The legacy lives on…

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Recently Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Civil Services Day (April 21) told bureaucrats to take bold decisions and not be afraid of witch-hunting. The PM stressed the fact that there was no truth in the perception that the moral fibre of our civil servants and public servants in general is not as strong as it used to be some decades back and that our civil servants are now more likely to succumb to extraneous pressures in their work. He felicitated the talent in the Civil Services, saying that many of our civil servants would rank among the best in the world.

The bureaucracy has been evolving with the countrys evolvement. But certain principles have stood the test of time. In this special issue BT pays tribute to iconic bureaucrat and Padma Bhushan recipient PS Appu who fearlessly depicted his views to the Government to the extent of resigning from the coveted post of Director of the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration on account of injustice. The incident is known to many but the above said incident is not his claim to fame. Larger than life, Appu was a nation builder and did not bend in front of wrongdoing. A man of his word, he did not seek publicity but actively promoted good values and principles through his writings in various publications. He inspired many during his tenure in the Civil Services. Most bureaucrats who knew Appu describe him as a person with impeccable integrity. 

Good work is always appreciated and acknowledged as we see in the case of the Maharashtra Police in which five officers have been ensuring peace and safety of citizens. And for making a successful Village Health and Nutrition Day, 2004 batch Manipur-Tripura cadre IAS officer Saumya Gupta and her team were awarded the Prime Ministers Award for Excellence in Public Administration.

If reforms and growth has to happen, then we need officers who believe in Appus principles. When people walk on these principles, policy paralysis can be prevented. And as the Prime Minister said, we should encourage boldness in decision making, provided that the decisions are well considered and as per the law of the land. A civil servant who does not take decisions might always be safe, but at the end of the day he or she would have contributed nothing to our society and to our country.

Suhaib A. Ilyasi

Why is Kingfisher Airlines facing bad times?

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Bureaucracy Today was the first publication to report the spiraling ATF overdues by Kingfisher Airlines to be paid to various public sector oil companies like the BPCL, IOC and HPCL. While the BPCL and the IOC have recovered most of their dues, the HPCL is still struggling hard to get its money back. Much of the credit for the exposé goes to whistleblower and former HPCL Chief Operations Manager Ravi Shrivastava who also happens to be on the BT cover of this month. This man blew the lid off from the fact that how PSUs were running the airlines all by themselves without any dues being paid.

Even when KFA owner Vijay Mallya claims that the turbulence being faced by Kingfisher Airlines would soon be over, and it may be as well for the time being, and the airline will start flying high again, the question is for how long? The fact that Kingfisher’s flawed business model has created most of its problems in current times is resonated by civil aviation industry experts. Several of them agree that the flamboyance for which Mallya aspired with his airline division was too high on his ambitions. His formula of low load factors with low fares and being high on flamboyance proved all wrong as the KFA balance sheet went nose-diving leading to a state of chaos and uncertainty.

What does the Government have to learn from all this? One really wonders why the Government had to be so benevolent to a private airline when the national carrier, Air India, which is looming under abysmal losses, has also lost the confidence of its employees, stakeholders and industry peers. The awkward situation poses a big question mark on the Government’s aviation policy to attract 49 per cent foreign direct investment. The Government would also need to look at losses to the Indian oil companies if jet fuel is allowed to be imported! It is time the Government thought of reviving the civil aviation industry’s lost sheen and pride by bringing Air India back on track. It must now retrospect on its policy for this industry at large.

UP Elections: Expect the unexpected

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Ring in the old, ring in the new… It is a pacy beginning to 2012 with five states–Punjab, Manipur, Goa, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh–going to the polls in the first quarter. It has been interesting to watch political alignments and shifts and methods of wooing voters, especially in the most populous state, Uttar Pradesh.  Keeping with the times, politicians have started using the social media to give their message to the voters. Facebook and Twitter are flooded with messages. As always there have been lavish promises of job quotas, loan waivers and development to entice the elector.

Also interesting has been a change in the political scenario in UP. Like a lot of corporate and royal families, politics has become an heirloom, passed from generation to generation.  In this changing landscape, we saw the Yadav scion, Akhilesh, pushing his Samajwadi Party workers to defeat the Dalit queen, Mayawati. The Gandhi brother-sister duo, Rahul and Priyanka, once again came together to strengthen the Congress base in the State. And a storm blew up in the BJP when Pankaj, son of senior BJP leader and former Chief Minister of UP Rajnath Singh, was promoted as the seventh general secretary of the UP unit of the party. Amongst the major party leaders, only Chief Minister Mayawati has not added an heir to this political whirlwind. Her party has probably not sensed the public mood and shown a young face or used the social media extensively to attract the voter.

Traditionally the road to Delhi has been through UP and the 2012 Assembly poll in the State is not going to be any different. Observers say a lot is being prepared for Lok Sabha elections 2014. If the Congress manages to get a stronger vote bank, it may help establish the credentials of the suave Gandhi and make him a stronger prime ministerial candidate and head of the party. Early UP elections may increase the chance for the Congress adding to its tally in the Rajya Sabha and the BSP remaining status quo or even getting less. If the SP gains political power, the Yadavs will once again establish their reign in UP. Rajnath Singh is back in the ring with his offer of socio-economic progress to all, irrespective of their caste, creed and colour.

Like Bihar, the results of battleground UP may be decided by the minorities, especially the crucial Muslim voter. As the Congress and smaller outfits like the Peace Party gain ground, alliances could be in the offing. But there might be a surprise from the sidelined BJP. This surprise factor came out in a poll conducted on this magazine’s website The poll was to know how the participants were responding to a mood for change in government. The choice was between the BSP, SP, Congress and BJP. At the beginning of January, the visitors preferred the current BSP regime. As the month progressed, the SP went to the number one position and the BJP was edging closer to the Congress. By month-end, the BJP came to the third position and was close on the heels of the BSP, leaving the Congress at the bottom. The gap between the BJP and the BSP became narrower, with the former getting 22.99 per cent response and the latter 26.44 per cent.

So who will be the next CM of UP? Expect the unexpected as the gates to the UP arena open this February.

By Suhaib Ilyasi

Bureaucracy Today

Running with the hare & hunting with the hounds

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In times of global economic distress when the Indian Government ought to deal with a heavy hand with defaulters and swindlers among profit-driven private players in the oil and natural gas sector, it is strangely caught supping with the devil. Instead of getting its act together in the Krishana-Godavari oil exploration deal with the country’s economic major Reliance, the Government is faced with sort of sanctions by the former as it is seen running with the hare and hunting with the hounds. The developed economies of the West, including the US and Europe, have been suffering an unmitigated crisis due to lack of government control over the capitalist system. India may have managed to come out unscathed by the global recession, but the endemic corruption in dealings both in the Government-managed and private sectors reflects poorly on the nation’s economic health. The government’s role – both in its UPA 1 and UPA 2 avatar – reveals more than it conceals the formal internalization of corruption in the system. The 2G spectrum allocation and CWG scams and the gigantic KG-D6 row have left the ruling coalition with the egg on its face. 

As oil prices around the world may further soar in 2012, it is imperative for the Union Government to check corrupt practices in all fields of economic activity, especially in exploration and exploitation of scarce natural resources, including oil and natural gas. Moreover, with Assembly elections in five States in the offing and the rising prices of petroleum products and other essential commodities for which the common man has to bear the brunt the Government at the Centre must pull up its socks if it has to avoid biting the dust at the hustings.
Year 2012 rings in with the alarm bells set for 2014.

suhaib Ilyasi

Why not Independent Directors in time?

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India is today proud to have many public sector companies that have high quality managements and can give any private companies in the same industry segment a run for their money. The NTPC, BHEL, ONGC, IOC, BPCL and GAIL are some such examples, having excelled in their businesses despite being hamstrung by government interference and influence in their decision making. The Central Government’s apathy and casual approach towards these companies are once again visible, this time on the critical issue of composition of the board of directors which presides over the efficient management and future of any company.

The role of Independent Directors on the board of a public sector undertaking (PSU) assumes even greater significance in view of the Government’s interference in the functioning of these companies. Independent Directors can act as a counter influence and balancing factor in the interest of the company. But it is an irony that the role of the Search Committee which recommends the names of Independent Directors for public sector companies itself is under a cloud. The recent appointment of some Independent Directors with questionable credentials has raised a big question mark on the process of selection by the Search Committee. At the same time, major PSUs waiting to launch their IPOs and FPOs are waiting for appointment of Independent Directors. The role of the Department of Public Enterprises is also

debatable. PSUs urgently need fresh capital to face increasing competition, a tough business environment and a tight liquidity scenario. Disinvestment is one way which not only ensures an inflow of capital but also brings in more efficiency and transparency. But PSUs like the BHEL, ONGC and RINL are unable to raise capital through IPOs/FPOs because they are short of Independent Directors and are thus not eligible to tap the capital market under the guidelines mandated by market regulator SEBI. It is indeed intriguing that the Government fails to appoint Independent Directors in time even when they are appointed for a fixed tenure and thus the Government knows well in advance when a particular Director will retire.

The Government needs to pull up its socks. Independent Directors should not only be appointed as soon as a vacancy is created but those who make the cut should be of impeccable credibility and track record. With this issue, Bureaucracy Today is introducing a new column for the aspiring bureaucrats. Senior bureaucrats will share their experiences, explain how they cleared the UPSC exams and will give insights into how the candidates who have cleared the mains should handle the interview. We hope aspiring bureaucrats will get invaluable guidance through this column.

Suhaib Ilyasi

J Bhagwati, IFS is all set to be India’s next envoy to London

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The jockeying for India House, the seat of the Indian high commission in London, seems to be over with the government apparently zeroing in on J Bhagwati, India’s current envoy to Brussels.

Bhagwati, who has been India’s ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg and to the European Union for over three years, has an impressive and varied resume that includes stints in the finance ministry and in the World Bank.

A 1976 batch officer of the Indian Foreign Service, Bhagwati served as additional secretary in the external affairs ministry and boasts of extensive experience in financial and economic matters with specialisation in capital markets.

The lobbying for India House had moved into top gear after Nalin Surie stepped down as India’s high commissioner July 31 and retired from the foreign service. He was offered a six-month extension but he declined.

Since then, many senior diplomats were eyeing the prized London posting — including Pavan K Varma, currently India’s ambassador to Bhutan and a former director general of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), and Sujatha Singh, India’s high commissioner to Australia.

However, after a careful review, the government has now chosen Bhagwati as the successor to Surie in India House, highly placed sources said.

With Bhagwati’s appointment near certain, the stage has been set for other key high-profile diplomatic appointments.

There are no announcements yet, but there is speculation that Navtej Sarna, India’s envoy to Israel, may become ambassador in either Dhaka or Thimphu.

Pankaj Saran, currently joint secretary in the PMO, is also keen on an ambassadorial posting in Bhutan.

Sujatha Singh is expected to take charge in Berlin. It’s not clear who will succeed her in Canberra but the name of Biren Nanda, India’s envoy to Indonesia, is doing the rounds.

Gurjit Singh, additional secretary in charge of East and South Africa in the external affairs ministry, is heading to Indonesia as ambassador.

Vishnu Prakash, the spokesperson of the external affairs ministry, is expected to go to Seoul as India’s ambassador.

Syed Akbaruddin, a senior diplomat who was in Vienna with the International Atomic Energy Agency, is likely to succeed Prakash as the public face of India’s foreign office.

But the sources said that last minutes changes in the appointments could not be ruled out.

suhaib Ilyasi, Bureaucracy Today

Khan saheb has not charged a single paisa to sing an Indian patriotic song in my film 498A-The wedding gift

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There was a story in Times of India about Ghulam Ali Khan Saheb singing our Indian national song. The story has ignited a debate at the following link. Some ignorant are commenting that all Pakistani singer come to our country to earn money. I do not know about others but let me correct such misinformed that Khan Saheb has not charged a single paisa to sing an Indian patriotic song
in my film 498A-The wedding gift. He did it because he loved the lyrics. I believe we all Indians owe him a great deal for singing a patriotic song that will uplift our self esteem as Indians!

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