gfiles magazine

July 10, 2017

Omita Paul’s new job

Who does not know Omita Paul in New Delhi, she is the Secretary to the President of India till July 25, 2017. She has been one of the most influential civil servants of the decade. She stood by Pranab Mukherjee in his darkest days. It was reportedly Omita Paul who decided who would meet the President. Even for ceremonial functions organised within the premises of Rashtrapati Bhavan, the invitee list used to be decided by her. Pranab will retire on July 25, 2017 and is likely to move to Rajaji Marg, New Delhi. According to reports, President Pranab Mukherjee’s friends are reportedly keen to launch a foundation in his name after he demits office. This foundation is likely to propagate and educate future generations about the ideals which the Mukherjee stood for and will also have fellowships and encourage research papers on foreign policy, defence and energy policy-areas on which Mukherjee has devoted his life. There will be a faculty and many industrialists and business houses have reportedly begun to contribute from their Corporate Social Responsibility Funds. Not surprisingly, Omita Paul is likely to be Chief Executive Officer to drive this foundation. Sources disclosed that another influential official of the President House, Dr. Thomas Mathew, will also work with Paul. Those who know Omita well state that she is very ambitious. Sources disclosed that she was aspiring to be nominated as a Rajya Sabha member but Narendra Modi had not approved of the idea. She had to be content with the transfer of her husband, former Delhi Police Commissioner KK Paul, from Governor of Meghalaya to Governor of Uttarakhand. 

Modi fan

Muppavarapu Venkaiah Naidu is the most important politician in Prime Narendra Modi’s crisis management team. He is holding dual charge of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation and Information and Broadcasting Ministries. As he has been the President of the BJP and Parliamentary Affairs Minister in the Vajpayee government, he has an added advantage of knowing the party, parliamentarians and the government. SO now whenever there is a crisis, Naidu is at the forefront. Modi and he have worked earlier so they know each other’s capacities well. In fact, Modi has visited Naidu’s residence number of times to interact with the party leadership or to attend other social functions. On his part, Naidu is completely overwhelmed and obsessed with the aura, dynamism and technology driven governance of Modi. His other obsession is media. He issues a statement almost on a daily basis and sees to it that it is printed not only in the national papers but in his home state Andhra Pradesh as well. He recently addressed about 100 senior officers from the three ministries at a farewell function hosted by him on the occasion of retirement and transfer of Secretaries concerning three of his ministries. Naidu urged the officials to emulate Prime Minister saying, “Prime Minister is a storehouse of ideas and fresh and innovative thinking. All that he expects from all of us is to think and act differently. By this, what he means is innovation for higher productivity and better results.” Naidu complimented Dr Nandita Chatterjee, who was superannuating, for her contribution to promoting affordable housing; Rajiv Gauba, who is to take over as Home Secretary, for pushing transformative urban reforms; and Ajay Mittal, who is going as Secretary (Personnel), for his good work in the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting. He also welcomed new I&B Secretary NK Sinha and new Urban Development Secretary DS Mishra. 

Donating a day’s salary

When Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje decides to take up an issue, she does it with full enthusiasm and expects the bureaucracy to follow her with full devotion. But civil servants in Rajasthan are very low profile in nature. They seldom take the lead. But there was no option before the state civil servants when the Chief Minister herself ‘appealed’ to civil servants to donate one day’s salary for the government’s programme, the Mukhyamantri Jal Swavlamban Abhiyan (MJSA).
State civil servants had to show generosity and fall in line. Director General of Police Manoj Bhatt did not miss a chance and happily agreed to donate the salaries of IPS officers of the state but the recently superannuated Chief Secretary OP Meena had second thoughts and said a decision would be taken after consultation with IAS officers. But the Chief Minister’s desire is like an order in the state. The Finance Department did not lose time and issued orders to deposit one day’s salary in MJSA fund. You may wonder why OP Meena was hesitant in announcing the one-day salary donation by state civil servants. Meena is at the fag end of his career and retired in June itself. He did not want to be seen as the sole decision maker on behalf of his fellow colleagues. gfiles end logo

Learning from the best

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is working to change the dynamics of the civil services of India. As many as 175 IAS officers of the 2015 batch who are completing phase-II training at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA), Mussoorie, will be joining as Assistant Secretaries in the ministries or departments of the Government of India for a period of three months between July 3, 2017 and September 29, 2017. Earlier, the trainees used to join their respective states as Assistant Collector and their main job was to understand the working mechanism of the districts. It was referred to as bottom to top working pattern of the governance. The Modi government has changed the pattern for last three years. Now, first the probationers will work as Assistant Secretaries in the ministries and then will move to the District Headquarters. All young officers were in Delhi recently to meet the Prime Minister. Modi advised young IAS officers to avoid getting into a mindset that resists change, and fill India’s administrative system with the energy of ‘New India.’ The Prime Minister began by asserting that India has not progressed as much as it should have. He said countries that achieved independence after India, and faced greater resource constraints than India, have touched new heights of development. He said boldness is required to drive change, and added that a fragmented administrative arrangement does not allow the collective capabilities of officers to deliver to the optimum level. He said dynamic change is needed to transform the system. He urged the young officers to interact freely with the senior-most officers of the Union Government over the next three months, so that the system could benefit from the combination of their energy and fresh ideas, and the administrative experience of Secretary-level officers. North and South Block’s senior civil servants are observing the change and hope it may result in a perceptive change among young officers. 

In love with the US

PRIME Minister Narendra Modi’s United States visit is being analysed not only by politicians but among senior foreign affairs mandarins. The dignitaries from the Indian diaspora, who witnessed and attended the ceremonies, informed that they have not seen ever any Indian Prime Minister being given so much weightage in the US administration. As per reports, the security of the Prime Minister was paramount; Pennsylvania Road was completely sanitised and blocked for Modi’s travel. Shalabh “Shalli” Kumar, a Chicago-based Indian-American industrialist and US President Donald Trump’s die-hard supporter, was reportedly a great help in making Modi’s trip meaningful. Modi is so important to the US that Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, personally came to the Willard Intercontinental Hotel to meet Prime Minister of India. The most surprising aspect of the visit was. Melania Trump’s (wife of Donald Trump) presence in the official meeting of the head of the states for four hours. Its learnt Melania reportedly told Modi that she would like to visit India as the First Lady of the US and will keep visiting even as former first lady. The Indian Ambassador of US Navtej Sarna made splendid arrangements for the stay of the Prime Minister and his entourage. It did not deter the Indian embassy to book rooms in Willard Intercontinental Hotel and the Ritz Carlton, though the hotels charged the businessmen who attended the visit of the Prime Minister exorbitantly. 

Chidambaram’s BJP friends

THE Central Bureau of Investigation raided the house of former Union minister Palaniappan Chidambaram and his son Karti Chidambaram in connection with the alleged criminal misconduct in grant of FIPB approvals. Congress leaders are curious and discussing why despite the massive raids and alleged corruption of billion dollars, Karti Chidambaram is roaming scot free as if nothing has happened. Though Chidambaram is a very powerful politician, the Congress Party was tight-lipped on the raids and no leader came out and defended Chidambaram. When he was allotted a ticket for the Rajya Sabha recently, everybody was surprised. Insiders reveal that Sonia Gandhi was reluctant to send him to the Rajya Sabha but Chidambaram ‘intelligently’ convinced the high command and got elected from Maharashtra. Why is the CBI and Directorate of Enforcement so generous with the Chidambaram family. Insiders disclose that Chidambaram is being helped by a very powerful minister of the Modi government. It is being discussed in the central hall that the ‘powerful BJP minister’ is an admirer and impressed with the intellect of Chidambaram. It is learnt that Chidambaram also helped the said minister once when former BJP President Nitin Gadkari’s premises were raided in Mumbai and Pune. In politics, nobody does something for nothing: there’s always a quid pro quo. gfiles end logo

Desperate times

THE Congress Party has reached such a state of affairs because the top leaders (read Gandhi family) do not want to learn anything from past mistakes. For them, it’s business as usual. The crisis is deeper. Most of the senior leaders of the Congress Party appear to be in a depressed mood. It’s not that they are not competent or they cannot motivate the workers on national level. Their real worry is being leaderless and direction-less. But business within and outside the party is not leaderless. It has a leader, Rahul Gandhi.
However, most of the Congress leaders are not able to understand Rahul’s politics and missions. In the face of a crisis, senior leaders are also trying to determine who is the boss of the party. No doubt, Rahul Gandhi has emerged as the face but his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and her husband Robert Vadra command considerable clout in the management of the party and the Congress-ruled states. As disclosed by party leaders, nothing has changed. A new coterie is managing the show even though the working style to manage the party and states is same. The Congress ruled Chief Ministers are the wisest lot and have found a way to manage the leaders who manage the family. As one senior leader pointed out, Robert Vadra is still the boss. Vadra is still in demand by the ruling clique within the party and Priyanka Vadra and Roberts’ words are final as far as the management of the states are concerned. Sonia Gandhi is aware of the complex situation within the family but she is in a fix. gfiles end logo

Too big for his boots

WHEN they ruled Uttar Pradesh, Mulayam Singh Yadav and his son Akhilesh Yadav did not look beyond their immediate families while distributing largesse. One such move was the appointment of Arvind Singh Bisht as the information Commissioner in UP. Who is Bisht? Well, he happens to be the father-in-law of Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav’s adopted son Prateek Yadav. Bisht, a former journalist and former Political Editor, Times of India, considered the appointment a feather in his cap. With the backing of the state bosses and Chief Minister, he reportedly started throwing tantrums in the commission. He became aggressive especially whenever the Chief Information Commissioner Jawed Usmani would proceed on leave. Usmani would give charge to another commissioner but not to Bisht. Ambitious Bisht confronted Usmani, a former DGP of UP. It is reported that Bisht said that being the senior-most, he should be given charge. But the CIC shot off that since all the Information Commissioners had been appointed on the same day, the mere fact that Bisht’s name, alphabetically only, tops the list does not make him the senior-most. Bisht was not amused with the answer and moved the courts, but the latter slammed the door on his face, rubbishing his claims. 
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Art of ‘knowing’

WHY do I invoke Adiyogi or Shiva so recurrently? It is a question I am often asked. The answer to that is simple. It is not because I want to anthropomorphise the divine. It is not because I want to introduce some devious mode of pagan worship. It is not because I want to usher in some Eastern cult.
I invoke him simply because he is vital for our times. And he is vital because there is nothing more important right now than raising human consciousness. We have the tools and technologies in our hands with which we can make this world a paradise, or turn it into a living hell, or obliterate it altogether because of our own capabilities. In other words, we have reached a point where if we do not raise human consciousness, our intelligence and capability is going to work against us. We are racing rapidly towards self-sabotage. How did we get ourselves into this mess? We got here because we developed our intellect at the expense of our interiority.

Turnaround Man

FOR Probir Chandra Sen, his indecision is what landed him into the civil services. Grandson of AN Sen, former judge of the Calcutta High Court, and son of Pratap Chandra Sen, a top executive in Burmah Shell, Probir, better known as PC Sen, had an admiration for the Communist Party of India and the Ramakrishna Mission, but was not fully convinced by either.

Paresh Baruah rings alarm bells

With the demise of SS Khaplang, the legendary Naga rebel who abrogated truce with India in 2015, Indian security agencies have reasons to be worried. Now it will be Paresh Baruah, the reckless ULFA (Independent) boss who will call shots in the entire North-East where militants of different ethnicities have come together to wage guerrilla warfare.

FARMERS’ STIR IN MADHYA PRADESH : Self delusional edifice crumbles

THE farmer stir that claimed six lives in police firing in Mandsaur on June 5 may have petered out, but its aftereffects are still being felt in Madhya Pradesh politics and the government. Aftermath of the stir is manifest at many levels; in farmers’ smoldering anger; in the State government’s desperate attempts to buy their produce at the risk of huge loss to the exchequer; in the Bharatiya Janata Party’s damage control exercise; in resurgence of the faction-ridden Congress. In sum, the farmers’ fury has set the tone for contest between the two major political rivals for the assembly election due in November 2018.

IATA AGM : An Engine of Commerce

by Anil Tyagi & Anish Gandhi

CANCUN meeting is to promote safe, reliable and affordable air transport. We do that for the benefit of the people of the world and to foster commerce through collaboration and cooperation.
This year more than four billion passengers will rely on airlines for safe travel. Sixty-three million people depend on the global air transport system for employment. Aviation underpins $2.7 trillion of economic activity and delivers a third of global trade.

IATA AGM : Business of Freedom

by Anil Tyagi & Anish Gandhi
While revenues are increasing, earnings are being squeezed by rising fuel, labour and maintenance expenses. Finding alternative means to keep flying secure without the inconvenience of the current laptop ban, combating human trafficking, implementing the Carbon Offset and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) and modernising air cargo processes were some of the serious issues on which 73rd IATA AGM deliberated at Cancun (Mexico) in the first week of June 2017. Anil Tyagi, Editor, and Anish Gandhi, Consultant Foreign Affairs, of gfiles flew to Cancun to understand the frank and daring deliberations of International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) 73rd AGM.

Demonetisation hits human trafficking

by Abhishek Narain
Demonetisation scheme announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in November 2016 was aimed, among other things, to hit out at black money, parallel economy and criminal activities. As we cross the six-month threshold, Abhishek Narain analyses whether the decision has impacted the human trafficking industry which thrives on black money and is this move enough to have a long-term impact on the inhuman trafficking activities.

RERA: An Elixir for Real Estate Sector


ON December 8, 2014, home buyers in the NCR (National Capital Region) staged a massive rally at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi against majority of builders operating in the NCR region. Since then there have been multiple protests, petitions and pleas against the realtors or home builders. The main concerns raised by the home buyers while protesting or filing petition are delay in possession, quality of construction, huge difference between promised infrastructure and delivered, diversion of funds to other projects and many more. In addition, the administration also realised that the real estate sector was abuzz with fraudulent builders, promoters who did not have land an were fleecing buyers with pre-launch offers and many more.

IAS Exams : What are we testing?

Agreat number of educated youths in the country aspire to join the Indian civil services and work for the country. For being successful in their efforts, they have to pass through three gateways, namely (i) preliminary examination; (ii) main examination and (iii) interview. Only when they walk through these gates successfully, they can become members of these prestigious services. This article is focused on going through the first gateway of clearing the preliminary examination (prelims for short) and the unrealistic attitude of the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) towards such exams.

NITI Ayog : Where is the transformation?

AT The Economic Times’s Global Business Summit in mid-January 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi clearly laid out his Transformation Agenda. After presenting a provocative poser-“India is a $2-trillion economy today. Can we not dream of an India with a $20-trillion economy?”-he unveiled his ‘doctrine of development’ in lucid terms: “The government must nurture an ecosystem where the economy is primed for growth; and growth promotes all-round development.

MERGER OF OIL COMPANIES : Caught on the wrong foot

Investments depend on risk-taking abilities, especially for spending money on overseas ventures, and autonomy. The State-owned oil companies possess neitherhttp. Vertically-integrated oil majors make sense if these too are handed over to the managements.

Richest Indian on shaky ground

There is a grave danger if there’s over-regulation-it results in a strangulating bureaucracy. But there are pitfalls of under-regulation-it makes those who should be more on their toes to relax and become complacent. In the first, it’s the businesses that suffer; in the latter, it’s the retail investors and poor customers who bear the burden. This is why as India tries to ease the way to do business, she should ensure that the watchdogs are on guard, and don’t abdicate their responsibilities.

From the Editor

Radhakishan Damani is the 17th wealthiest entrepreneur of India. As per media reports, the market capitalisation of his company, Indian Avenue Supermarts Ltd is almost Rs. 40,000 crore (over $6 billion). Nobody would question Radhakishan Damani if his companies were being run professionally and he was earning through legalised operations. gfiles’ cover story by Alam Srinivas tries to understand the operations of Damani and let our readers know how Damani has earned his millions by creating a small business entity.