Recall Vinod Rai, former Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) and Secretary Banking. He opened the Pandora box of the 2G scam as CAG of India. When the CAG report on granting 2G spectrum licenses was first leaked in 2010, the entire country had hailed Vinod Rai as a crusader against corruption. The verdict in the multi-crore 2G scam has shocked the nation. After all, how come the special CBI court acquitted 19 accused of all charges in a scam where notional losses to the tune of Rs. 1.76 lakh crore were made? Was Rai acting at the instance of Airtel’s Sunil Bharti Mittal, TKA Nair or P Chidambaram? Vinod Rai doesn’t have any answers. And his clout is intact as the Supreme Court has appointed Rai as the interim president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). Meanwhile, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who reportedly poses faith in the capability of Rai, had to go and dig out the file of the bankrupt Dabhol Power Project Company. IDBI had the maximum exposure of Rs. 1,900 crore (Rs. 19 billion) in the Dabhol project, followed by State Bank of India Rs. 1,700 crore (Rs. 17 billion), ICICI Bank Rs. 1,300 crore (Rs. 13 billion), IFCI Rs. 600 crore (Rs. 6 billion) and Canara Bank Rs. 350 crore (Rs. 3.5 billion). If the file is investigated thoroughly, one will be surprised to know how Vinod Rai reportedly tried to convince banks to write off the huge outstandings. Good sense prevailed, and fortunately, the power ministry turned down the proposal. This is Vinod Rai!
May 22, 2018
When Prime Minister Modi started ‘Man ki Baat’ on AIR, the officials presumed that the condition of Prasar Bharati would improve. But the PMO has restricted itself to broadcast and telecast of ‘Man ki Baat’. Both Doordarshan and All India Radio are actually in a precarious situation. Prasar Bharti Chairman, A Surya Prakash, an old RSS associate, does not know how to move in a no-money syndrome organisation. The once glowing Doordarshan office at Mandi House used to be flooded with visitors but now it’s deserted. There are no new programmes being sanctioned as there is no budget; even salaries are paid out of the interest of fixed deposits. The day one retires from Doordarshan or AIR, the very next day, one joins as an ad hoc employee. There have been no permanent new recruitments in any category of staff in Prasar Bharati for the last 25 years. Most of the staff is working on contractual basis. It has become den of retired people and nepotism is at its peak. The mess has percolated so deep that most of the time DD is repeating one programme many times in a day. The situation is so pathetic that the contractor of the parking lot outside DD is desperate to run away from the contract as it is perpetually deserted.
Everybody in the government is bemused about S Jaishankar, former Foreign Secretary who had also served as India’s Ambassador to China and then USA, being roped in by Tata Sons as its new President, Global Corporate Affairs. Jaishankar, a 1977 batch Indian Foreign Service officer, will report to N Chandrasekaran, executive chairman of Tata Sons. His remunerations and associated perks are not known as yet, but as the former IFS has not completed a year of his retirement - he retired on January 28 this year - he needed to take special permission from the government to join a private entity. Generally, a retired civil servant can join outside the government only two years after retirement. Given the clout Jaishankar enjoys in South Block, getting permission would not have been an issue. One, why was the rule waived off. Two, why is Jaishankar so desperate to join the Tatas. Insiders reveal that Jaishanker was certain after observing the present setup in the Prime Minister’s Office that he will not be awarded any post retirement plump posting. Tata Sons Executive Chairman Chandrasekaran said that Jaishankar’s extensive experience and knowledge on international affairs would be highly valuable to the group as “we work to reinforce our brand and leadership globally”, according to a statement issued by the salt-to-software conglomerate. Here is what Jaishankar had to say: “The Tata group is an iconic institution known for its value-based leadership as well as India’s most respected brand globally. I look forward to being part of the Tata group and working with key stakeholders to make an impact.” The former Cabinet Secretary KM Chandrasekhar has also joined the Tatas as Director.
The term of Cabinet Secretary PK Sinha, a 1977-batch IAS officer of the Uttar Pradesh cadre, has been extended for one year more. This news was almost confirmed at the celebrations of Civil Services Day. Most of the civil servants were whispering that Sinha will get another year as a cabinet secretary; they also observed the confidence of PK Sinha at the function. It was quite indicative that the he is sure to get an extension. For over a decade, the practice has been to appoint a Cab Sec for a fixed two-year term. Prime Minister Narendra Modi appears to be a believer of continuity in governance. When he took over as Prime Minister in May 2014, AK Seth was serving as Cab Sec and there was strong opinion that a new Cab Sec will be appointed in June 2014 but Modi surprised everybody when he ordered an extension for Seth. Insiders inform that Seth who had an impeccable track record made Modi comfortable at crucial time of transition of power from Congress to BJP. 2019 will be the election year and in the given scenario a new face in the Cabinet Secretariat would have taken time to acclimatise as the Cab Sec has to deal with a new subject every 15 minutes and different ministries. Sinha’s track record indicates that he is a fast-paced performer and he has synchronised Cab Sec office with the working style of the Prime Minister. The Cab Sec and PM relationship is a very delicate and indispensable bond between two individuals and institutions. Even Manmohan Singh did not change his Cab Secs, KM Chandrasekhar and BK Chaturvedi.
Anew grapevine has taken root in the Finance Ministry since the news of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley kidney problems appeared in the media. Arun Jaitley himself tweeted about his health, “am being treated for kidney related problems & certain infections that I have contracted. I am therefore currently working from controlled environment at home. The future course of my treatment would be determined by the doctors treating me.” Jaitley’s sickness has created a different scenario in North Avenue. North Block is a busy zone and the scenario seems much the same. The same cannot be said of the Finance Minister’s office. Generally, the visitor room of the Finance Minister is full whenever the Minister is in his office. Now there are less public visitors. Business leaders are not seen though their heads of corporate affairs are seen meeting civil servants for pushing their files. The really worrisome situation is the absence of babus. Though they reach office in time due to the biometric attendance system but most of the day, they are not sitting in their rooms. The jurnos who visit the North Block after lunch find it difficult to locate anybody to get some inkling of what is happening in the ministry. Importantly, nobody dares talk about a change of Finance Minister as Prime Minister Narendra Modi has unflinching faith in the capacity and capability of his minister.
THE Communist Party of India (Marxist) 22nd Congress was convened in Hyderabad recently. The Congress elected Sitaram Yechury as the party’s general secretary for a second term. There are two obvious groups in the party. One is led by Yechury and the other by Prakash Karat. Prakash is known to be a stickler for the rules. Prakash is related to NDTV’s Prannoy Roy as his wife Brinda Karat is the sister of Prannoy’s wife Radhika Roy. On his part, Yechury made it clear to the CPM cadre that the party does not belong to one state, a veiled reference at Karat’s influence in Kerala. Yechury worked hard and gathered the support of 16 states to de-throne the dominance of Kerala and Karat. Yechury and Karat supporters had a tug of war in the party congress. What should be the CPM’s political line in the current political situation? Should the party adopt Yechury or Karat line. The Karat lobby wanted to forbid the party from having any alliance with the Congress. At one point, matters got so heated that a delegate from Punjab threatened to sit on protest, then and there. Meanwhile, a new voice within the party Uday Narvekar stood up and said, “My claim is that if the party follows the Karat line even for mere next three years, then its name will have to be changed from CPM to CPI.” And then Narvekar outlined the new definition of CPI – “Communist Party Irrelevant”, that is, then the party will not have any relevance in Indian politics. After this, the party decided on following the ‘Yechury Line’. The final compromise was the deletion of the sentence that forbade the party from reaching any “understanding with the Congress”. After the victory, Yechury flew to London to celebrate 200 years of party ideologue Karl Marx at a new library housing Marx’s work and to meet his daughter who is pursuing higher studies.
THE Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leadership is one of the biggest votaries for the propagation of Hindi language. Now that they are de facto rulers of the country, they have moved softly but surely towards propagating Hindi. It has been observed that hoardings and standees outside the venue at government functions are being erected in Hindi language. Government officials are conducting the proceedings in Hindi except for those who are not from the Hindi belt. The proceedings of the 12th Civil Services day on April 21 were conducted all in Hindi. Even Cabinet Secretary PK Sinha spoke in Hindi at the function. All films shown at the function were in Hindi. Furthermore, all central ministries and public undertakings have started replying to RTIs in Hindi language. But there is an inherent dichotomoy, The BJP top leadership has a fetish for English language. Look at the top leadership starting from Arun Jaitley, Piyush Goyal, Nirmala Sitaraman, Smriti Irani, Ravishanker Prasad, Suresh Prabhu, Anant Kumar, MJ Akbar, DV Sadanand Gowda, Hardeep Singh Puri and Jayant Sinha; they all speak and write in English and it is they who command the party’s policies. This only reflects the diversity among politics and politicians. Even though the RSS is focused on implementing the mother tongue (read Hindi), constraints of a different states and regions are yet to be overcome.
THE Congress Party is in search of a new Treasure for its cash-starved coffers albeit the tremendous trust in 89-year-old former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Motilal Vora’s capabilities. The party is not able to find a successor to Vora. Vora is the one politician of the party who is available till late night most of the time to both the party leadership and workers in the All India Congress Committee office in New Delhi. The Congress Party run by the trio of Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi and Robert Vadra has to choose a loyal worker who may be groomed in a decade for greater responsibility. If one takes note of indications from Vora’s office, then Kanishka Singh, the son of a former Foreign Secretary SK Singh, is the front runner. Kanishka Singh has studied from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University and then went to the USA to do M.S and MBA from Wharton. Some feel that since the companies over which Kanishka Singh had a good hold are facing investigations, he could land up in trouble. Another contender is Milind Deora. His father Murli Deora used to channelise funds for the party. After his death, Milind has been managing funds for the party in Mumbai. He is very close to Rahul and usually travels abroad with the Congress president. During his US tour too, he had accompanied Rahul. Businessmen and members of the US Congress reportedly told Rahul that Murli Deora was called the Senator of Manhattan! So, Milind is also a strong competitor for the treasurer post due to the legacy of his father, understanding of the business world, and proximity to Rahul. Still, If Priyanka Gandhi’s writ runs, in all probability Kanishka Singh may be the new treasurer of the Congress Party.
THOUGH Uttarakhand had 21,966 protests, the highest number in the year 2016, it was Tamil Nadu with 20,450 protests-at the rate of 47 protests a day-that caught the national attention. The reason was simple: the protests in Tamil Nadu were massive, prolonged and in many cases spontaneous. Of course, one way of looking at it was as vibrant democracy in action, though the cynical public would laugh it off because political agitations and protests are the way we do things in this country.
Ihave been contemplating a short article on the disquieting nature of governance for some time. This desire got hastened after media reports sometime back that the I&B Ministry had to withdraw its guidelines on ‘fake news’ at the behest of the Prime Minister’s Officer (PMO. Such reports made me recollect some worrying aspects concerning laws relating to Income Tax, Companies Act and the recently enacted Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC). I will initiate this discussion from the IBC because developments concerning this legislation are clearly indicative of the position that something is basically wrong with lawmaking in the country.
THE United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a universal call to end poverty, protect the planet and to ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. There are 17 SDGs with 157 nations as signatories. In India the governments have been correctly focussing on each of these 17 parameters and delivering positive results. While 2030, the deadline to achieve these SDGs seems a bit far, going by the diversity and complexity of our country in all spheres, time is indeed of the essence.
A representation to the Election Commission seeking measures to ensure integrity and fairness in the parliamentary election in 2019 by Tamil Nadu-based Forum for Electoral Integrity
CIVIL Services in India have commanded an elite status ever since the first Indian, Satyendranath Tagore, was selected as an Indian Civil Services (ICS) officer in 1863. Paradoxically, the aura of the Service was heightened even more when young Subhash Chandra Bose quit the service in 1921 despite being one of the top four in the competition, the toughest in those days not only for the Indians but also for the British aspirants. No other career for the youth was more precious than being a member of the ICS. And yet, young Subhash chose to sacrifice his career impelled by his conscience to serve the nation differently. No politician-not even Mahatma Gandhi-has evoked more respect, love and awe across the masses than Netaji in India. And his enigma has continued to haunt India’s consciousness to such an extent that no one ever believed the news of his death in the air crash on August 18, 1945.
IT is said in Hindu mythology that one gets moksha (Salvation) after char-dham yatra (visit to four pilgrims comprises Badrinath, Dwarka, Puri and Rameswaram), but in the government, even after 32 such journeys a file does not get moksha-Narendra Modi was sharing his experience after ruling for four years as Prime Minister of India. Modi shared his experience of an apparent reference to administrative delays in the decision-making process. The Prime Minister was addressing civil servants on the occasion of 12th Civil Services Day on April 21, 2018. The two-day annual Civil Services Day was organised to deliberate administrative issues and give away awards to performing civil servants.
SWOOSH! Another civil service day has just passed like an ephemeral shower of April. Nothing seems to have changed a bit in government. Lawrence Peter of Peter Principle fame once said that bureaucracy defends status quo long past when quo has lost its status. Prime Minister Narendra Modi made another catchy speech, as has become his routine practice, bringing out his close proximity with the civil servants. He gave comfort to the assembled civil servants by describing them as people with great capability and said that these capabilities can contribute in a big way towards building the nation.
TODAY’S India is in extreme and intense reflection, a burning contemplation, both within individuals and within the society. This is because the Constitution seems to be in confrontation with Religion, society with faith, and politicians with people. In 2019, the people of the country will decide whether they wish to be ruled by the Constitution or Religion. The Indian Constitution mandates an absolute separation between the State and Religion, and the absolute right of the electorate to decide its fate. But the controllers of political and religious powers wish to make Religion more supreme than the Constitution.