Suhaib Ilyasi : People’s power A sweeping change ahead?

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The stunning win of the AAP in Delhi Assembly elections is the victory of common people’s belief that there is hope against darkness. The party’s victory has put the common man back to the centre-stage of politics from the margins to which he had been relegated. As Arvind Kejriwal began his new journey into politics from the same Ramlila Grounds where his NGO, India Against Corruption, had declared war against the corrupt, Bureaucracy Today tracked the historic moment and paused to feel the pulse of the aam aadmi, who after being fed up with a string of scams and the ever escalating cost of the humble onion — a staple in every household– went for the broom.

In a shocking revelation, our Cover Story brings to Bureaucracy Today readers the explosive report of how the CBI, which is probing the irregularities committed by GAIL officials by allegedly favouring six private companies and causing a Rs 246.16 crore loss to the exchequer, in its preliminary enquiry report conveniently ignores the role of senior management of the company and small officials and private companies are made accused in the corruption case. During the CBI investigation, it came to light that the crucial file no. 87360 which has decisive and essential evidences of the alleged connivance of the top management officials in the crime is missing.  However, a tip-off by an anonymous GAIL official to BT indicates that the file is not missing but lying with the company officials. It seems that more skeletons will tumble out from the country’s leading natural gas major’s closet following this BT investigative report. Bureaucracy Today is keeping a close watch on the developments and will update its readers about them in detail in its forthcoming editions.

Also in this issue we have an investigative report on how government subsidised foodgrains meant for the downtrodden are being siphoned off by greedy hands along the way in Bihar’s Bhojpur district. A Bihar-based freelance investigative journalist, who did a sting operation of the scam, trusted Bureaucracy Today and contacted us for a platform to break the multi-crore scam.

BT Special Report focuses on the new DoPT rules which made it mandatory for State Civil Services officers to face a UPSC test and an interview for promotion to the IAS. The All India Federation of State Civil/Administrative Service Associations has protested the proposed move, saying it is against public interest and will take away the legitimate right of the most experienced and seasoned SCS officers to get promotion to the IAS after serving the State sincerely and diligently for years together. The IAS lobby is silent on the issue though.
Suhaib Ilyasi
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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

War on the waves: IIS vs IAS

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A demotivated and disheartened manpower can bring the mightiest of the organizations down. Similar is the case with the organizations manned by Indian Information Service (IIS) officers. In spite of being inducted by the UPSC the credence given to this particular civil service cadre is hardly visible. The issues such as stagnation of IIS officers and inattentive cadre management by the Ministry have led to high attrition rates. It seems the Government of India is sleeping over the sweeping changes taking place in the media world.

It was at least a decade ago when the Expenditure Reforms Commission, constituted in 2000, had shown red flags to most of the media units under the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting. The Commission, chaired by former Finance Secretary KP Geethakrishnan, categorically suggested either closure or disinvestment of most of the media units. We are at loss to understand why did not the Commission put its finger on the real cause of the poor state of affairs in government managed media organizations i.e. the low morale of IIS officers. The commission should have recommended reforms rather than suggesting their closure or disinvestment Even when Bureaucracy Today was talking to IIS officers on the issue, members of another service under the controlling authority of I & B Ministry, Indian Broadcasting Service, echoed the same sentiments which, to our utter shock, are even worse than those of IIS officers who have been waiting for promotion for 28 years. Since 1964 the IIS has seen only three cadre reviews. It seems the Ministry is having hard time managing cadres under it. The non-performance of media unit can be attributed to an extent to the discouraging prospects that IIS officers face during their career which gets translated into overlapping of functions. Whether Government communication schemes reach the target audience is debatable.

Can the Ministry explain to the nation the rationale behind IAS preference for post of DG, Doordarshan? An IAS officer is indeed a great administrator but not necessarily trained to understand and execute the finer nuances of programming and broadcasting. I am told by an officer in Doordarshan that most of the time, IAS bosses fail to take a call on crucial issues pending on their table. By the time an IAS officer gets trained to handle peculiar issues of broadcasting he is sent out to do other great things in the Government. This is exactly the reason of poor performance of Doordarshan, he revealed. The damage is visible. When the world is waiting for India to make its presence feel in world organizations, the Indian Government is still grappling with fixing problems in its communication network and with its human resource. Former Principal DG S Narendra puts vital questions on the issue to Bureaucracy Today: “Can an IIS cadre review incorporate the philosophy of PSC as an inclusive growth instrument? Can it win support for retaining and strengthening the government media system, not as a despised publicity outfit but as a people’s instrument for greater access to PSC and participatory communication befitting a great democracy? India is lucky to have an effective Government media system; save it for people’s sake, not for saving the IIS alone. Let not a cadre review retain irrelevant units. Once retained they must restate their mission for enforcing accountability and embrace state-of-the-art media and communication technologies and practices.”

Are the stakeholders listening?

Suhaib Ilyasi