gfiles magazine

December 17, 2016

From the Editor

Who will be the President and Vice President of India? What will be the future of 690 MLAs in the upcoming five state elections? Who will replace the late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa? Will West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee be the face of a United Opposition? What will happen to the Congress? Will it be relevant in Indian politics or move to oblivion under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi? Will the AAP party be able to emerge as an alternate to the Congress? Will Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar jettison Laloo Yadav and move closer to BJP? Will the Opposition parties be united under one umbrella? What will be the impact of demonetisation on the economic scenario? These are all serious questions, answers to which will unfold in 2017. Apart from being remembered for the impact of demonetisation, 2017 is likely to be the most volatile year of the decade.

Puzzling silence

In the foreword to the White Paper on the ‘State of Law and Order in Delhi’ that was released to the media recently, the Managing Trustee of the NGO Praja says, ‘There is a crisis brewing in Delhi, a crisis that this city is becoming unlivable for the common men and women’. And, ‘this white paper for crime is a reflection of all that has gone wrong in Delhi’.‘How long will this go on? What will it take for the Government to act? We need to see our elected representatives taking active and constant interest in on issues of Law and Order. Till this is not done we will continue to see a slide towards lawlessness in Delhi’.I have always been intrigued by a universal paradox of democratic functioning of governments that the persons elected by popular vote in free and fair elections are totally insensitive to the wishes of the same people who voted for them.

Dare to deliver

THE meaning of governance, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is the action or manner of governing a State, organisation, etc. But the ten-letter word takes hundreds of connotations when gfiles, the undisputed leader in the print and digital segment of the media catering to governance and bureaucracy, decides to cull out the best performers from among the civil servants across the country and honour them. It becomes the means to reach the poorest of the poor using science, information technology and whatever other tools available. It turns into a channel to accomplish the pending projects at the earliest, earn revenue from the completed ones and plan new projects for the future. It becomes the time value of different commodities which are a bare minimum for the common man and time value of money set aside for a project. It becomes the method of chalking out priorities on how to serve the hoi polloi. To borrow one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s favourite phrases, it becomes ‘minimum government, maximum governance’.

Dissecting ‘Demonetisation’

Demonetisation is not the end but the beginning of a ‘long, deep and constant’ battle against black money and corruption and will benefit the poor and the common man.” This is what Prime Minister Narendra Modi told his Parliamentary party colleagues soon after pulling 86 per cent of cash out of circulation through this draconian measure putting India’s labourers, small-traders and farmers to immense misery resulting in over 100 deaths so far. The loyalists hailed it and passed a resolution endorsing his “great crusade!”Let us take a reality check on the state-of-our-nation.

Pain in vain

Black money has been a matter of concern since decades. The governments of the times have been taking action on black money, its extent and how its proliferation can be checked. For this, a number of committees have been appointed-Wanchoo Committee, Choksi Committee, Chelliah Committee, Parthasarthy Shome Committee, Kelkar Committee and a Black Money Panel in 2011 to prepare a white paper on black money. This issue was also entrusted for study to three premier institutions of the country-National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), National Institute of Financial Management (NIFM) and National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP)-but their reports have not been placed by the UPA and NDA governments in public domain for reasons best known to them.

Show of Strength

The deadly attacks on strategic military establishments by Pakistan army in Pathankot, Uri and the series of border violations, shelling of civilian targets, cover firing for sneaking terrorists are indications of not just hostile acts but a serious breach of our national security mechanism. While India has successfully retaliated and inflicted heavy cost on Islamabad, that alone is no reason for New Delhi to let the guard down. Border security and all other aspects of external security are a significant yet a fraction of the larger national security and strategy planning. National security is a multi-dimensional concept primarily concerned with ensuring comprehensive national strength and, in the process, gaining toe-hold in the strategic sphere, hitherto lost or not obtained in the first place.

Gita : good governance models

To understand, analyse, interpret and adopt good governance models, we need to imbibe lessons from the Bhagavad Gita which is an ism-neutral, religion free treatise on management, relationship management and welfare economics. To move on the ladder of success with morality, opulence, victory and empowerment (MOVE), we need to believe that Lord Krishna and Arjun are with us-the message is called Eka Sloki Gita (the last sloka 78 of Gita in 18th chapter-yatra yogeshvarah Krishno yatra partho dhanur-dharah tatra srir vijaya bhutir dhruva nitir matir mama). It is pertinent to mention that people around the world know Kurukshetra for the Mahabharata war whereas we have to promote Kurukshetra as a place to have the first ever university on the planet. The basic objective of this university is to impart the knowledge which has been provided by Lord Krishna in the form of the Bhagavad Gita.

‘Who? Me? Prime Minister?’

With Vajpayee’s exit, the country was once again back to the question: ‘Who’ll be the next Prime Minister?’The non-Congress, non-BJP parties was trying hard to find a Prime Minister. Laloo Yadav wanted the top job so desperately that he virtually gave up chief ministership and Patna to camp in Delhi, regardless of the city’s climate. But with only 20 MPs from Bihar his claim was considerably weakened.The Janata Dal had done much better in Karnataka; besides Laloo had a big opponent in Mulayam Singh Yadav who could not let another Yadav beat him to the prime ministership. Mulayam campaigned with the Left, Harkishen Singh Surjeet in the main, to sabotage Laloo. He is scam tainted (the first fodder scam disclosures had begun to come in the last days of the Rao Raj), Mulayam told the Left, besides he has treated the Communists with disdain in Bihar.He even split the CPI.

Not yet tired

Surendra Singh, a mathematics post-graduate from Allahabad University, had made up his mind to join the civil services early in his life. India had won her independence only about six years before he went to the university. The ability to contribute to nation building of the newly independent country drew him to this decision. Other options, like joining the corporate sector, did not appeal to him. Moreover, his father Sumer Singh, an engineer educated at Thomson College of Civil Engineering (now Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkie), knew what the IAS stood for and was in favour of him trying for the elite service. “All of us in the family agreed that I should try to join the civil service,” the 1959-batch Uttar Pradesh cadre IAS, who in August 1994 rose to be the Cabinet Secretary, the highest administrative post in the country, recollects.

Opportunity to buy

The Prime Minister who believes in inclusive growth with “sabka saath sabka vikas” not only gave those hoarding black money more than one chance to declare it but has also given investors, who missed the bus, yet another opportunity to enter the market at attractive valuations post the correction witnessed due to demonetisation. Since most analysts are of the opinion that demonetisation will be very positive for the economy in the long run, those entering the market with a time horizon of 3-5 years can expect decent returns from equities. However, there is a general consensus that economic activity will take a hit for at least 3-6 months slowing GDP growth considerably thereby increasing volatility in the market with a downward bias.

More than a dream

Much importance has been given by New Age spirituality to dream and dream states. Unfortunately, dreams are often interpreted today in ways that are deeply life-restricting and life-damaging. Modern psychologists seem almost to suggest that man can live without sleep, but not without dream! And yet, the word ‘dream’ means that which is not true. The whole purpose of yoga is to work towards a state of dreamlessness or sushupti-a state where you are so aware that you are incapable of dreaming.Dream in the yogic view does not merely refer to dreaming when asleep, or awake. Instead, one’s very psychological framework is regarded as a dream. Your thought process may feel intensely real and seductively lifelike-even more than reality-but it has no existential basis. So your whole experience of life is, in a sense, a dream. The word ‘maya’ means that you are not seeing life as it is.

Adding wings to files

haryana cm draws the line
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal seems to have learnt how to traverse the intricate world of government and governance. His confidence in ruling Haryana with vigour and authority has increased manifold after November 1, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised his working in Gurugram. Manohar Lal and his team of advisors have analysed the reasons for delay in implementing government decisions after ruling the state for two years. It was found that any file has the following steps: first, it goes to the Chief Secretary and then the Minister, and last of all, it reaches the Secretary of the concerned department. It was suggested to Manohar Lal that the files should not go to the Ministers as most of the decisions are taken by the cabinet, so the ministers have already consented to the decisions. So, it was decided that the file should go directly to the head of the department for implementation. This has created a furore among the ministers as most of the time they are not aware of the decisions and they can’t stop the file as the orders have been issued directly from the Chief Minister’s office. Even the secretaries are baffled, as now the onus of implementing the order lies on them. It has yet to be seen whether implementation has really geared up or not.

Realignments on the anvil?

jaitley may move to external affairs
In politics and war, everything is possible. So hold your breath. There are rumours in the market that firebrand advocate and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley may be shifted to the Ministry of External Affairs. Jaitley has both admirers and adversaries. His adversaries have reportedly suggested to Modi that demonetisation is a wonderful scheme but it’s implementation by Jaitley has created chaos across India. The rumour of his shift is an old one but it has gathered momentum as Subramaniam Swamy and renowned advocate Ram Jethmalani are advocating his removal. As Sushma Swaraj, Minister of External Affairs, is not keeping well, she may remain a minister without portfolio and Jaitley will take over. Who, then, will be the new Finance Minister? If insiders are to be believed, Piyush Goel is likely to take over as the new finance minister. Though he belongs to the Jaitley camp, his performance as a minister has been outstanding. The only apprehension about his elevation is that he belongs to a very powerful business school of Mumbai. Piyush is an old RSS hand and his father Ved Prakash Goel was BJP treasurer. Insiders report that the shifting of Jaitley from Finance to External Affairs suits Modi to convey that Jaitley could not manage the demonetisation though the scheme was good. So far, Jaitley has been a survivor against all odds. Given his influence and grip on the party and government, it’s to be seen how he manages.

Towards a cashless society

modi bent on realising his dream
Narendra Modi is determined to implement demonetisation in both letter and spirit. He desires that all the tools of the government should work day and night to make India cashless. He has drawn up a master plan to depute the political leadership to convince the people of India that demonetisation is meant to ameliorate the condition of poor people. He has called two meetings consecutively in a week; suggested all cabinet ministers move to their constituency and monitor the implementation of demonetisation. He wants all ministers to make their ministry cashless. Prakash Javdekar and Manohar Parrikar have already doing so whereas others are trying to face the challenges. His main focus in one Cabinet meeting was Delhi and that too the business centre of Chandni Chowk. He talked to Harsh Vardhan, Minister of Science of Technology, who represents Chandni Chowk parliamentary constituency. He advised Harsh Vardhan to tour Delhi and make Chandni Chowk the first constituency of India to be cashless. Simple and hardworking Harsh Vardhan just shook his head in affirmation without uttering a word. One cabinet minister informed that Modi has a fascination for gadgets and he constantly motivates ministers to shift to the electronic age. The entire, experienced cabinet listen to their Prime Minister very patiently.

Pay for your dinner

cash ban puts jaitley in a fix
Demonetisation has not only created anxiety throughout India but NDA’s Members of Parliament are also perplexed by Narendra Modi’s master stroke, with many expressing their anger over the move. The Prime Minister is keeping watch on the discussions and activities of fellow Parliamentarians. Sources inform that five top-ranking ministers have been assigned to organise a dinner with BJP MPs where he and Shah will be available for informal discussions. Each dinner will have 50 MPs. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has been assigned to organise one such dinner. Jaitely appeared to be worried as he narrated the scenario himself. He briefed one journo that his wife and he had withdrawn Rs. 24,000 each. “Caterers are refusing to receive a cheque, how I can arrange a dinner of 50 people in Rs. 48,000,” asked Jaitley. Clearly, even the Finance Minister is feeling the heat. It will take time before parliamentarians are convinced about cashless transactions!

Who will be CBI chief?

Who will be the new Director of Central Bureau of Investigation?  The present incumbent Anil Sinha has retired. The 1984-batch IPS officer of the Gujarat cadre, Rakesh Asthana, has been handed over temporary charge. Will he be the new boss of the investigative agency or will he remain ad hoc till the new incumbent takes over the reins.  If everything goes by the rule book, the new Director has to be selected from 1979-batch IPS officers. Delhi Police Chief Alok Verma, DGP Maharashtra Police Satish Chandra Mathur, Bihar Cadre IPS officer Krishna Chaudhary, and BPRD Chief Meeran Chandra Borwanrkar are all from the 1979 batch and looking for the opportunity to serve. The selection of the new chief is done by a committee comprising the Prime Minister of India, Chief Justice of India and Leader of Opposition. The CJI is retiring on January 3, 2017 and Justice JS Khehar will be the new Chief Justice of India. So, it appears the selection of the new CBI chief will not be completed before February-March 2017. Asthana can also continue as he is a time-tested, competent officer. He has the confidence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah. He is the officer who investigated the Godhra massacre. His professionalism can be vouched for in the way he has investigated the Agusta Westland helicopter deal. But, this is just one of the key appointments coming up in 2017. Also getting vacant are the posts of Director Enforcement and CBDT Chairman. All these posts play an important role in implementation of good governance and are key tools in the hands of present regime.

Vox pop

Most civil servants are very busy these days. They don’t have any holiday on Saturdays and Sundays. Under Modi, a government order can come at any time. Now, demonetisation has made life even trickier. Modi sent 61 top-ranking civil servants to 27 states to get first-hand accounts on the Centre’s demonetisation policy and prepare reports on it, suggesting corrective measures in the last week of November. In the course of their field trip, most of the civil servants were flooded with complaints. What they have submitted to Modi is not known. Insiders inform that the situation in the field is very severe. As per sources, the North East was the most affected part of India. In general, the rural areas were the worst hit. As one officer informed, new currency notes reached after 10 days of demonetisation in many rural areas. One senior civil servant informed that rural India has shifted back to the barter system. Another important aspect which emerged was that B town has done brisk business in currency exchange while another disclosed that some bank managers scored big.

Open secret

As per the Government, nobody had the clue about demonetisation. On November 8, a gazette notification was issued by the Department of Economic Affairs signed by Dr. Saurabh Garg,  which stated, “Whereas, the Central Board of Directors of the Reserve Bank of India (hereinafter referred to as the Board) has recommendedthat bank notes of denominations of the existing series of the value of five hundred rupees and one thousand rupees (hereinafter referred to as specified bank notes) shall cease to be legal tender; Para 4 of the Notification states that “Now, therefore, in exercise of the powers conferred by sub-section (2) of section 26 of the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934 (2 of 1934) (hereinafter referred to as the said Act), the Central Government hereby declares that the specified bank notes shall cease to be legal tender with effect from the 9th November, 2016.” Clearly, the RBI had full knowledge about the demonetisation as its own Board had reportedly passed a resolution to that effect.  The RBI had not uploaded any such resolution on its website till the writing of this news. The RBI Board has 10 members. Apart from RBI Governor Urjit Patel and three Deputy Governors, Secretary (Economic Affairs) Shaktikanta Das and Secretary (Financial Services) Anjali Chib Duggal there are four other independent directors-banker-turned- economist Dr Nachiket M Mor, who has worked with Wipro of Azim Premji; Natarajan Chandrasekaran, who has been serving as the CEO and MD of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS); Bharat Narotam Doshi, Chairman of Mahindra Intertrade Limited; and Sudhir Mankad, who is Chairman of Gujarat Institute of Desert Ecology Bhuj, Indian Institute of Public Health, Gandhinagar and Vice President of Charutar Arogya Mandal, Karamsad. He is a member of Board of Governors of Navrachna University, Vadodara. He assists and advises Pratham, Gyanshala and America India Foundation in their work in the education sector in Gujarat. He is currently serving as a member of the Committee to formulate the New Education Policy. So, some eminent people knew about demonetisation well before it was announced. It would not be wrong to say it was an open secret.

Murmurs in Parliament

The UP-cadre IAS officer of 1978 batch was appointed the Secretary General of the Lok Sabha Secretariat in the rank and status of Cabinet Secretary. Lok Sabha Secretary-General Anoop Mishra, former Chief Secretary Uttar Pradesh, was given a one-year extension on the last day of November giving rise to murmurs. Even when he was appointed in 2014, there were many contenders but the Prime Minister personally chose Mishra. Senior officers also hint that with this single move, the future of in-house available talent has been blocked. The Lok Sabha Secretariat has many competent officers who were aspiring to be the Secretary-General. The selection of Secretary General is normally done by a committee comprising the Prime Minister, Speaker and the Leader of Opposition. But, an extension does not require a meeting of all three as it is considered a routine matter. So, only the Prime Minister decided on Mishra’s extension. Even otherwise, if one has the right connection in the PMO, who can stop the extension. Sources disclosed that with this move, the chances of Secretary of Lok Sabha, Dr D Bhalla, a 1986-batch IAS officer of the Nagaland cadre, have brightened. The only hindrance is that Bhalla is not even additional secretary rank officer till now; his file for promotion is pending with DoPT. There are many additional secretaries in line of succession and their files are pending for promotion with the Speaker, Sumitra Mahajan. On her part, Mahajan is in a bind. If she promotes other senior officers, then the chances of Bhalla becoming Secretary-General will be bleak. Wait and watch.