gfiles magazine

September 18, 2017

Happy days for IAS?

FOUR former bureaucrats—two IAS, one IFS and one IPS—were made ministers at the Centre giving a clear signal that Prime Minister Narendra Modi banks more on former bureaucrats than political leaders when it comes to performance. It’s not that simple; all the top former civil servants had the right connections. Here’s how the dice rolled in their favour. Whereas former Kerala cadre IAS officer KJ Alphons was given independent charge of the ministry of tourism, former IFS officer Hardeep Singh Puri will now handle urban affairs, independently. Also, former Home Secretary Raj Kumar Singh will handle two ministries—power and the ministry of new and renewable energy; and ex-Mumbai police commissioner Satyapal Singh has been made the MoS in two ministries—HRD and water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation. A 1979 batch former IAS officer, KJ Alphons joined the BJP in 2011. A former Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer of the 1974 batch, Puri is the chairman of New Delhi-based think tank—Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS). As an IFS officer, he rose to the rank of Ambassador and Permanent Representative of United Nations. He briefly taught in St. Stephens College before joining the Foreign Service. Sources disclosed that both civil servants were appointed with the recommendation of National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. A former Bihar cadre IAS officer of the 1975 batch, RK Singh became union home secretary before joining politics and winning the 2014 Lok Sabha poll from Arrah in Bihar on a BJP ticket. Rajiv Pratap Rudy and RK Singh are close to Home Minister Rajnath Singh. When Rudy was removed in a reshuffle, RK Singh was brought in to balance the Rajnath faction within the cabinet. A former IPS officer of the 1980 batch who rose to become Mumbai’s police commissioner, Satyapal Singh is BJP’s Lok Sabha MP from Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh. Satyapal Singh was brought in mainly to calm down the Jats of western UP and make inroads into the fiefdom of prominent Jat leader Ajit Singh. According to the grapevine, a top industrialist house of Mumbai recommended his name for the ministerial berth.

Turning dreams to reality

PRIME Minister Narendra Modi is passionate about implementing his dreams. He is the first Prime Minister who is interacting with top ranking Secretaries, Additional Secretaries and Joint Secretaries. He makes the effort to explain his dreams to the civil servants. All wings of the government must work in harmony, Modi said while interacting with 70 additional secretaries and joint secretaries in his office recently, emphasising how the officers need to take a lead in breaking the silos in the government. This was the first of five such interactions being planned with senior bureaucracy in the government. Modi emphasised in the meeting that the combination of development and good governance is essential for the welfare and satisfaction of citizens. Good governance should be a priority for the officers. All wings of the government need to work in harmony, and in synchronisation, to achieve the best possible results. All officers must keep the poor and the ordinary citizens in their minds while taking decisions. The world is looking to India, he reminded, with positive expectations. The entire world feels that a successful India is vital for global balance. There is also a strong undercurrent for excellence from the common citizens of India. Youth from humble backgrounds, with very limited resources are achieving best positions in competitive exams and sports. The officers need to work to promote that spontaneous upsurge of talent, recalling the spirit and energy that they themselves would have possessed in the first three years of their service. This is a unique opportunity for officers to deliver their utmost for the benefit of the nation. There is a need for speed and efficiency in decision-making. Honest decision-making with good intentions would always be encouraged by the Union government. The officers need to focus attention on the 100 most backward districts of India, he said. All good, however, some Additional Secretaries who attended the meeting were miffed as they have little or no work with the ministries being run mainly by Secretaries and Joint Secretaries.

NMDC: A prized catch

THE stars are shining for N Baijendra Kumar, 1985 batch IAS officer of the Chhattisgarh cadre. An order dated July 21 had appointed 1988 batch IAS officer of the Himachal Pradesh cadre Ali Raza Rizvi as CEO of the National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC), a government-run company that comes under the union ministry of steel. Rizvi changed his mind and the job was assigned to N. Baijendra Kumar, who had been serving as additional chief secretary in the state. NMDC is considered a prized catch. Baijendra Kumar, who hails from Kerala, was allotted the Madhya Pradesh cadre after being selected to the IAS in 1985. Once the state got divided in 2001, he was allotted the Chhattisgarh cadre. Kumar was the additional chief secretary to Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh in 2014-16, apart from handling departments such as commerce and industry, and energy. Between 2001 and 2004, he was the deputy director in New Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) before joining as a director in the union ministry of health. In 2006-07, he was a joint secretary in the ministry of information and broadcasting. For a brief period, he also served as the principal resident commissioner in New Delhi’s Chhattisgarh Bhavan. In undivided Madhya Pradesh, Kumar served as the SDO of Dabra (Gwalior), additional collector of Jabalpur and collector of Balaghat and Sagar. The 57-year-old officer will retire on July 31, 2020. It is to be seen how Kumar takes NMDC, which has a market cap of Rs. 42,554 crore and a share price of Rs. 134, to new heights.

From cadres to zones

THE Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) is learnt to be going full steam ahead with its plan to transform the civil services. There was news last month, reportedly leaked to PTI, that a new policy for cadre allocation has been finalised by the Central government for IAS, IPS and other officers, aimed at ensuring “national integration” in the country’s top civil services. The story elaborated that the services are being distributed among five zones. Officers of all-India services—the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS) and Indian Forest Service (IFoS)—will have to choose cadres from a set of five zones instead of 26 states. The officers of the three services are currently allocated a cadre state or a set of states to work in. “This policy will ensure national integration of the bureaucracy as officers will get a chance to work in a state which is not their place of domicile,” the official said. He said the new policy would help in upholding the rationale behind the all-India services. “All-India service officers are supposed to have varied experiences which can be earned when they work in a different state, which is new to them. The officers may not be able to experiment new things if they work in their own domicile state,” the leaked policy stated. Under the new policy, candidates appearing for the civil services examination will have to first give their choices in a descending order of preference from among the various zones. Thereafter the candidates will indicate cadres in order of preference from each zone. “If a candidate does not give any preference for any of the zones/cadres, it will be presumed that he has no specific preference for those zones/cadres,” it said. Candidates will be allotted their home cadre on the basis of merit, preference and vacancy in the category, according to the yet-to-be announced policy. Senior superannuated officials commented that nothing is official and new in the policy: It’s like a slogan in the name of reform.

Uma’s drama

THE last reshuffle of the cabinet by the Prime Minister was supposed to be an elaborate one but the BJP leadership had to reconcile with five new inductions. Narendra Modi is known for his firm decisions but the tremor within cabinet members forced him to move ahead with a small expansion. Sources disclosed that the BJP leadership wanted to remove firebrand sadhavi Uma Bharati, the Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation. The situation became so fraught that Uma Bharati was asked to resign by the top leadership to pave the way for new incumbents but this infuriated the former Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh. Party insiders reveal that Uma Bharati categorically refused to resign and asked the top leaders to inform the Prime Minister to dismiss her from the ministership. Finally, Nitin Gadkari consoled her and advised Modi to ward off further drama queen by just shifting her from the present ministry to Drinking Water and Sanitation. Uma’s anger could be felt when she said while taking charge of the Drinking water and Sanitation Ministry, “No one can separate me from Ganga. Ganga is still with me… If I had failed how can Gadkari get this portfolio because I had worked in close coordination and close consultations with him (Gadkari) on Namami Gange project.”

Reading her signals

MOST people, who have met Nirmala Sitharaman, the defence minister who formerly held the commerce and industry portfolio, say that she’s a tough cookie. Even the smartest and most confident people are scared to confront her, or even make a presentation to her. The reason: she asks a string of questions, doesn’t allow the speaker to complete their argument, and constantly gets into a monologue. A senior manager was, therefore, frightened when her CEO fell ill before a meeting with Sitharaman, and was asked to go ahead with the scheduled meeting and presentation. Are you sure, you want me to do the presentation before Ma’am? You know how she is?,” asked the worried manager to the CEO. “Well, I know, but we have to do this,” was the reply. The senior manager entered the minister’s office nervously biting her lips. But she was flabbergasted, even shocked, when her one-hour presentation went on smoothly without any interruption from Sitharaman. “What happened?” she asked the senior bureaucrat, who was at the meeting. “She wasn’t interested,” was the curt reply. So, this is how it is. If she is interested, she will impose her views aggressively. If she isn’t, she is bored and passive and waits for the presentation to be over. “Why didn’t you give me a sign,” said the senior manager. “I would have cut the presentation to 15 minutes.”

Problems for Yogi

CHIEF Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Aditya Nath’s troubles seem to be never ending. He is now embroiled in a tussle with Uttar Pradesh governor Ram Naik. Their relations are souring fast. Sources close to Yogi have been critical of Naik impeding Yogi’s work. They say Naik has withheld files pertaining to several important decisions taken by Yogi. These include the appointment of chairpersons of some important public sector undertakings. Naik is not a run-of-the mill kind of governor. When he was Petroleum Minister in Vajpayee’s regime, he put his foot down and did not clear an important file of an influential industrialist of Mumbai and instead preferred a defeat in the Lok Sabha by film actor Govinda. It is also reported in the local media that a section of civil servants isn’t supporting Yogi. The reasons behind this aloofness are not known. Yogi is also troubled by the change in style of Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya, known for his proximity with party chief Amit Shah. Yogi is aware of all these changes but does not seem to be aware of how to deal with them.

Counting the waves!

THERE is the story of how Emperor Akbar and Birbal decided to correct a corrupt person by asking him to count the waves of the River Yamuna. Days later, they disguised themselves and saw that the man sat with his notebook on the banks. When they enquired what he was doing, he replied, “I was appointed by the King to count the waves. Now, you have disturbed me, and you have to pay 100 gold coins.” Akbar and Birbal pleaded that they were poor. So, the corrupt man asked them to pay 50. The lesson: there are always ways to make money from anything that you do. Cut to 2017, and Uttar Pradesh. In the last five years, former Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has learnt the art of how to remain relevant in the state’s politics. Now that UP is ruled by the BJP, the minorities are scared given the rise in the violence across the state. The top minority leadership went to meet Akhilesh and pleaded with him to help them. The former Chief Minister maintained that only the Samajvadi Party can save them. The problem was that his party did not have the resources to mobilise and confront the BJP. Immediately, the minority leaders enquired how much was required. The shrewd Akhilesh kept quiet, but sources disclose that approximately Rs. 300 crore has been collected till now. This is another way to count the waves.

Tax Man – Triloki Nath Pandey

IT was peer pressure and ease of doing studies which brought Triloki Nath Pandey, son of Chandra Nath Pandey, an accounts officer in British India Corporation at Kanpur, to Indian Revenue Service (IRS). Pandey was teaching commerce in DAV college, Kanpur, when he appeared for Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) examination for the IRS in 1954. “Being a lecturer, I got three months of annual vacation and had college library at my disposal. Moreover, all my friends and peers appeared in the examination. Two of them, in fact, made it to the IRS and one made to the IPS in the same year”, TN Pandey, now 85, recollects.

Blessed are the poor

THE cognoscenti who keep a sharp lookout on national events must have noticed with suppressed smiles the BJP’s deliberate effort at establishing poverty as the chief element in the bio-data of its aspirants for high office. When we analyse the qualities of head and heart possessed by the two gentlemen who have won the race to Rashtrapati Bhavan and the Vice President’s office, we are impressed by the preponderant emphasis on infantile poverty. As in everything else, the world seems to have begun with Narendra Modi. Would it make an iota of difference if we cite a quotation from The Bible where, among other qualities, the Beatitudes talk with considerable emphasis on the virtue of poverty? “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven………,” says a guy called Jesus Christ more than 2000 years ago.

Raising the bar

AFTER participating in the international conference on ‘Government Performance Management Systems (GPMS)’ in January 2017, I can say with confidence that Bhutan is the current leader in South Asia when it comes to implementation of government-wide GPMS. Bangladesh is close on the heels of Bhutan. Before I explain the reasons for reaching this conclusion, a word about the conference. 
Organised by the BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) in collaboration with the Cabinet Division of the Government of Bangladesh and the World Bank on January 22, 2017, the conference participants included government officials, members of civil society, leading academics, scholars, and policy makers from Asia and other countries.

China’s Current Military Doctrine

THE Maoist Doctrine in the 1960s and 1970 saw the threat of Soviet land attack, and it guided the formulation of China’s military doctrine. This theory advocated by Mao Zedong, also known as the People’s War Doctrine, stressed on the numerical strength to offset the disadvantage of inferior weaponry. It revolved upon mobilising the population in a protracted war. At that time, the ‘People War’ was an effective deterrent to the superior adversary just because of the sheer size and population of China. The doctrine advocated fighting a classic ‘People’s War’ by drawing enemy forces into the interior of China, abandoning cities for the vast rural areas where the enemy’s lines of communication would get overextended and then gradually dividing and annihilating the enemy.

Need for Power Projection beyond Doklam

EVER since the Chinese invasion of 1962, India-China relations have been sulking-surging through a tortuous course of politico-diplomatic-military dichotomies. That invasion, veterans would recall, had shocked the then Panchsheel preaching Nehru who had not only persistently ignored military advice but even rubbished the very idea of maintaining a military in a peace loving India where the Gandhian concept of Non-violence was to be the tool of power, not the Army! Whereas the post-Independence political discourse in India centred around peace, non-violence, socialism and non-alignment, Mao Zedong’s doctrine was “Political power grows from the barrel of a gun!” Having learnt its early lessons in Korea, China embarked upon transforming the ‘People’s Volunteers’ – as the Chinese military troops fighting in Korea (1950-53) were then called – into a regular People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

‘Development’ scam : Tale of a duplicate highway

PREDATORY pursuit of cement and concrete ‘Development’ model was bound to lead to scams and scandals. That is what has precisely happened in Kanyakumari, the southern-most and one of the smallest district of India endowed with natural bounties. This has come in the form of a duplicate National Highway that has all the ingredients of corruption, scam and scandal ‘Development’ has been the mantra of the Modi government and infrastructure formed the core of this agenda. In infrastructure, National Highways were given the pride of place. After the gradual increase in highway construction in the initial two years of the Modi government, it seems to have entered a higher growth trajectory in recent months: as against 22.3 km per day in the last financial year, the pace of building highways has accelerated to 30 km per day-mark in May, 2017.

OIL POLICY : Energy shortage or misplaced priorities

Ajoke in an old Reader’s Digest issue went like this – An old farmer upon being asked as to the secret of successful agriculture replied, “sell all you can sell, what you can’t sell feed it to the animals and what the animals won’t eat, eat yourself!” While it may not be the perfect inference to India’s petroleum sector, but it comes close, because in spite of all the chest beating about the burden of oil imports, the truth is that ours is a major petroleum product exporting country and levies from the domestic sales of petroleum products contribute close to a 5th of all taxes collected.

BSNL buying outdated 2G technology

ALREADY Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh has raised concerns about 2G in LWE areas installed by BSNL, now other states too have objected. World over, 2G services are being phased out, so what is BSNL doing? When most of the leading Indian telecom operators are focusing on 4G rollouts, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) has placed orders for 2G system in large numbers. Last year it invited bids for procuring 3.10 crore mobile connections, out of which 59 per cent is 2G, 36 per cent is 3G and just under 5 per cent is 4G. The details are given in Table 1.

From the Editor

THIS issue of gfiles features five pivotal stories on the mismanagement of governance. Our cover story is an expose on BSNL, unearthing a Rs. 13,382 crore scam. Another expose has been written by MG Devasahayam titled ‘Tale of a Duplicate Highway’. The third mind-boggling story is on ‘Oil Policy’ by Ravi Deka. The fourth story is explores the strength of the enigmatic Chinese Army. Lt Gen Balwant Singh Negi has written a book on China’s military modernisation and gfiles is publishing excerpts of a chapter to let our readers get an understanding of ‘China’s Current Military Doctrine’. gfiles is also carrying a detailed story on the rise and fall of India’s government performance management system written by non-other than the former Secretary of Performance Management in the Cabinet Secretariat, Prajapati Trivedi.