gfiles magazine

June 12, 2017

BJP’s mega media exercise

It was indeed a mega media PR exercise, the biggest ever conducted by the BJP. The context was Prime Minister Modi’s completion of three years in office on May 26, 2017. It is needless to say, that the BJP is at a peak, having captured majority of the States besides ruling at Centre with total command. It was cause for celebration. The BJP conducted a two-day-May 27 and 28-media show highlighting the achievements made by the Modi regime during the last three years. The venue was the government-owned Ashok Hotel in the Capital, with BJP Chief Amit Shah calling the shots and holding informal consultations and interactions with the who’s who in media.

Vaghela taking stock?

Narendra Modi and his political aide Amit Shah, the master blasters of the politics of check­mate, are learnt to have finalised plans for their Gujarat sweep. Indications from Gujarat are that the polls in the State may be advanced and held before the tenure of the current government is over. Sources say many top Congress leaders are making a beeline for the saffron party. The grapevine has it that stalwart state Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela is extremely upset with the party, and not only refuses to attend any party rally or function, but he did not even meet Rahul Gandhi when the latter visited the state recently. Apparently, then Rahul took the initiative to meet Vaghela.

Coup sabotaged by a driver

It is well known that in the old days, the greatest source of information were barbers, drivers and cooks. But apparently, this holds true even now. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal went through such an experience lately when his minister Kapil Mishra was almost on the way to carry out a coup d’├ętat against his government. As narrated by AAP leaders, the story goes something like this: Just before the Delhi Municipal Elections, the self claimed poet Kumar Vishwas released a video tape alleging a self-centred leader was surrounded by sycophants.

Removing a judge

On April 20, 54 Rajya Sabha members gave a motion notice to Vice President and Chairman of the Rajya Sabha Hamid Ansari demanding impeachment proceedings against the present Justice CV Nagarjuna Reddy of the High Court for Andhra Pradesh and Telengana. The allegations against the judge vary from nepotism to corruption, disproportionate assets of wealth and interfering in the judicial process.

Shake up or shake down

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and the Indian Foreign Service have long been seen as silos, sometimes criticised at home as aloof and elitist. Yet peers view the IFS as among the best diplomatic services. Though MEA has a very cordial and respectful atmosphere among the officers but the manner in which new Ambassadors and High Commissioners are being appointed has created some heart burn among senior IFS officers. It appears S Jaishankar, Secretary Ministry of External Affairs, is taking every step swiftly. Some of these new appointments are: Ms. Vani Sarraju Rao (IFS: 1994), currently Joint Secretary has been appointed as the next Ambassador of India to Finland. Jaideep Mazumdar (IFS: 1989), currently Joint Secretary has been appointed as the next Ambassador of India to the Republic of the Philippines. The appointment of Vinay Mohan Kwatra (IFS: 1988), as the next Ambassador of India to France has surprised many. Ms. Pooja Kapur (IFS: 1996), currently Joint Secretary has been appointed as the next Ambassador of India to the Republic of Bulgaria. President Pranab Mukherjee’s Press Secretary Venu Rajamony, (IFS: 1986), has been appointed as the next Ambassador of India to the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Mukta Dutta Tomar (IFS: 1984), currently Additional Secretary has been appointed as the next Ambassador of India to the Federal Republic of Germany. Nepal has always been very important for India. An Indian Ambassador plays a vital role in bilateral relations. A very senior officer Manjeev Singh Puri (IFS: 1982), currently Ambassador of India to Belgium has been appointed as the Ambassador of India to Nepal. Subir Dutta, (IFS: 2003), currently Ambassador, Embassy of India, Madagascar, has been appointed as Ambassador to the Union of Comoros with residence in Antananarivo. In MEA corridors, officers whisper that the new ambassadors, high commissioners are part of the restructuring of young and experienced officers by Jaishankar.

Raids strike fear

Gone are the days when IAS officers were relaxed and convinced that nobody can dare to touch them. There have been income tax, CBI, and Enforcement Directorate (ED) raids on the premises of IAS officers in Noida, Kerala, Maharashtra, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh. Surprisingly, the agencies have dug out stashed cash in millions, properties, luxury cars, and jewelry. After the raids on Hriday Shankar Tewari in Noida, UP IAS officers are living in fear. There are many IAS, IPS officers who have earned millions when they served in the Akhilesh Yadav regime. Most of the corrupt, dishonest and incompetent IAS, IPS officers’ names are in public domain in Lucknow especially that of a lady secretary in the PWD department. Also raided was Rajiv Arora, a 1987-batch IAS officer of the Haryana cadre, in connection with the money laundering probe in the `1,500-crore alleged illegal land acquisition in Gurgaon’s Manesar area. The other officials raided by ED include Surjit Singh, Chief Town Planner and Director Planning of the HSIIDC, and retired IAS officer DR Dhingra, who served as Director of Industry and Commerce in Haryana government. The Bihar government has, meanwhile, issued show-cause notices to over a dozen IAS officers and District Magistrates, asking them under whose permission they left the headquarters to participate in a meeting on February 26 and form a human chain outside Raj Bhavan. The officers have been asked to respond within three days. Over 50 IAS officers, including secretaries of several departments and District Magistrates, had protested against the arrest of Bihar Staff Selection Commission (BSSC) chairman and senior IAS officer Sudhir Kumar in connection with the question paper leak scam. All these incidents have impacted the morale of even those officers who are hardworking and upright.

In Gupta’s defence

There is widespread anguish among serving and retired civil servants on the issue of a two-year jail term for retired coal secretary HC Gupta along with two serving IAS officers-KS Kropha, 1982 batch IAS and former joint secretary in coal ministry and current Meghalaya chief secretary, and KC Samria, 1993 batch IAS and the then director in coal ministry-in coal block allocation case during the UPA regime. Not only the IAS Association but most of the senior secretaries are analysing the impact on the day-to-day working within the government. Anil Swarup, a 1981-batch IAS officer of the UP cadre and Secretary, Department of School Education & Literacy, has expressed his opinion on social networking sites. Mr. Swarup raised a fundamental issue of governance, “The interpretation of the system of working of committees as apparently interpreted in this case, implying that Chairman is personally responsible for all aspects of the functioning of a committee as also it’s decisions, will strike at the root of the system of governance in this country, starting from the functioning of the Committee of Secretaries downward.” Swarup further defended, “Shri Gupta’s integrity, competence and sense of what is right, combined with his innate morality, modesty and generosity, have made him a role model for many a public servant. This is the reason for the widespread sense of disbelief that a person like him could be placed in a position, which has driven him to take this extreme step of opting to go to jail.” Some IAS officers said publicly, if Gupta could go to jail, “then most of us should be behind bars”. Further, former Chief Election Commissioner and Gupta’s batchmate Dr SY Quraishi tweeted: “HC Gupta is one of the most honest officers who lived like a sadhu. Pained to see how he is being treated.”

Perplexed civil servants

There has been discussion in the civil services over the so-called 360 degree profiling that the Modi government has opted for where feedback from colleagues plays a critical role in promotion and appointment of officers. And of late, civil servants serving with Central Government are perplexed by the way the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) is issuing orders about the appointments of secretaries to the Central Ministries. The procedure till now was that each month, the DoPT appoints secretaries whenever the senior batches are exhausted and/or a vacancy arises. Currently, IAS officers from the 1978 to 1984 batch are serving as secretaries. Senior officers have observed that some 1982 and 1983 batch IAS officers are still serving as Special Secretaries and Additional Secretaries and are waiting for their postings as Secretary. But DoPT has just appointed 1984 batch IAS officer of the Uttar Pradesh cadre Dr. Anant Kumar Singh as Secretary Textiles. The Modi government has opted to break from tradition in selecting its next set of secretaries by opting to empanel officers from the 1984 and 1985 batches in one go. For instance, 17 officers from the 1984 batch have been empanelled as full­time secretaries, while there are 20 from 1985. In contrast, 31 made it as secretaries from the 1983 batch, while another 11 were given secretary­ equivalent grade. From the 1982 batch, 28 officers had become secretaries when the first list was released, and eight were given the rank and pay of secretaries. In the past, the norm was to appoint those with less than two years of service to posts that were secretary ­equivalent. This time, however, the government has opted to designate some with just around 18 months to go as full­time secretaries, while some officers who have three­ years to retire will serve the remainder of their tenure as “secretary­ equivalent“, running the risk of reporting to their juniors in the years to come.

For a seamless life

MUCH has been written about how the world perceives a guru. The modern world is capable of both extremes-ardent devotion at one end and open hostility at the other. But how does a guru perceive the world? I was once asked this question at a satsang. The answer is simple. When I am walking down a street, I am capable of seeing everyone around me as a regular person-the way everyone else does. But when I sit as a guru, I don’t see any people at all. I see just outcrops of earth within which I see just small puffs of energy.

Typist to a tycoon

AN adolescent, whose family was reduced to penury due to the unfortunate partition of India, with a 10th pass certificate and typing skill, landed in a shabby port town. The rag to riches story of this gentleman perfectly matches with that of the town where he landed. A one-street town devoid of all the present attractions and facilities is today’s shining modern city Dubai and the adolescent, an office assistant of ITL, is now its co-owner. Yes, he is none other than Ram Buxani, the former chairman of the India club and IndusInd bank.

UTTAR PRADESH : Making the State investor friendly

UTTAR PRADESH is the most populous state in India, with a large pool of skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled labour. Alternately, the population is also looked upon as the largest consumer base in the country with approx. 223 million people. It is the largest producer of foodgrains among all States in India and accounted for about 18.39 per cent share in the country’s total food grain output in 2015-16.

Border woes

I was The Hindu Pakistan correspondent from July 5, 2000, to May 25, 2006. It was on May 25, 2006, that I took my flight from Islamabad to Lahore, returning to India at the end of nearly six-year-long meaningful, intense and a truly historic phase in the history of ever turbulent, religious and secular life in Pakistan. The period was chaotic and terrific for Pakistan after the United States of America made a determination that it was the forces commanded by Osama Bin Laden

GST roll out : Will it impact the common man?

ALL sections of media in the country are currently engaged in the process of making an assessment of what has been achieved by the Government in three years of its being in office. Though three years’ time is not a long time for judging the performance of any Government, yet having voted in the present Government with lot of hopes and aspirations the people are keen to know how far their expectations have been met or are in the process of getting fructified!

Digitalising farm market?

The Government of India (GoI) is working on creating a common agricultural market that will improve the lot of farmers and the efficiencies of India’s notoriously inefficient farm-produce markets. A model law to reset the way agricultural markets operate is in the making. It proposes to replace existing fragmented and over-regulated markets for agricultural produce and allow farmers a wider choice of markets beyond the local mandi or wholesale markets.

Demonetisation and terror financing

The ‘Demonetisation’ scheme announced by Prime Minister Narender Modi in November 2016 was aimed, among other things, to hit out at terrorist funding. As we reach the six month threshold, Akanksha Narain analyses whether the decision to replace the existing 500 and 1,000 rupee notes from circulation has impacted terrorism funding and is it enough to have a long-term impact on terror funding and militant activities, especially in a scenario where terrorist encounters are a frequent occurrence even today.

Can we retain Kashmir?

TODAY, more than ever before, people are asking the million dollar question: Can India retain Kashmir? And it is strange that the question is being asked during the prime ministership of Narinder Modi, the most astute head of government that we have had in a long, long time. When Modi assumed office, he made a number of moves that seemed to augur well for a relationship with our neighbour that would provide a dominant role to India.

Dialogue, the only way out

ASHMIR’ has been and, in all probability, will remain India’s perpetual ‘work-in-progress’ in the foreseeable future. Lack of political imagination/will, both in New Delhi and Srinagar, has more to do with it than any of its other factors, including inherent volatility in the valley’s ground situation or the menacing Pakistan dimension of the festering problem.

Kashmir: Spinning out of control

With even schoolchildren coming out to protest on the streets, the situation in Kashmir is the worse than the one prevailing in the militancy hit 1990s. Making the situation worse is the Centre’s abhorrence to involve those forming the middle ground in the Valley and the PDP-BJP State government’s inability to resolve their differences. This has resulted in misgovernance, giving rise to a situation which is being merrily cashed in on by separatists and pro-Pakistan elements.

From the Editor

IS India heading for a war with Pakistan in Kashmir? Will there be a solution to the Kashmir problem? India has been waiting for long to find a way out of the labyrinthine puzzle that the ‘Kashmir problem’ has posed for nigh seven decades and has only become more complex with every passing one. It’s been a year since Burhan Muzaffar Wani, a Hizbul Mujahideen commander, was gunned down by the Army in its counter-terror operation. The valley responded with anger that hadn’t been seen in recent decades despite the continuing stalemate in solving the problems of Kashmir.