doubt that all the parties to the struggle, in India, Pakistan and the Valley, were vitally and personally interested in an indefinite continuance of the struggle.

Waning sentiments?

When analysts start talking of India as a good long-term story for five to 10 years, that itself is indicative of what lies in store for the market in the short-medium term. May I ask them if they can predict the political landscape of the country for such a long period, never mind the economy and the financial markets? The market has run up a lot purely on sentiment coupled with a fair bit of good luck—but both elements are seen to be waning fast.

Essence of intellect

We live in times when the human intellect has been given a role utterly disproportionate to its intended function. This is due to the lopsided development of this aspect of the mind encouraged by modern education. On the one hand, it must be remembered that the intellect is crucial for human survival on this planet. You are able to discern a person from a tree only because your intellect is functional. You know that you must walk through the door, not through the wall, only because your intellect is functional. On more complex and sophisticated levels, the intellect has contributed immeasurably to human civilisation and culture.

Land woes

dda to take a call on land acquisition bill

THERE is a land racket bomb in Delhi, allegedly owed to none other than Kamal Nath. On September 5, 2013 (before the DDA’s notification 2687 E), it was decided by the Ministry of Urban Development to allow the land pooling policy where a landowner can surrender land holdings into the central pool and be a stakeholder in the development proposed on the land. In a way, it was a move to take away land jurisdiction from the Delhi Development Authority. Sources disclosed that all powerful Congress ministers and leaders of the Delhi Government aggregated agriculture wherever it was available. Due to the change in the master plan in Delhi, land prices skyrocketed in Dwarka, Najafgarh, Narela and Bawana. The planners were running against time as the 2014 general election was approaching and mandatory approvals had to be in place. According to the reports, the Lt. Governor of Delhi cleared the file this January and sent it to the DDA Vice Chairman. Union Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu is aware of the issue. Naidu has to decide whether Delhi has to make a move on the land pooling policy or not. Whether it is sanctioned or not, farmers who have taken the advance are happy as they are enjoying the luxuries of life without losing their land. The so-called farmer-friendly top Congress leadership is jittery as billions of rupees are at stake. g

Smriti here to stay

minister with the right contacts

MINISTER of Human Resource Development, Smriti Irani, appears to be perpetually in a mess. She is forging ahead on her mission alone but that is not the way of politics which is all about walking together. She does not believe in bowing to diktats.

The television actor must have derived her skills by stealing the show in hit teleserials. No wonder she is a loner. She has been seen exiting the Lok Sabha to stand in the gallery, expecting journos or MP colleagues to greet her. One day, she stood in the corridor of Parliament for half an hour, fiddling with her phone. Surprisingly, nobody disturbed her. According to party sources, Irani is not on cordial terms with either BJP Chief Amit Shah or his confidants. According to the grapevine, there was a plan to remove her from the ministry. Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha was poised to take charge of the Human Resource Ministry but the plan was scuttled from the top at the last minute. Clearly, Irani has mentors in the right places despite being a newcomer in the party. g

New in the Congress

changes highlight shift in thought
THOUGH the Congress has been marginalised in the political system of the country, a fierce war among the top political leadership continues. The top leadership is aware that it will take time for Rahul Gandhi to make an impact, and till then it is important to retain key positions in the party hierarchy. This became evident at the Kisan Rally organised in April by the Congress at Ramlila Maidan. The permanent stage manager, Janardan Dwivedi, was conspicuously absent from the podium.

Digvijay Singh emerged as the leader of the show. Ashok Tanwar of the Youth Congress, Ajay Maken, Pratap Singh Bajwa of Punjab, Jairam Ramesh and Gulam Nabi Azad are some of the prominent faces that have emerged as the new team of Rahul. Capt. Amarinder Singh did not speak at the rally. Despite Bhupinder Singh Hooda’s efforts to bring whatever crowd he could muster, he was not given much prominence.

Manmohan Singh and AK Anthony know much about the party and as well as 10, Janpath, so they were given due respect. The veterans within the party are noticing a perceptible change and sensing an intense wrestle even in these days of oblivion. g

Whose Haryana?

brewing discord between cm and cabinet

MANOHAR Lal Khattar has been a simple social worker who enjoyed his life working with the RSS for 40 years. He had never dreamt of becoming chief minister of a state as volatile as Haryana. Politics has its own intrigues and it does not spare anybody. Sources say the central BJP leadership is introspecting on whether the party has committed a gaffe by appointing Khattar as chief minister. There is no clarity on how and by whom the government is being run. The BJP leadership of Haryana does not know what to do. Haryana has a great advantage as a central office for any political party but Khattar is far from being able to handle issues. BJP President Amit Shah and Khattar appear to be at loggerheads. Shah desires fast-paced delivery of the political agenda in the state which is not happening. Khattar has to deal with cabinet colleagues who openly defy him. Anil Vij, Health Minister and close confidant of Shah, never hides his animosity towards Khattar. Ram Bilas Sharma, Minister for Transport and a BJP veteran, has his own traits and ambitions. The shrewdest of all is industrialist and Finance Minister, Capt. Abhimanyu Singh, who is also close to Shah. Singh is a politician to watch out for in Haryana. He has recently announced an excise policy that has resulted in whisky and beer in Haryana being more expensive than in Delhi. There is a lot of discussion over the reason for the increased price. Who is patronising Singh? There’s much to look out for in pot-boiling Haryana. g

No family time

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has advised bureaucrats to spend quality time with family as the government needs humans in offices and not robots but state governments seem to be disregarding his advice. A number of newly married civil servant couples have been unable to get cadre transfer, and are living in separate states. Afsana Perveen, 2014 batch, J&K cadre, requested an inter-cadre transfer to the Kerala cadre on grounds of her marriage to Jafar Malik, 2013 batch. A letter intimating the present status of the case along with copies of the letters sent to the state government have been issued to Perveen. Dinesh Kumar, IAS, 2013 batch, Manipur-Tripura cadre, applied for inter-cadre transfer to the Andhra Pradesh cadre on the grounds of his marriage to his batchmate, Vijaya K. It is learnt that Kumar’s vigilance clearance was denied because of default in filing IPR for 2014. Similarly, U Swaroop, 2011 batch, West Bengal cadre, sought an inter-cadre transfer to Tamil Nadu while Dr Kadambari Bhagat, 2010 batch, Nagaland cadre, applied for inter-cadre transfer to the Maharashtra cadre on the grounds of marriage to Balkwade Shailesh Unmesh, a 2010-batch Maharashtra cadre IPS officer. Sources disclose that the request has been rejected as the officer sought transfer from the home state. Nidhi, 2013 batch, West Bengal cadre, IAS, sought an inter-cadre transfer to the AGMUT cadre on the grounds of marriage to Devesh Kumar, 2012 batch, AGMUT cadre, IPS. The comments of the state governments concerned have not been received. Swati Srivastava, 2012 batch, IAS, Chhattisgarh cadre, applied for inter-cadre transfer to the Uttarakhand cadre on grounds of marriage to Nitin Singh Bhadauria, 2011 batch, IAS, of that cadre. No approval from the government of Chhattisgarh has come as yet. Killu Siva Kumar Naidu, 2011 batch, Manipur-Tripura cadre, IAS, applied for an inter-cadre transfer from the Manipur-Tripura cadre to the Telangana cadre on the grounds of marriage to Chetana Mylabathula, 2013 batch, Telangana cadre, IPS. The state government is silent till now. Riju Bafna, IAS, 2014 batch, Chhattisgarh cadre, applied for an inter-cadre transfer to the Madhya Pradesh cadre on the grounds of marriage to her batchmate, Avi Prasad. The government of Chhattisgarh did not issue a No Objection Certificate to the officer on account of paucity of IAS officers. Surprisingly, the Chhattisgarh government conveyed a “No Objection” to the inter-cadre transfer of her spouse, Avi Prasad, to Chhattisgarh. g

Khattar’s dual support

When Manohar Lal Khattar took over as Chief Minister of Haryana, he had virtually no experience in governing. It was a peculiar situation as he had not even appointed a Principal Secretary. It is an important post in a state government, working like a bridge between the Chief Minister’s Office and the state. Sanjiv Kaushal, a 1986-batch IAS officer of the Haryana cadre, has now been appointed to the position. The BJP has come to power for the first time since the inception of Haryana, so it was a new challenge all the way for everybody to run the state. The polite, humble and suave Kaushal is managing the show well. But it is really tricky to manage the state single-handedly and naturally there were murmurs. So Khattar brought in another sharp, intelligent and hardworking young IAS officer of the 1988 batch, Haryana cadre, as Additional Principal Secretary – Rajesh Khullar. The latter was working as a Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Finance. Now the state’s responsibilities are vertically divided between the two efficient secretaries. Politicians and officers who were reluctant to approach Kaushal are approaching Khullar. Khattar is also happy as there are more inputs on the table from both sides. One definitely learns the art of ruling as time passes! g

The new boss

Civil Services Day, celebrated in April this year, was quite different from earlier celebrations. There were new faces and a new thrust. The Secretary, Department of Administrative Reforms, Alok Rawat, and Special Secretary Arun Jha were in full command, managing the show with finesse. Being the seniormost among civil servants, Cabinet Secretary AK Seth was present most of the time and was seen observing and instructing wherever needed. Amitabh Kant, Secretary, DIPP, Navtej Sarna, Secretary, External Affairs, Saurabh Chandra, Secretary, Petroleum, Sanjay Kothari, Secretary, DoPT, and Madhav Lal, Secretary, MSME, were actively participating and interacting with fellow colleagues. The real power centre with the change of guard was PK Mishra, Additional Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister. A retired 1972-batch IAS officer of the Gujarat cadre, Mishra was sitting in the front row and closely observing the proceedings. Most of the top bureaucrats were seen whispering to him. Some of them were seen waiting quietly for their turn to just say hello or introduce themselves to the new boss in the set-up. Mishra politely listened and met everybody patiently. He kept a very calm, humble and low profile during the occasion. g

Legal loopholes

There is simmering tension between the judiciary and executive due to the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC). There seems to be a deep-rooted disconnect within the new dispensation in its plan for NJAC. Some facts: The UPA1 and UPA2 regimes had a very cordial relationship with the judiciary. It has been a merit versus seniority debate for the appointment of judges. With the new Act in force, a six-member committee will have a final say for the selection of the judges. Political observers and analysts say this is possibly happening due to the country’s top realty tycoon, DLF. Soon after the new dispensation took over the reins of government, the Supreme Court on August 28, 2014, instructed DLF to pay a `630 cr fine. On February 26 this year, DLF and its non-independent directors—KP Singh, Rajiv Singh, Pia Singh, TC Goyal, Ramesh Sanka, GS Talwar and Kameshwar Swarup—were fined `26 crore each by Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI). The fine has been imposed for non-disclosure of material information in the company’s offer documents during its Initial Public Offering (IPO). This is the same IPO which was challenged by an NGO in 2007. The ruling dispensation seems to be aware of the Machiavellian moves of DLF. g