gfiles magazine

August 21, 2017

Haryana reposes faith in IAS

When Manohar Lal Khattar took charge of the Haryana administration as the Chief Minister, he appointed loyal workers of his parent organisation, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), in 22 district headquarters as coordinators. One can see these low-profile RSS workers in each of the Deputy Commissioner’s offices. Khattar’s bottoms-up approach in terms of administration is yielding results. The Road Transport Authorities are a den of corruption. On the basis of the reports of the new coordinators, the government decided to clean up the system. The Chief Minister’s flying squad raided many RTA officials’ residences and offices and found evidence of massive corruption. Immediate action was taken; some were suspended. The RTAs were headed by Haryana Civil Services (HCS) officers. In a sudden move, Chief Secretary DS Dhesi issued an order that the Additional Deputy Commissioners-cum-CEO, DRDA, of each district shall hold the charge of Secretary, Regional Transport Authority, in their respective districts, in addition to their present duties, with immediate effect. Apart from this stern action against the corrupt RTAs, Khattar has authorised District Collectors to disburse up to rupees one crore for any contingency payments, including non-payment or delayed salaries of district employees. The stern action of the government is a clearly a message to the Haryana civil servants to mend their ways so as to re-impose faith in the civil services.

Love thy neighbour

A Chief Minister of a powerful state of India is in trouble, and his raison d’ĂȘtre is his Pakistani girl friend. It is learnt that the India’s security agencies have cautioned the Chief Minister about the friendship, and the woman’s interference in the state’s internal affairs. The movements of the glamorous lady journalist are being tracked closely by sleuths in New Delhi. Reportedly, the intelligence agencies tracked the Pakistani to a five-star hotel in the Capital. As it routinely happens, politicians and civil servants who contacted the women at the hotel were marked, and their names filed. Several state politicians and civil servants are aware about the influence that the Pakistani lady has on the Chief Minister. For example, middlemen and favour-seekers meet her regularly. After detailed and long observations, intelligence officials are learnt to have clearly told the Chief Minister that if this intermingling continues, the state government may be dismissed by the Centre. The capital city of the state is agog with rumours of the dalliance and, hence, the CM’s advisors have initiated a damage-control exercise. But little do they know that love is blind. Who cares about the state government’s survival?

Lessons of Life

IT was a house and family commitments that more or less brought Vinod Vaish into civil services. Son of Nihal Chand Vaish, a Barrister at Allahabad High Court, Vinod was interested in science and was supposed to join Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) as a scientist at Trombay after completion of his education. 
“Raja Ramanna, then head of the Atomic Energy Commission, visited Allahabad University in 1961 when I was studying in BSc. I was selected for a scholarship and supposed to join as a scientist. The department had even asked me to sign a bond,” Vinod recollects, sitting in his drawing room. House was the factor that finally kept him away from joining the AEC. His father had passed away when Vinod was only 14 years old, leaving him to fend for his mother. The house they lived in was on rent and the landlord filed a case in 1964 seeking its immediate vacation.

Dressing down of the Chief Secretary

Tt’s becoming difficult for civil servants to do their jobs in the government. Gone are the days when no one dared to question their behaviour and dress sense. Civil servants lived life king size. If one happened to be the Chief Secretary of a state, everybody tended to fall in line. However, over the past few decades, the clout of Chief Secretaries has weakened as Chief Ministers of respective states now view themselves as CEOs. The latter want their Chief Secretaries to behave like rubber stamps. Anjani Kumar Singh, Chief Secretary, Bihar, and a 1981-batch IAS officer of the same state’s cadre, faced a peculiar situation when he recently appeared before the Supreme Court of India. He was summoned by a bench comprising Justice J Chelameswar and Justice S Abdul Nazeer to explain why the state government had delayed filing an appeal over a property dispute for four years and 23 days. Before Singh could reply, the Supreme Court immediately reprimanded him because of what he wore. The bench was offended by his black trousers and band-gala coat. They asked him whether he treated his political boss in the same manner, and whether he showed the same disrespect. The court felt that government officials should show respect for the judiciary, like they do for constitutional posts. “Would you tell us how you treat your CM? Do you go to the meetings in an informal dress? If not, then how can you come in court wearing informal clothes? This is not the way to come to the highest court of the country,” the bench observed. Singh tendered an unconditional apology for not maintaining the dress code. It’s surprising that Anjani Kumar Singh forgot the lessons he learnt during his academy days. In the academy, it’s taught how a civil servant should dress for official duties. This is a message to all civil servants to be careful while appearing before the Supreme Court and those who hold constitutional posts.

Chief Justice Dipak Misra

On 26th July 2017 Justice JS Khehar recommended Justice Dipak Misra’s name as his successor, and the 45th Chief Justice of India. The former retires on 27th August 2017. As is the procedure, the Law Minister wrote to the Chief Justice, and sought his recommendation on his successor. In response, the CJI recommended the name of Misra, who will retire on 2nd October 2018. The recommendation and appointment cleared the fog and smog due to a protest letter against Justice Misra written by the International Council of Jurists (ICJ). Adish C Aggarwala, president, ICJ, argued that Misra’s appointment would “severely compromise the independence of the judiciary.” This was because of a decades-old CSE judgement, which questioned Justice Misra’s actions. Insiders reveal that the government however was firm and was not in a mood to relent or disturb the legal apple cart. Justice Misra’s biggest challenge will be to deliver the judgement in the Ram Mandir-Babri Masjid case. He has often been described as a “pro-citizen judge” because of his judgement on its own motion vs State, wherein he held that FIRs should be uploaded on the Delhi Police website within 24 hours so that the accused can download the same and file appropriate applications before the Court for redressal. Justice Misra mandated the playing of the National Anthem before the screening of films in cinema halls. He was also a part of the seven-judge bench of the Supreme Court that convicted the then Calcutta High Court judge, 
Justice CS Karnan, for contempt.

Kovind’s new secretariat

The moment Ram Nath Kovind was elected the President of India, the Prime Minister’s Office, without losing time, appointed the officers in the President House’s secretariat. Everybody was surprised as no one was given any time to lobby for the coveted posts. The way these official were appointed, it shows the foresight of the PMO. It has been a long journey for Sanjay Kothari, a 1978-batch IAS officer of the Haryana cadre, who has become Secretary to the President. He belongs to a middle-class family and has seen many ups and down in life. A simple, warm, and affectionate civil servant, he is hard working, and has a passion for details. He has survived the transition of power at Raisina Hills. He has served as Secretary, DoPT, which is considered an important post in the PMO. He directly served the Prime Minister, and his direct boss, Thakur Jitendra Singh, the Minister for DoPT. Kothari is also considered to be close to PK Misra, additional principal secretary to the Prime Minister. He was appointed as the Chairman of the Public Enterprises Selection Board, and succeeded former Cabinet Secretary, AK Seth. It was a tough choice to find a successor for Venu Rajamony, an efficient IFS officer and former Press Secretary to the President. But the choice of Ashok Malik as Press Secretary to President is an appropriate decision. Malik is well known in the media fraternity and has worked with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the 2014 parliamentary elections. Malik was Distinguished Fellow at Observer Research Foundation (ORF, is a Mukesh Ambani-controlled policy think tank). He was the head of ORF’s Neighbourhood Regional Studies Initiative. Another confidante of the Prime Minister, Bharat Lal, has been appointed Joint Secretary. Lal, a 1988-batch officer of Indian Forest Service, was serving as Resident Commissioner of the Gujarat government between 2010 and 2014. During the period, he was Modi’s pointsman in Delhi. In 2014, he was a serious contender for the post of Joint Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office.

Amit Shah’s assets grew 300 per cent

BJP’s President and the new Rajya Sabha member, Amit Shah’s assets grew by 300 per cent between 2012 – when he last filed an Election Commission affidavit as part of his nomination paper for the Gujarat assembly election – and 2017. In addition, the Textiles and Information and Broadcasting Minister, Smriti Irani, clarified in her EC affidavit that she had not completed her Bachelor of Commerce course. Both news items are significant. While the phenomenal rise of Shah’s wealth was surprising, Irani’s declaration was no less. In her 2014 declaration to fight the Lok Sabha election, when she stood against Congress’ Rahu Gandhi in Amethi, Irani claimed that she was a graduate. Under the column, educational qualification, she wrote ‘BCom, Part 1, School of Correspondence, Delhi University, 1994’. She gave the same information in her affidavit for election to the Rajya Sabha in 2011. Curiously, in her affidavit for the 2004 Lok Sabha election, when she stood from Chandni Chowk, Delhi, she said that she was ‘BA, 1996, Delhi University, School of Correspondence’. She seems to have corrected the mistake now, and has gracefully accepted that she is just 12th pass. Both the news items were however, treated in a completely different way. The news about Shah was uploaded by several media organisations like the Times of India, Economic Times, Navbharat Times and DNA on their websites, only to be removed later. This despite the fact that the information was authentic with the details available on the Election Commission website. This seems to be a new trend in the media; even the factual pieces are killed. The respected media organisations didn’t disclose the reasons behind their decisions.

Haryana election under Khattar’s leadership

MANOHAR Lal Khattar’s government in Haryana celebrated 1,000 days of the BJP rule recently. It’s a big achievement for both the Chief Minister and party. The latter earlier played a supporting role–akin to be being a political crutch–to other parties. This time it formed the government not only on its own, but with complete control. Politics being politics, some of Khattar’s colleagues are amused with the functioning of the first-time CM. There are several state politicians who are working hard, and behind the scenes to dislodge him. One daring minister even approached Prime Minister Narendra Modi and explained that the Khattar regime was not performing as per the people’s expectations. The minister informed the Prime Minister that the way it was being run, the day was not far away when the BJP would be back to zero in the state. The PM apparently wasn’t amused to hear the report. He retorted that when he became Chief Minister of Gujarat for the first time, his detractors too made similar comments. But he went on to successfully rule the state for 12 years. He informed the minister that Khattar would, like him, learn the subtle and complex art of governance and complete his full term. To clear any ambiguities, Modi said, “Khattar and I have lived together in the same room. I know him well”. The PM knows how to endorse and communicate his ideas to the party’s cadre. When he toured Haryana, party president Amit Shah recently announced that the BJP would contest the 2019 assembly elections under the leadership of Manohar Lal Khattar. The detractors clearly have to find other ways to dislodge the CM.

Jairam worried for Congress

On August 8, when Congress veteran, Ahmed Patel, was fighting a fierce battle in Ahmedabad for the Rajya Sabha seat, his colleague, Jairam Ramesh, was preaching that the party faced an ‘existential crisis’. He said that it needed a ‘collective effort’ to overcome the Modi-led BJP. This can’t be accidental, coming as it did from Ramesh. Congress insiders revealed that Ramesh and his coterie are at loggerheads with the all-powerful Patel. The former is reportedly fighting a war to step into Patel’s shoes. The way the Congress politics operates, only the likes of Ramesh have a future. He has little interaction with the Congress, its workers and the 
aam aadmi. He belongs to the elitist group of leaders, for whom the ‘Congress’ means 10, Janpath. After completing his PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US, he joined Luv Raj Kumar, who headed the Bureau of Industrial Costs and Pricing. When Abid Husain joined the Planning Commission, Ramesh became an advisor. Rajiv Gandhi’s friends never allowed the latter to join the coterie. So when Vishwanath Pratap Singh became the PM, Ramesh joined him as an OSD. He came in contact with an influential Industrial house of Mumbai, which was unable to breach the political fort of VP Singh. Since then, he is among the top loyalists of the business house. When PV Narasimha Rao became the PM, Ramesh joined him as the OSD, but Rao ejected him from the system. When Atal Bihari Vajpayee came to power, there was a rumour that he was in touch with then BJP’General Secretary Govindacharya and might join the party. However, the news leaked and the plan was aborted. Jairam served as an Advisor of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, and Rajasthan. He held important posts in the Congress and was the main strategist for the last three decades. Now, it needs to be seen if Ramesh is serious about finding a way out for the Congress. Or does he wish to find an option to join the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah bandwagon.

Inner dimension

MOST people do not realize to what extent their lives moulded by memory. What a human being considers to be ‘me’ is essentially a product of the past. Your body and your mind have been entirely fashioned by an accumulation of memory. 
It is past information that has determined your form, shape and biology, for instance. Consider that if a man eats a slice of bread, that bread turns, over time, into a man. If a woman eats the same bread, it is transformed into a woman. If a dog eats it, it is morphed into a dog. That’s one smart slice of bread, isn’t it? Of course, as we all know, the transformation has nothing to do with the bread, but with the memory encoded within the system that transforms the bread into a man, woman or dog.

Doctor with a mission

BRAIN drain has always been catalysed by crooked and corrupt system prevalent in India. As a result, Indians not satisfied by no or under utilisation of their calibre, when left with no choice, bid adieu to “Bharat Mata” and get settled in foreign lands. Some of them reach the pinnacle of success and their achievements make India proud. 
Dr Barat Barai, MD, an oncologist in Merrillville, Indiana, US, is one such son of India on whose shoulders today both greatness and its twin, fame, rest easy. He has always been active in promoting India-US relations. He is one of the pioneers in getting the Indo-US nuclear deal signed. He has organised meetings to raise resources for both Barack Obama and Narendra Modi in order to support them in becoming the premiers of their respective countries.

Metro : Myths

IN 2016-17, over a billion people rode the Delhi Metro. On some days, over 3.5 million boarded the trains. Based on similar high ridership figures in 2015-16, Rajiv Gauba, former chairman, Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), said, “These high ridership figures show the tremendous faith and confidence that the people of the entire National Capital Region have in the Delhi Metro as a safe, fast and a reliable means of transportation.” He added that the Delhi Metro was “instrumental in ushering in a new era in… mass urban transportation” in the country. 
Despite this success, DMRC incurred huge losses. In 2015-16, its net loss was over Rs. 700 crore. This is the reason that it hiked its fare in May 2017. The maximum rise was a hefty 66.66% for distances over 32 km. According to DMRC’s revenue director, KK Sabarwal, the hike “was important in order to sustain its operations”.

Chartered accountants in PM’s line of fire

IN the nearly hour long speech that Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered on the ‘CA day’, on July 1, 2017, which also happened to be anniversary day of the establishment of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI), it is said, with utmost respect, that the PM has been unduly harsh towards Chartered Accountants of India (CAs) and their apex body, which, undoubtedly, is an important profession and helps the government and the economy to proceed successfully in their onward journeys. When I am penning these lines, I am not holding any brief for the errant and uncouth CAs, who defame the profession by their misdeeds. Black sheep can be found in any walk of life, but their few numbers can hardly justify condemning an entire group or profession. 
They were extremely busy during the demonetisation period. Some of them even cancelled their foreign holiday trips and worked round the clock to facilitate conversion of black money into white money.

Janus-faced Shivraj

MADHYA Pradesh’s bureaucracy is baffled at an apparently Janus-faced Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. Like the Roman god Janus that is depicted with two opposite faces, Chouhan too has revealed two opposite faces. In the company of IAS officers he talked like Dr Hide and among BJP workers, months later, he played Mr Jekyll vis-a-vis bureaucracy. 
“I will hang collectors upside down if I find that the disputed revenue cases are pending for more than a month. They will be rendered incapable of collectorship,” roared an angry Chouhan while addressing BJP state executive meeting in Bhopal on July 22. The Chief Minister’s uncharacteristic aggression pleasantly surprised the party office bearers present in the meeting.

NEW STEEL POLICY 2017 : Recalibrate to be globally competitive

DOMESTIC steel industry is still recovering from the last years’ global slump in the sector followed by largescale dumping in India, particularly from China. Short-term measures, such as imposition of anti-dumping duty on cheap imports, did provide some respite to the Indian industry. Still steel companies account for little less than 20 per cent of the total non-performing assets (NPAs). 
Thankfully, country’s economic engine is running fast as India is one of the fastest growing economies. The Modi government is making efforts to accelerate it further by focusing on infrastructure creation, which has a direct bearing on the domestic steel sector. Indian steel sector has grown rapidly to become the third largest producer after China and Japan. It also holds the same global rank in terms of consumption.

My right or State’s?

PRIVACY invades almost aspect of our lives. Sadly, slowly but surely, privacy is vanishing out of our lives. You switch on the phone, and the mobile service provider can track your location and movement. You send a text on WhatsApp, change your status on Facebook, and they can track your likes and dislikes, habits and preferences. Your safety and sexual orientation, to a large extent, depends on your ability to invoke and enforce your right to privacy. Other people cannot dictate what you wear, what ideology you hold, and what you eat and drink. 
In most ways, privacy is the individual’s right to make a choice. In theory, and in an ideal situation, it should encompass every choice, be it related to family, gender identity, and surveillance. This is why the nine-member constitutional bench of the Supreme Court, which decide on the right to privacy, asked in “what areas” will this choice extend to.

Remove flaws to make : GST a gamechanger

THE Goods and Service Tax (GST) was successfully implemented across the nation on July 1, 2017 with a lot of fanfare. It is a buzz word in India these days spanning across trade circles, financial pundits, and investment gurus. GST is the biggest tax reform in India’s 70-year history as an independent nation. It has replaced a complex net of existing taxes, bringing uniform tax rates and rules and simplifying compliance for businesses. It is a single, unified tax which justifies the adage ‘One Nation-One Tax’ and will have a very positive impact on Indian economy. 
The government is trying very hard to implement GST successfully for the benefit of the common man but there are certain oversights, loopholes, or shortcomings in entire gamut of GST implementation that become a hurdle in sectoral growth, synergised policy making and financial transparency, which the Modi government has been encouraging ever since it has come to power.

Is IAS self-destructing?

WRITING in the March 2011 issue of gfiles I had raised a poser whether there is hope for civil services to survive and had responded thus: “Yes, if civil servants revert back to the constitutional scheme of things from which they have drifted and reinvent themselves to become a fearless, independent, honest and efficient entity bound by an esprit de corps which is awfully absent now…” The message and the choice were obvious—resurgence or swansong! This message has gone unheeded and all indications are that elite IAS is heading towards self-destruction. 
Niti Aayog, His Majesty’s Think Tank, without much knowledge of India and its governance system, wants to hasten this process. The Aayog has virtually become a corporate consultant urging the privatisation of all infrastructure and services, raising a serious public finance issue as to where the ‘vastly enhanced’ revenue coming to the government due to expanded tax base and compliance through demonetisation, Aadhaar linkage, GST and IT raids would go! Now they want to privatise the IAS, which is the most potent instrument of democratic governance covenanted in the Constitution by the Founding Fathers of India’s Republic (Article 312).

Indian Administered Service : Demolishing the dream of Sardar Patel

Lateral hiring may sound like an exciting concept, but it is a flawed one for several reasons. For one, it will destroy what it aims to rebuild. One of the reasons for its acceptance is that it will allow people with domain knowledge to participate in governance. What’s forgotten in such a logic is that, over the decades, governance and public policy have themselves acquired the status of new domains. A public servant now requires expert knowledge in both these areas. More important, an excellent doctor cannot manage AIIMS, a brilliant engineer cannot ‘Make in India’, and a lawyer cannot draft PPP contracts. Two, the IAS structure allows those in governance to understand and master the unique federal structure of this country. It enables the public servant to realise the needs of the people at several levels. As she starts from the district and works towards the centre, she undergoes a bottoms-up approach that helps her to always put the needs of the people before anything else.

From the Editor

PRIME Minister Narendra Modi admires Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel for his foresightedness in reposing faith and continuing with the Westminster Model of governance after attaining Independence in 1947. In a speech to the Constituent Assembly in 1949, then home minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel highlighted the IAS’ role in encouraging centre-state harmony, claiming that “you will not have a united India, if you have [not] a good all-India service which has independence to speak out its mind.” The ICS that first came into existence through the Government of India Act of 1858 has passed through many upheavals. The British came to rule the Indians but India got Independence to serve the masses. So the perception of the ICS as a “steel frame” as once referred to British Prime Minister David Lloyd George in 1922 has changed. The moot point today is does India needs civil servants to rule, serve or administer. 
In May 2014, Narendra Modi summoned all 77 secretaries of central departments and ministries to his official residence for a closed-door meeting. The meeting, the first in a decade, was to understand the civil servants of India.