gfiles magazine

January 30, 2018

China factor for Foreign Secretary

The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet has approved the appointment of Vijay Keshav Gokhale, 1981-batch Indian Foreign Service, Secretary (economic relations) in the Ministry of External Affairs, as the new Foreign Secretary in place of Dr S Jaishankar on the first day of 2018. Gokhale, India’s Ambassador to China, had played a key role in defusing the 73-day-long Doklam crisis. Gokhale, an expert on China affairs, was brought in as India’s top diplomat, in South Block keeping in mind the diplomatic sensitivities. Significantly, it has now become almost a pattern that an ex-Indian envoy to China has a better chance to grab the coveted post of foreign secretary. Shivshankar Menon and Nirupama Rao, both during the UPA time and S Jaishankar of the NDA regime, happened to be India’s Ambassador to China and someone with a deep understanding of India-China diplomatic intricacies. Gokhale is four years junior to the current Foreign Secretary, S Jaishankar. Gokhale joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1981 and Jaishankar joined in 1977. Jaishankar was appointed as the Foreign Secretary in January 2015, initially for two years, and then, his tenure was extended for one more year till January 28, 2018. Prior to joining the Foreign Services, Gokhale completed his Master’s degree in History from Delhi University. Gokhale has represented India in Germany as well as in Malaysia. He was the High Commissioner of India to Malaysia from January 2010 to October 2013, and Ambassador of India to the Federal Republic of Germany from October 2013 to January 2016. Thereafter, Gokhale took charge as India’s Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China from January 2016 to October 2017. Though India-China relations are likely to top Gokhale’s agenda during the year 2018, other issues concerning India-US bilateral and those arising out of Pakistan may prominently future in Gokhale’s list of priorities.

Ethics in governance

There is some good news for youngsters aspiring to appear for the civil services examination. Dr Dalip Singh, an IAS officer of the 1982-batch of the Haryana cadre, has started an exclusive channel on Youtube to update their skills and knowledge about ethics, integrity and emotional intelligence in administration and governance. Post retirement, Dr Singh is occupying a constitutional post as State Election Commissioner in Haryana. He has taken the responsibility of assisting the young minds about ethics in governance. The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) has, of late, taken keen interest in judging the aptitude and attitude of young aspirants for civil services on issues like ethics, integrity, emotional intelligence, social and moral values, corruption, code of conduct, transparency and accountability, to name a few. There is a paper of 250 marks in the main examination to prove that the applicants will uphold the integrity and accountability of government if they clear the exam. However, the questions being asked for the last 2-3 years are vague, conflicting and childish. Dr Singh is interviewing civil servants who know the art of tactfully navigating troubled waters and want to share their rich experiences with budding bureaucrats. He will be asking uncomfortable questions to senior civil servants from IAS, IFS, IPS, IRS, Railways and other distinguished services. Some examples are: What is the role and consequences of ethics in good governance? Whether ethics is inherited or learned? In what way can the lives and teachings of administrators, reformers, and leaders help young people to embrace human values? Do you think empathy and compassion towards weaker sections of the society is on the decline and that the young generation lacks the attitude to appreciate their problems? Do you agree that corruption in administration has been a big issue over the years? Policy systems have been designed in such a way that corruption cannot be avoided. How do you think situation can be improved? Let us help Dr Singh achieve this noble objective by subscribing to Dr Dalip Singh IAS CHANNEL on Youtube.

Talent can’t be crushed

Circumstances may change at any time. The action one takes at a time on duty may sound good but it may boomerang. It has happened with Hari Om, a 1997-batch IAS officer, was Gorakhpur DM in 2007, when Yogi - then MP - was arrested for allegedly instigating communal unrest and defying prohibitory orders. As time passed and politics turned, Yogi Aditya Nath became Chief Minister of UP. Hari Om is now feeling the heat as Yogi has never forgotten that day. He is at present serving at an insignificant post of secretary, general administration. But the culmination of circumstances has not dampened the spirit of Hari Om. The erstwhile topper in Hindi medium in his batch has launched a music video, ‘Ro chuke jinke liye rona tha’ in Lucknow. The lyrics for the music video, however, have been written by retired UP cadre IAS officer Anis Ansari. On the eve of the video release, Hari Om said, “Having been born and raised in Uttar Pradesh, I have always loved the Hindi language and honed my skills. I am content that I can put it to constructive use which people of this country can relate to.” The music video is part of album called Rang Ka Dariya. Hari Om said that he has always loved expressing his creative abilities and is only ‘fulfilling them’ through this album. He avoids queries on being sidelined and instead says, “I do my riyaz early morning for at least an hour with a harmonium before reading the morning newspapers and heading off to office.”

Unease after Punjab judgement

There is considerable unease for all those retired civil servants who are still serving in the central and state governments as Principal Secretary or Officer on Special Duty after the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s quashing of the appointment of retired IAS officer Suresh Kumar as Chief Principal Secretary to Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh. The judgement has become a point of discussion in IAS fraternity. It’s reported that the High Court quashed Kumar’s appointment on the grounds of delegation of more powers and not following proper procedure on his appointment. When Amarinder Singh appointed Kumar, the High Court set aside the appointment and said the retired IAS officer was holding public office without any authority of law. The court said his being entrusted important functions after having ceased to be a public servant was inexplicable. It also wanted to know how such an appointee could be held accountable for his decisions. There are different schools of thought, which opined that there would be no responsibility and accountability if any retired IAS officer committed a mistake and the government had no powers in taking disciplinary action. This was applicable to all re-employed retired IAS officers. There are about 15 retired IAS officers appointed at various positions in Telengana and Andhra Pradesh alone. Captain Amarinder Singh has directed the State Advocate General to examine the High Court judgement and suggest further legal remedies. How things will unfold is yet to be seen as even the Prime Minister’s Office has a well-established tradition of over two decades of appointing retired civil servants as Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister. TKA Nair, who served with Dr. Manmohan Singh as Principal Secretary to Prime Minister, was a retired IAS officer of the 1963-batch of the Punjab cadre. The current Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Nirpendra Mishra, is also a retired IAS officer of the 1967-batch of the Uttar Pradesh cadre. Similarly, the Gujarat and Kerala governments have also appointed retired IAS officers as Chief Principal Secretaries to the Chief Minister-K Kailashnathan and Nalini Netto, respectively.

Change of guard?

THE top-ranking leadership of the RSS, the de facto control centre of the BJP-led NDA Government, is in introspection mode as it analyses what it has achieved for India. There are many areas where the RSS feels helpless but circumstances are as such that the leadership can’t do much. There is general election in 2019 and before that many states assembly elections are going to be held in 2018. There have been reports that RSS may reshuffle its top-ranking leadership but due to the uncertain political climate, they are rethinking this strategy. Sources disclosed that Suresh Rao Joshi alias Bhaiyaji Joshi may relinquish his post and a new General Secretary (Sirkaryavahak) maybe appointed. The RSS hierarchy has one General Secretary and four Joint Secretaries. Out of these four Joint Secretaries, one can be appointed as General Secretary, which is a very important post in the RSS. The General Secretary allocates the work among RSS office bearers. Suresh ‘Bhaiyaji’ Joshi was elected as General Secretary in 2015 for three years. His term is ending in March 2018. It is known that House of RSS representatives (Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha) will meet in March where elections will be held. Suresh Soni, Krishna Gopal, Dattatreya Hosabale and V Bhaigaih assist Bhaiyaji Joshi. As per sources, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat is in favour of Bhaiyaji Joshi continuing at this juncture. If Joshi continues as General Secretary, then all the Joint Secretaries will also continue. Bhaiyaji Joshi reportedly has very cordial working relations with both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah.

A true gem

HARYANA Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar’s cabinet ministers are full of enthusiasm and inspiration. At times they appear to be completely devoted to the Chief Minister and at other times, they take independent decisions which baffle the top BJP leadership. Haryana politics is full of intrigue. Further, most of the Haryana MLAs and ministers are known for scheming against their own Chief Ministers. Khattar is not an exception and is feeling the pulls and pressures not only from his rivals but from his colleagues. But Vipul Goel, Minister of Industries and Commerce, appears to be an exception. Goel has risen in state politics from the ranks and has seen poverty in the family. Grooming by the RSS parivar has nurtured the missionary in him. It is rare in Haryana where a minister appears to be far above any form of greed. This was evident when Goel auctioned gifts and mementos received by him during his tenure as a Minister to contribute to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund. He has planned to donate the Rs 2.5 crore collection for the welfare of poor and needy. He said he was motivated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who had auctioned 460 gifts for the Namami Gange Project. Goel is credited with setting up the tallest tricolor in Faridabad, planting two and a half lakh saplings in three hours during the Harit Haryana campaign, running Project Panchhi for providing shelter, water to birds, digital rallies (addressing people at different locations with latest technology) and Sadmadhaan Diwas (camps for grievance redressal). Are other ministers listening!

Vadra plays musical chairs

RAHUL Gandhi had readily consented to speak at a summit organised by a top English newspaper group in New Delhi. He was quick to assess that if he did not attend, all the glory would be cornered by expert stage performers like Modi and former US President Barack Obama. Rahul was slated to attend this high-profile summit with Jyotiraditya Scindia, who is a known family friend of the owners of the media group. The organisers had kept two seats reserved for them right in the front row. Incidentally, Rahul’s brother-in-law Robert Vadra was also supposed to attend the summit and his seat had been allocated a row behind Rahul’s. However, Vadra reached the auditorium early and casually requested the organisers to be given a seat next to Rahul’s, as he said he had some urgent things to discuss with the latter. When Rahul reached his seat, he was a bit shaken at this musical chair game. Sources reveal that throughout the meeting, Rahul remained in conversation with Jyotiraditya, while masking his unease. Vadra kept on talking on his cell phone all the while. Is Rahul openly distancing himself from his brother-in-law Robert Vadra?

RSTV battleground

WHAT is the rationale behind having two TV channels of Parliament? This is a puzzle to be solved by parliamentarians. Both Lok Sabha TV and Rajya Sabha TV are managed under the active supervision of Speaker and Vice-President of India who is ex-officio chairman of the Rajya Sabha. Both TV channels have remained in controversy for one reason or the other since inception. The beauty of both TV channels is that the administrative set-up is not burdened with earning revenue as the resources of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha are at their disposal. So the administrative setup has a lacklustre attitude towards managing the affairs of these channels. The latest controversy is about Rajya Sabha TV’s CEO, Shashi Shekhar Vempati, who also happens to be the editor-in-chief of RSTV. This non-IAS officer wants a complete overhaul of the content and look-and-feel of RSTV. This has ruffled Naidu’s feathers. The buzz is that Naidu wants his favourite Dr I V Subba Rao, a retired IAS officer currently serving the VP in his secretariat, as the new editor-in-chief. Meanwhile the PMO itself has recently started jockeying for full control of RSTV. And this triangular contest is the reason that RSTV could not send its team for coverage of the Gujarat polls. It had been decided earlier that the channel would send at least three to four camera teams for covering the polls. But the Shashi Shekhar-Subba Rao tussle ensured that the teams could not finally go. And now the Prime Minister’s office is keeping watch on the channel after completely taking control of Lok Sabha TV.

Vajpayee is back

IF Vajpayee’s first government was a quickly aborted affair, his second one almost never came about. Celebrations in the BJP camp turned sombre as Jayalalitha, who would become a painful thorn in the government’s side, tantalisingly held back her letter of support to Vajpayee.

No Sir

IT was peer pressure that brought Rita Sinha-than Rita Kudwa-into Indian Administrative Service (IAS). She was pursuing masters in geography from Punjab University and her professor, AB Mukherjee, was very keen on her getting into academics after it. “I found teaching dull. I had no clue about IAS as well. I appeared in the UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) examination because many of my seniors and classmates also sat for it,” she says.

More than just celebration

REPORTS in the media surface occasionally about social functions like marriages, birthdays, anniversaries, etc., being performed on sea/air and at reputed places in splendid way with great pomp involving substantial expenses. The common man is both amused and aghast in knowing about the same. The latest in the series is marriage of Anushka Sharma with Virat Kohli-both Indian celebrities.


FOUR years ago, this clarion, ‘Minimum Government, Maximum Governance’, reverberated from every electoral platform of a particular political party. Believing it to be democratic governance with minimum intervention by the State, 31 per cent electorate voted that party to power. But what has happened since then is large scale abuse of State power to push all kind of technologies while abandoning the cardinal principle of governance-participatory decision making and democratic implementation.

Why Gujarat result scares Shivraj?

Has the BJP high command reduced Shivraj Singh Chouhan to a pariah among Chief Ministers of the BJP-ruled States after the Gujarat election? The question is being debated hotly after Chouhan returned swiftly from Gandhi Nagar on December 26 and was conspicuously absent in Shimla on December 27. All the 18 BJP Chief Ministers shared dais with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah in the oath-taking ceremony of Vijay Rupani as Chief Minister on December 26. Chouhan too went there but quickly returned after presenting a bouquet to Rupani.

Presidential poll in Gujarat

THE presidential poll in Gujarat has just concluded. No, no, you will rudely interrupt, there was no presidential poll in Gujarat. It was just a little Assembly poll. All right, all right, if it was an assembly election, who were the chief ministerial faces on the two sides? There were no declared chief ministerial faces on either side or even if there were, there was nothing sacred in their nomination. The voter had, in effect, to choose between two prime ministerial faces: Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi.

The makeover of Rahul Gandhi

WITH great power comes great responsibility. The Gandhi surname in politics comes with fame, fortune, power and a huge sense of responsibility. For a long time it looked as though the young Rahul Gandhi, born with a silver spoon but also with the spectre of tragedy surrounding him, was one of the most reluctant entrants to the elite club of politics. He neither had it in him to make a success of his heritage and lineage nor did he display the correct amount of passion to succeed in politics.

Bitcoin – Crises of governance

IT’S either the biggest fraud in financial history or the biggest revolution in human civilisation. In a few years, it will either trade for peanuts or, as one estimate puts it, sell for $100,000, that is, seven times its present worth. It can be a boon or bane, caught in a cycle of a boom or bubble. The saga of bitcoin, one of the unregulated crypto-currencies in circulation, is unfolding bit by bit, through volatile ups and downs and by additions and subtractions of zeroes. The year 2017, however, was a magical and dream-like year for bitcoin. In the first week of January its worth hovered just about $800.

From the Editor

THE majority of the country, especially the pundits, failed to realise that the ‘real’ change in the 2014 election wasn’t the emergence of a ‘new face’ or return of the BJP. It signified the beginning of the transformation of the seven-decade-old Indian polity, which would naturally enmesh with radical and disruptive social and economic changes. Narendra Modi’s was a call for ‘total change’, the construction of a ‘New India’, and a kind of a body-politic somersault. More importantly, his implementation was ‘sudden’.