EVERY month, approximately 15 to 20 civil servants superannuate but Ashok Lavasa knows how to make it memorable. Lavasa, a 1980-batch IAS officer of the Haryana cadre and former Secretary, Finance, superannuated on October 31, 2017. The soft-spoken officer had a wonderful spotless career and is known to be a passionate photographer (his photos have been published in gfiles). Lavasa sent an SMS to all his friends and well-wishers the day after superannuation. The SMS read as follows: “In life there’s always a time to ‘move on’. In government that time comes when it asks you to ‘stop’. That stop at sixty happened on 31st October 2017, which brought to close an innings that lasted 37 years and 46 days. The ‘first phase’ of life ended on 15th September 1980, when I joined the Indian Administrative Service and the ‘second phase’ when I superannuated as Finance Secretary of the country. In between there was Environment & Forest, Civil Aviation, Power, Home, Economic Affairs at the Centre and Industries, Tourism, Public Relations at the State. 21 years in the state of Haryana and 16 in GOI. Now for the ‘third phase’, the yet-to-be determined future that may be shaped by the evident and not-so-evident past. What continues, however, is the association one has formed with men and matters. It matters to me; hope it matters to you as well. I will continue to retain the same mobile number (as it is personal), the same residential address for 6 months (as it is the government’s), not the same official position but the same disposition. I do not wish to thank you for your support as I want it to continue, but I do feel grateful for your good wishes that brought me thus far. I hope to remain in touch.” His Twitter profile @AshokLavasa changed a bit but shows enthusiasm and spirit, “Traveller, Sportsperson, Author, Music lover, ex-Administrator, & still alive”. gfiles wishes him good luck.
December 13, 2017
The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), the nodal agency which recruits officers and conducts the civil services exams, doesn’t have a single IAS officer on its administrative board. The UPSC is currently headed by Prof David R. Syiemlieh, an academician. It has eight members on its board. Except for IPS officer, Bhim Sain Bassi, former Police Commissioner, and Indian Foreign Service officer, Sujata Mehta, all members are out of the domain of civil services. It’s a body of postal officers, engineers and educators. Vinay Mittal is an IRTS officer. Arvind Saxena, an engineer by education, is an IPoS officer of the 1978 batch. Prof (Dr) Pradeep Kumar Joshi, an educator, served as Chairman, Chhattisgarh Public Service Commission, and also Chairman, Madhya Pradesh Public Service Commission. Air Marshal Ajit Shankarrao Bhonsle (retd), is a defence professional. Dr Manoj Soni is an educator and former Vice Chancellor of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Open University. One thus wonders why there is no IAS officer in the core body which recruits IAS, IPS, and IFS and other civil servants. Sources disclosed that former Chairman Deepak Gupta reportedly created a hullabaloo on the issue of status of UPSC chairman and its members–all were equal in the status holding cabinet rank status. It is reported that Deepak Gupta, former Secretary, Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, who allegedly got the coveted post through the recommendation of a Gujarati solar panel contractor, did not like the idea of being equal among equals. So, a request was made that only the Chairman UPSC should hold Cabinet Secretary status and privileges with other members being at par with Secretary rank. Naturally, the IAS fraternity do not want to join the bandwagon even after retiring as Secretary to work under a non-civil services officer.
It’s surprising that in the election year, Karnataka government has assigned the job to administer the state to two top-ranking women civil servants-Chief Secretary K Ratnaprabha and Director General of Police Neelamani N Raju. K Ratnaprabha is a 1981-batch IAS officer of the Karnataka cadre and will retire on March 31, 2018. She is the third woman chief secretary of Karnataka after Teresa Bhattacharya (2000) and Malathi Das (2006). She worked as deputy commissioner in Raichur and Bidar, apart from serving in departments such as commerce and industry, communication and transport. Ratnaprabha, originally belonging to Andhra Pradesh, did her graduation in physics and chemistry before shifting her stream and completing post-graduation in two subjects, English and Sociology. A month ago, 1983-batch Indian Police Service officer Neelamani N Raju took over as DGP in the state. Raju, who belongs to Roorkee in Uttarakhand, became the state’s first woman director general and inspector general of police on October 31, breaking a glass ceiling in the state police. She is a 1983 batch IPS officer and wife of former IAS officer Narasimha Raju. She had a long career in Intelligence Bureau where she moved up to the post of additional director. She was the recipient of the President Police Medal for Distinguished Service in 2009. This 57-year-old officer will be at the helm till January end, 2020.
WHEN one hears the chant ‘sabziwala’, a picture of a cart fully loaded with vegetables appears in mind along with a man who is usually dressed in kurta-pajamas. But the chant has taken on a new avatar, online. Pravesh Sharma, a 1982-batch IAS officer of the Madhya Pradesh cadre, now resigned from IAS, has begun a start-up named ‘Sabziwala’, a retail fruits and vegetables chain that promises delivery of quality fresh produce directly sourced from farmers to consumers. He would have been a Secretary in the Government of India (he served as a director in the Prime Minister’s office at the time of Atal Bihari Vajpayee) had he not resigned. At the end of his bureaucratic career he chose to change tracks. Sharma believes he supplies quality produce at prices that are a tad less than those of Safal, Mother Dairy’s market leading brand in the Delhi region. A student of history from Delhi University, Sharma brings 18 years of experience in agriculture, including as agriculture secretary of Madhya Pradesh and India representative of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). His last major stint was as Managing Director for five years of the Small Farmers’ Agri-business Consortium (SFAC), which encourages farmers to set up producer companies with guidance and grants. Sabziwala began commercial trials in June in Delhi’s sub-city of Dwarka. “I wanted to create an enterprise around agriculture to demonstrate it can be a viable, inclusive, sustainable and scalable. I chose fruits and vegetables because this is the most fragmented value chain,” says Sharma. His is an asset-light model. Sabziwala owns very little. Everything-warehouses, trucks, labour-are leased or contracted. Sharma has changed the dynamic for the superannuated ‘babus’; if you have a passion for your job, don’t look for post-retirement government jobs, but learn from Sharma how to create a brand and add value to society.
DELHI Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is caught between BJP-led Central Government and various court cases. The people had high hopes from Kejriwal but he has become persona non grata in political circles within two years. The Congress is not ready to touch him. He has made the Delhi assembly a mud-slinging platform against his opponents. Instead of speaking from public platforms, he calls a ‘one-day session’ of the Delhi assembly where he and his MLAs rant against his opponents. Delhiites have never seen such a government. What’s more, he and his election managers toured Gujarat extensively before the assembly elections even though the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) contested only on 11 assembly seats. Further, many AAP senior leaders are reportedly baffled about the initiatives of nominating prominent personalities for Rajya Sabha next year. Insiders claim Kejriwal can’t tolerate the rise of any AAP leader. Sources disclosed that Kejriwal’s sudden behavioural change is reportedly due to pressure from the RSS and BJP. It’s well known in political circles that Kejriwal is reportedly sympathetic to the RSS and can’t defy the bosses of RSS.
THE venomous relationship between Congress party’s Young Turks, Manish Tiwari and Deepender Hooda, is no secret. But perhaps even Rahul Gandhi could not have anticipated that this would take the form of open brawls in public fora. Apparently, Hooda had gone to address a meeting of the Congress student’s wing, National Students Union of India (NSUI). Soon, the national secretary of NSUI, Surabhi Dwivedi twitted: “Today Hooda Sir has given a new slogan, ‘You and I, NSUI’, so thank you so much from the core of our hearts for thus inspiring us with the slogan.” Tiwari jumped into the fray and retorted on Twitter: “This is an old slogan. It was first given in 1985 by the president of the JNU students’ union… the same man today is with the Telegu Desam party and his wife is the defence minister of the country.” Tiwari made his point without naming Nirmala Sitharaman’s husband Parakala Prabhakar, who is the Communications Advisor to the Chandrababu Naidu government in Andhra Pradesh.
FORMER Chief Minister of UP Mulayam Singh’s clan had a fierce fight just before the assembly elections. Following demonetisation, the three main actors of the family-former Chief Minister of UP Akhilesh Yadav, his uncle Ram Gopal Yadav, and Shivpal Yadav-were more worried about saving their alleged unaccounted wealth and avoiding the pressure of investigating agencies rather than saving the seat of power in Lucknow. Akhilesh Yadav still has the support of Ram Gopal Yadav along with the younger brigade of the Yadav clan. When Samajwadi Party Rajya Sabha member Naresh Agarwal hosted a party at a Delhi hotel in July 2107 to celebrate fellow MP Ram Gopal Yadav’s silver jubilee in Parliament, he had a surprise guest-Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Modi not only found time to join the celebration, but also spoke glowingly about Ram Gopal’s political career and services as an MP. Meanwhile, the gap has widened between Ram Gopal and Shivpal Yadav. Shivpal has chosen another way. He is increasingly seen with maverick Amar Singh and owner of Zee TV Subhash Goyal, a newly elected Rajya Sabha member. This trimurti is seen in parties, meetings and dinners together. It’s learnt that Amar Singh and Subhash Goyal are pampering Shivpal to invest his alleged unaccounted wealth into their ventures. Also, Shivpal has reportedly bought a house in the posh Jorbagh colony in Delhi. Watch this space for more updates.
THE relationship between Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and civil servants serving in the Delhi Government is said to be rocky, even acrimonious. The behaviour of Kejriwal for last two years indicates that he does not trust UT-cadre IAS officers. Even the officers are feeling suffocated and finding all means to run away from the Delhi government. There are innumerable instances where Kejriwal knowing or unknowingly humiliated even senior-most officers of Delhi Government. In December 2015, the Delhi Andaman Nicobar Services (DANICS) officers had gone on a mass leave, protesting against the suspension of two special home secretaries. Kejriwal’s pattern allegedly is to humiliate the officers or transfer them to insignificant posts where there is no work at all. Some senior IAS officers told gfiles that the atmosphere in Delhi government is frustrating and officers don’t know where to go and whom to complain to. Take the case of IAS officer Keshav Chandra, Delhi’s Environment Secretary, who has been playing a crucial role in battling air pollution in the Capital. He has been transferred out of the State government and posted as Joint Secretary (logistics) in the commerce department. Chandra, as Delhi Jal Board’s CEO, was reported to be at loggerheads with the Kejriwal government. In July, the privilege committee of the assembly had summoned him in connection with a case related to irregularities in the tendering process of 14 sewage treatment plants along the Yamuna. In the meeting, Chandra is learnt to have had heated arguments with the committee members. However, during the pollution crisis, Chandra played a crucial role as he coordinated with various departments in dealing with the emergency. On November 20, the central Personnel and Training Department issued an order of transfers of senior IAS officers in which Chandra was asked to move to the Ministry of Commerce. Chandra’s departure follows the recent transfer of PWD Principal Secretary Ashwini Kumar, who too was in Kejriwal’s line of fire. The paradox is that even the Home Ministry, the cadre controlling body, is a mute spectator to the deteriorating condition of Delhi administration.
A raging political storm over appointment of Madhya Pradesh Lokayukta provides enough and apt indications as to how the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government has been striving to ‘normalisze’ corruption in the State over a decade. The ‘normalisation’ process has hidden (purchasable opposition leaders and mediamen) and not-so-hidden (corrupt bureaucrats down to the ground level) stakeholders. Judiciary is, of course, not its part but some of the judges’ actions have aroused suspicions in public from time to time. Ruling party members and RSS volunteers are open and brazen collaborators.
IT was Allahabad’s infectious pull for civil services that put Sharda Prasad, son of unlettered farmer parents in Alampur Geria village of Fatehpur district, on the road to be an IAS. Prasad wanted to be an engineer and had already completed Bachelor of Science (BSc) from Allahabad University when the competitive atmosphere of the Sangam city rubbed off on him. He enrolled for masters in Political Science whose syllabus was kind of amalgamation of five papers of Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) examination.
I was named by my mother, who was very religious. She named my brothers Sri Bhagwan and Ved Bhagwan. After one of them died, her mindset altered and my youngest brother was named Brijender. I belong to a Vaishya community but never added this to my name. When my father, an advocate, admitted me to school, he entered my name as Vishnu Bhagwan Aggarwal. I asked him to let it be Vishnu Bhagwan. Nobody in Haryana knew that I belong to a Vaishya community. That benefited me a lot in caste-ridden India.
THE people of Haryana have so far lacked good healthcare facilities; either they had to go to Post-graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, or rush to Delhi. This seems to be changing now. Haryana is concentrating on healthcare facilities and the latest landmark is AIIMS Jhajjar, which has been specially designed for cancer treatment under the dynamic leadership of Dr Randeep Guleria, Director, AIIMS, Delhi, and Dr GK Rath, Chief, Dr BR Ambedkar Institute, Rotary Cancer Hospital, AIIMS.
THE idea of a career in the administrative services was not mine. I was barely 13 years old and about to give my Class IX examination, when my father, a professor, advised me that I should plan to get into the IAS rather than follow him as an engineer. My only perception of the IAS and its predecessor, the ICS, was that of all-powerful district magistrates and formidable collector sahibs issuing prohibitory orders like Section 144 of the CRPC. I was a child during the pre-Partition and Partition riots. I remember a public relations person sitting in an open tonga announcing the collector’s diktats.
WHEN Haryana, or what was then known as South Punjab, was made a separate State on November 1, 1966, it hardly had anything going for it. The basic amenities-drinking water, electricity and roads-were scarce. Over 80 per cent of its 6,841 villages were living in the dark. They had no access to potable drinking water and still drew their intake out of wells. The connectivity was poor with cycle, tonga and bullock cart being used for ferrying people. The number of people owning tractors in villages was rare. In cities, people travelled in private buses.
AS a student of Economics in the 1950s at the southernmost tip of India, I was fascinated by the ‘Idea of India’ development with democracy-propounded by the Founding Fathers of the Republic in the midst of deep poverty and brutal violence caused by Partition. As I grew up and gained knowledge on the finer elements of politics and economics, this idea was ingrained in my mind and got lodged in the sub-conscience. The ‘idea of democracy’ is that India would have political institutions consisting of self-governing, self-sufficient, agro-industrial, urbo-rural local communities-gram sabha, panchayat samiti and zilla parishad-that would form the base of Vidhan Sabhas and the Lok Sabha.
NOTWITHSTANDING that Chaudhary Devi Lal’s ambition to be the Prime Minister was thwarted-he ending up as Deputy PM under VP Singh and Chandrashekhar-Haryana did willy-nilly produce a PM, albeit temporarily. Gulzari Lal Nanda, who was interim PM after the demise of Jawaharlal Nehru in May 1964 and again after Lal Bahadur Shastri in January 1966, belonged to that part of Punjab which on November 1, 1966, emerged as India’s 20th State, Haryana. Nanda was responsible for the emergence of Faridabad, an industrial town on the fringe of Delhi, in the early sixties.
I was Deputy Commissioner Hissar when Haryana was formed in 1966, and thus was with Haryana from the very beginning. My colleagues who remained with Punjab made no secret of their sympathy for me, being cast off, as they saw it, to a neglected and relatively backward part of old Punjab State. Many, in fact, had doubts as to whether we would even survive as a State. As Haryana and Punjab officers sat on different floors of the shared Secretariat in Chandigarh, they had plenty of opportunity to joke at our expense, even offering to help out with loans in case I did not get my salary. I, however, regarded it as both an opportunity and a challenge, and in retrospect, it was the most fortuitous development in my career.
ON November 1, 2016, a gala event was organised at Gurgaon, now Gurugram, marking the Golden Jubilee of Haryana’s creation. Prime Minster Narendra Modi, some of his Cabinet colleagues, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal, Ministers of Haryana Government and many other VIPs were present at a glittering ceremony at Tau Devi Lal Stadium. Everyone present was full of verve and enthusiasm, including the Prime Minister and Haryana Chief Minister. I was also present.
FIFTY-ONE years after the birth of Haryana State, on November 1, 1966, it is time to take stock of where it was, where it has reached, and which way is it likely to go over the next two-three decades. When Haryana was carved out of Punjab State, largely based on language, there was political instability, the landscape was deserted and industry was almost unknown. An economic desert of sorts lay in front of the first Chief Minister, Bhagwat Dayal Sharma. The challenges were many; so were the opportunities.