gfiles magazine

April 17, 2018

by the way : Virtual pay commission

THE 7th Pay Commission bonanza of Rs 30,748 crore was announced with a big bang by the Narendra Modi government. As many as 34 lakh government employees and 14 lakh pensioners were thrilled by the announcement in June 2017. But their dreams soon shattered. Barring some central ministries, majority of the government employees are still waiting for the increased hike and the arrears. Most of the Central University employees were informed that they may get the salary as per the 7th Pay Commission from May 2018 but there is not much clarity about the allowances. The worst sufferers are the North-Eastern states. Currently, the salary of the North-Eastern government employee is as per the 4th Pay Commission. Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb and Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma recently met with the three-member expert committee constituted for this purpose. Even the teachers of the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan are still waiting for the light of the day. There are reports that the government may actually end up providing this big benefit to them ahead of the 2019 general elections at a higher rate than actually recommended. The government may reportedly provide this benefit to all employees, who get salaries from pay matrix level 1 to 5. Whenever it will happen, it will bring cheers to all government employees. Good luck to them. 

by the way : Taking up the cudgels

ROHINI Sindhuri Dasari, an 2009-batch IAS officer of the Karnataka cadre, may have inadvertently joined a growing list of powerful women officers of Karnataka, including D Rope and Sonia Narang, who not only broke through the glass ceiling but also made a mark by standing up to the senior bureaucracy and politicians, when they came in the way of good work. The young Deputy Commissioner of Hassan district is going up against the government for transferring her prematurely. She believes short tenures come in the way of development. But there’s more to the story. The fight appears to be basically about the sanctioning of a tender worth Rs 11.75 crore by a local politician and minister in the State, A Manju, to his favourite. Manju, along with other Congress leaders, has complained against Dasari in the past too. But the rift between the two deepened over the tender for the construction of a viewer’s gallery atop Vindhyagiri for the Mahamastakabhisheka event in February. While Manju had insisted on handing over the work to Karnataka Road Development Corporation Ltd, Dasari had decided to hand it over to the Public Works Department. This is not the first time she has been a victim of a premature transfer. Her transfer from Mandya, where she was posted as Zilla Panchayat CEO, was rather sudden too. Several like- minded individuals and organisations had written to the Chief Minister to revoke her transfer in the interest of the district’s development. The Congress which is fighting an electoral battle with the BJP apparently does not have time to listen to the upright officer.

by the way : Passing the buck?

DEMONETISATION, the Chanda Kochchar controversy, absconding Vijay Mallya and the impact of the Nirav Modi case has slowly started percolating down the line in the banking industry. The lending scenario in the banks is the lowest in a decade. Given rising bad loans and NPAs, the public sector banks are now being extra careful which is resulting in low credit offtake. The Reserve Bank of India and the Department of Banking may present a rosy picture of the industry but the ground level scenario is dismal. Bank Chairmen and Managing Directors of most PSU banks are scared and not pushing the lending business. Normally, the Zonal Managers and Bank Managers are the nodal officers for the offtake of the lending business and are constantly under pressure to meet lending targets. In the current scenario, the smart managers have evolved a new modus operandi. Whenever any businessmen or company approaches them for loan or bank guarantee, they technically start processing the papers but tacitly delay the process. In the meantime the details are reportedly passed on to private banks. The private bank approaches the loanseeker and offers them quick sanction without any hassles of submitting innumerable documents–for a price. The ‘booty’ collected is shared by officials of the private bank and the public sector bank.

by the way : Sushasan in Bihar!

EVERY day one reads news about corruption in Bihar. Former Chief Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav is in jail on corruption charges. There is a severe crisis of governance within the civil services of Bihar–18 IAS and 208 Bihar Administrative Service officers (BAS) are facing departmental proceedings on charges of corruption, misuse of office and dereliction of duty. The General Administration Department (GAD) has prepared a list of 12 IAS officers who have been facing departmental proceedings from the period before March 31, 2016. The ‘Sushashan’ government of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar initiated similar proceedings against six more IAS officials between April 2016 and February 2018. Proceedings are ongoing not only against IAS officers but 145 BAS officers also from before March 31, 2016. The State government initiated similar proceedings against 63 more BAS officers between April 2016 and February 2018. The maladministration in the State seems to be at all levels: 94 employees of the Bihar Clerical Service are also facing various charges of corruption, misuse of office and deliberate negligence of duty. Approximately 320 employees are facing departmental proceedings, if the clerical staff is included. And, 18 state IAS officials have been suspended for serious charges of corruption against them. One of them, Sudhir Kumar, has been in jail since February 24 last year on the charge of leaking question papers of a recruitment examination conducted by the Bihar Staff Selection Commission (BSSC). Kumar, a 1987-batch Bihar cadre IAS official, was the BSSC chairman at that time. Three of his relatives, including his brother’s wife and a nephew, were also arrested in the case. Two other IAS officials under suspension are SM Raju (1991 batch) and Deepak Anand (2007 batch). It is learnt that Vigilance Investigation Bureau sleuths have also arrested 83 officers/employees while accepting bribe in 2017. It is to be seen, whether action against these officers and employees will have a deterrent impact.

Bric a brac : Technocrat at the helm?

IMAGINE the day when India is governed by a technocrat. Of late, technocrats have expressed their willingness to be Prime Minister, President and Vice-President of the country. In the past, technocrats have served as Secretary Power, Vice-Chairman of Planning Commission, and Secretary Finance. The main founder of a Bengaluru-based technology giant planted a story about himself being considered for the post of President. One technocrat-turned-election manager of the NDA and UPA is annoyed with the BJP and the Congress for not sending him to Rajya Sabha. But aspirations never die. There is a sudden uneasiness in the Congress about the resurgent role of a technocrat who already commands considerable clout in the party. He has reportedly deputed his technical team in the data centre of the party. Rahul Gandhi has unflinching trust in his administrative capabilities. It is being surmised that a 2004-like ‘coalition’ situation is possible in 2019 and everybody may claim to be a prime ministerial candidate. Rahul Gandhi would not like to be Prime Minister in a chaotic political scenario. The Congress may, and in all probability will, have an alternate name to be proposed for the coveted post. And he naturally be a trusted and able candidate.

Bric a brac : Piyush Goyal out of the race?

CHARTERED accountant-turned-politician Railway Minister Piyush Goyal is one of the smartest ministers in the Narendra Modi cabinet. Modi also has high expectations from him irrespective of his alleged financial aberrations. He has recently been very active and played an important role in the UP Rajya Sabha elections. UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath was also impressed by his working style. Goyal is close to ailing Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. Many in the BJP’s ruling clique had thought that in Jaitley’s absence, charge of the Finance Ministry would be given to Piyush Goyal. But everything is never as it seems. Before the move could materialise, it was reported by a news website that Goyal is allegedly connected with Mumbai-based laminates maker Shirdi Industries which has defaulted on Rs. 650 crore. The timing of the news was important. Sources disclosed that a newly nominated Rajya Sabha member hinted of the scam to the news website. It’s also disclosed that the said Rajya Sabha member desires to be the new Finance Minister, a dream which he has nurtured for the last two years. Modi seems unfazed by the turn of events but the buzz is that Modi will keep the Finance Ministry himself and will manage with efficient officials of the ministry. Goyal for the time being is out of the race.

Bric a brac : West Bengal, ahoy

FOR all those who desire to enter Parliament, the BJP has become the new breeding centre. People from all walks of life are aspiring to be candidates in the 2019 parliamentary elections. And many are looking at West Bengal. This is not surprising as the BJP does not have candidates for all 42 parliamentary and 295 assembly seats in the State. This has created an opportunity for opportunist and uncouth young boys who have somehow managed to penetrate the system of BJP and Amit Shah. Some of these young boys, who hail from Bihar, Odisha and eastern UP, have located parliamentary constituencies in West Bengal and are regularly visiting the area. As these boys already have access to the BJP’s central office through its many departments, they pose as central office representatives which gives them an edge and access to the negligible leadership. Some of these boys have also rented accommodation in Kolkata. To get further, some have even hired the services of Bangla language teacher to be able influence the voters by claiming themselves as local politician. So, if you don’t have any seat to contest and are eager to enter the BJP bandwagon, rush to West Bengal and choose a constituency, who knows you may be an MP soon!

Bric a brac : The rise of Baluni

THE selection of Rajya Sabha candidates by the BJP has bewildered many in the ‘saffron-camp’. The BJP has even accommodated politicians who were persona non grata for the RSS. Narendra Modi and Amit Shah seem to have selected candidates as per the latter’s utility as a politician. Also, many were surprised when RSS’ prominent face Ram Madhav’s name was not in the list whereas an unknown face like Anil Baluni from Uttarakhand scored a position in the Upper House. Baluni was once a stringer to minor newspapers like Kuber Times and JVG Times. With time, both the newspapers shut down and Baluni began visiting the BJP and RSS’ Delhi offices. Here he came in touch with Sunder Singh Bhandari. When Bhandari became the Governor of Gujarat, he made Baluni his Officer on Special Duty. This was sometime around 2001. It was the same time when Modi took over as Gujarat Chief Minister. Baluni then played a role of the medium of communication between Modi and Bhandari. Unfortunately, Bhandari passed away and a grieved Baluni reached out to Modi. Modi then appointed Baluni as the spokesperson of Uttarakhand BJP. When Modi came to power at the Centre, Baluni too emerged as the national spokesperson of the BJP. Modi, it is known, never forgets his trusted aides and as a testimony to that, Baluni was obliged with a Rajya Sabha seat. In an aside, veteran leader of Uttarakhand BC Khanduri must be bemused to see Baluni’s rise, a man he snubbed when he was the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand.

GLOBE SCAN : China’s Belt Road – Great opportunity for India

EVEN as the military stand-off between India and China at Doklam was amicably resolved on India’s terms last year, much of the media and many strategists in India have continued to express serious apprehensions about China’s growing hegemonic ambitions in the region. The recent news of the Communist Party of China (CPC) endorsing Xi Jinping’s term as President for Life has given a fillip to these apprehensions in the politico-diplomatic circles throughout the world, but more so in India. Ever since Xi came to power in 2013, he has embarked upon revamping the government machinery, including purging the military and the Party of corrupt leaders.

GOVERNANCE : The omniscient bureaucrat

YOU love them, you hate them; you praise them, you decry them; but, you can neither be rid of them nor ignore them. Welcome to the universe of bureaucrats. It spans governments, corporates, banks and financial institutions the world over. They are like the framework around which is woven the fabric of administration of the entity they are a part of. Entire structure supports, feeds and, at higher echelons, executes with a view to fulfilling the objectives of the organisation. In India, the civil services man the top echelons of government, after being duly selected by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC).

STATESCAN : Delhi govt just in name

THE scary and sordid episode of Delhi Chief Secretary Anshu Prakash being subjected to physical violence in Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s office at the ominous hour of midnight on February 19 is shocking and scandalous beyond belief. He was called by the Chief Minister at that unearthly hour purportedly in a matter of earth-shaking importance, namely, issuing full-page supplements to newspapers on completion of glorious three years of Kejriwal government! The sleep-disturbed head of the State bureaucracy entered the CM office blinking. He was made to sit between two burly, volatile legislators. He had no clue why he had been summoned at the dead of night.

STATESCAN : New empress of MP

BARELY two months into the job, Madhya Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel has firmly ensconced herself as a parallel power centre in the State vis-a-vis Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. She asks bureaucrats with complete authority to comply with her instructions in time-bound manner, she meets delegations with aplomb and unambiguously raises questions on the State government’s inapt handling of sensitive issues such as malnutrition, safety of girl-child, law and order and incomplete development projects. Her unmistakable assertiveness has left the Chief Minister flabbergasted. On the other hand, Shivraj’s detractors within and outside the party are rejoicing the governor’s growing dominance over the Shivraj rule.

GOVERNANCE : Regulating wealth

WHEN US President Donald Trump announced a reduction in corporate tax rate from 35 per cent to 21 per cent, there was almost universal clamour in India for getting similar reduction during the budget exercises of 2018. Ultimately, the corporations succeeded in getting corporate tax rate reduced from 30 per cent to 25 per cent for companies having an annual turnover of up to Rs. 250 crore, which comprised 99 per cent of the total corporate strength in tax net, leaving the tax structure for individuals and others untouched.

GOVERNANCE : The fuel dilemma

IN December 2016, India’s apex environmental body Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) released a 14-page study about the ill-effects of Furnace Oil (FO or HFO) and petcoke on the air quality of NCR region, entitled “Mandating acceptable fuel to be used in NCR for air pollution control”. The EPCA body comprises of members from civil services, academia, industry and NGO representatives, among them being Sunita Narayan, Director General Centre of Science and Environment (CSE), India’s leading environmental NGO that made the highly publicised findings of pesticide residues in popular aerated drinks.

COVER STORY : Public loss, private gains

Acivil servant, generally, is a Master (pardon the gender bias) of Manipulation. She (bias corrected) is, generally, adept at the art of using arguments, sometimes bizarre and sometimes inept, to convince her critics. This is beautifully done in Pradip Baijal’s book, Disinvestment in India: I Lose and You Gain. He was associated with the disinvestment process for over a decade (1993-2003), as the secretary in the disinvestment ministry, and was well-known, along with his minister, Arun Shourie, during NDA-1’s regime for a string of controversial “strategic sales”.

COVER STORY : Fly-by-Sire – Yes, Mr Minister

GORDON Gekko has emerged as one of those movie characters that some people love, but hate to love. The rest, of course, loathe him. The manipulative, blackmailing, conning, corrupt, in-your-face and unlawful takeover specialist does all the wrong things possible on Wall Street. He hustles managements, bustles stock traders, tussles competitors, and even susses loyalists. In the Hollywood flick, Wall Street (1987), Gekko’s name is forever intertwined with greed—money, more wealth, profits through any means.

From the Editor

WHAT are the real implications of the entrenched era of Fake News, or Fake Information (FI)? How did it begin and where will it end? How can it harm society in general, apart from its immediate impacts on the country’s polity and economy? To answer such critical questions, it is important to understand the two facets of FI. The first is an initial vacuum, which resulted from media’s abdication of its responsibility-to put the people and public interest first. The mainstream media forgot about what the common man wanted to know, and the masses vanished from the mediated information.