CVC overlooked CBI Dir’s objection on Asthana’s promotion

The Central Vigilance Commission cleared the recommendation to promote senior IPS officer Rakesh Asthana, who is considered close to the NDA government, despite CBI Director Alok Kumar Verma objected to it.

Asthana’s promotion as Special Director in CBI had triggered a controversy following reports that there were some objections to the move within the CVC-led panel looking into promotions in the agency. The order was issued on Sunday late night after the CVC cleared his and seven others promotion in a meeting on Saturday.

Sources said the CBI Director did flag adverse reports against Asthana when his case for promotion came up before the five-member panel headed by the Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) that looks into promotions and appointments of senior CBI officials. The CBI Director is only a special invitee in this panel, which has the CVC, two Vigilance Commissioner, Home Secretary and DoPT Secretary as members.

In connection with Asthana, Verma is learnt to have pointed to a a recent CBI FIR against some IT officials and Gujarat-linked police officers in connection with the recovery of diary which talked about purported payments.

“The CBI Director is not a member of the committee that recommends appointments and promotions. He is invited to the meeting. As per law, he only has to be consulted. He has given his frank views. Whatever views he had given, it was considered. The five-member panel unanimously cleared the proposals,” CVC K V Chowdary told reporters here.

However, he said he would not publicise what the CBI Director told the meeting. “I don’t want to join issue. All process were followed. The recommendation was unanimous. The CBI Director was consulted. Whether he supported or not is not an issue. His views were taken note off,” Chowdary added.

Asthana, a 1984-batch Gujarat cadre officer who was Additional Director in CBI before his promotion, is considered close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Centre reportedly had plans to make Asthana CBI Director when Anil Sinha retired last December but had withdraw following objections. He was given additional charges of CBI Director in December last year but handed over charge to Verma when his appointment was cleared by the government in January this year.

(Oct 26, 2017)

CPI(M) for united fight by non-BJP govts on federal structure

The CPI(M) on Tuesday called for a joint campaign by non-BJP ruled states to protect the federal structure of the country in a recall to the 1980s when it took the lead to organise conclaves of opposition parties on Centre-State relations.

Claiming deterioration in Centre-State relations due to Modi government’s actions, CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said earlier the demand was to strengthen Centre-state relations but now it has reached a stage where one has to protect “what we have”.

“We appeal to non-BJP Chief Ministers and governments in states that it is time to come together to fight for strengthening Centre-State relations. We will take up this as a big campaign,” Yechury told a press conference.

The call for a campaign to take on the government on Centre-State relationship is a recall of the conclaves Left parties held with other opposition parties in 1983 and 1984 on Centre-State relations.

While it was against the Congress-led Centre then, sources said, now the CPI(M) wants to build such a campaign involving other parties to take on the BJP. Those conclaves came as several states were ruled by non-Congress parties and were organised in places like Srinagar and Kolkata.

Through such exercises, CPI(M) hopes to take forge opposition unity against the Modi government.

Citing reasons for such a campaign, Yechury said there is a degree of vengeance against opposition leaders but when there are no action when allegations are raised against the son of BJP chief Amit Shah. He also cited the searches at the premises of Tamil actor Vishal after he made comments against BJP leaders on Vijay-starrer ‘Mersal’.

Citing the call for simultaneous central and state polls, he said, “every move that is being conceived of and is being initiated by the government is undermining the constitutional structure of parliamentary democracy.”

Accusing the government of interfering in a state’s right to maintain law and order through central agencies, he said such issues would be discussed by Opposition parties before Parliament session.

(Oct 24, 2017)

Hotel bills land Andaman officer in trouble

A senior Andaman and Nicobar official has landed in trouble after CBI linked hotel bookings in Bengaluru for her daughter’s marriage that mopped up a bill of over Rs 10 lakh to a Rs 79 lakh corruption case.

The CBI has registered a case against Director of Health Services Dr Shipra Paul and the then Chief Medical Officer (Stores) Dr Anwar Moosa among others, accusing them of “indiscriminate supply” of costly branded medicines despite having generic and low cost substitutes. The agency claimed it caused a loss of Rs 79 lakh to the exchequer.

According to the FIR registered on October 11 following investigations by CBI’s Port Blair unit, Paul allegedly booked hotel accommodation at Ibis and Novotel in Bengaluru in February 2016 for her daughter’s marriage.

“The payments to the tune of more than Rs 10 lakh for accommodation as well as food and beverages were borne by one Satish and M A Tauheed. Shabeeb has acted as a link for getting the bookings done through them on behalf of Dr Shipra Paul,” the FIR claimed.

While Satish (Jaya Medical, Port Blair) and Tauheed (T T Tradings, Port Blair) are alleged beneficiaries of the irregularities, Shabeeb is a pharmacist with the Andaman administration. None of those named in the FIR could be contacted for their version.

The Central Medical Stores supply medicines to different health units under the Directorate of Health Services in Andamans. The FIR claimed that between August 2015 and November 2016, there was an “indiscriminate issue/supply” of branded and costly medicines against generic as well as low cost medicines resulting in unlawful gains to private players.

It alleged that in the tender document, brand names were directly mentioned instead of molecular combination names of medicines, which resulted in participation of single bidder for most of the medicines.

When demands are raised by units, the CBI claimed, there were many instances where high cost substitutes were procured for even general medicines like vitamins, calcium, iron, pain killers and nutrients. Also, in some cases supplies were in excess quantity or without any demand.

It also came to light during the investigations that owing to the method in which procurement was made, there was a “substantial increase in the procurement of medicines” under the category of vitamins, iron and calcium medicines in 2015-16 compared to 2014-15 from private players.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Oct 21, 2017)

Don’t treat paramilitary forces as substitute for police: MHA

Amid West Bengal’s objection to withdrawal of central forces from Darjeeling, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has asked states not to treat paramilitary forces as a “substitute” to state police.

Developing a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for processing the requests of deployment in states, the MHA has said such applications should be made only in emergency.

“State governments often make requests to the Centre for deployment of CAPFs (Central Armed Paramilitary Forces) even for occasions where state should normally in a position to take all security measures from their own resources by dispatching police and state armed police,” according to a communication to the states.

“State governments are reluctant to de-induct CAPFs and keep requesting the extension which should not ordinarily be made unless there are adequate security reasons for their extension,” it added.

A senior official said the MHA has to deal with a number of requests from the states “at the drop of the hat” for paramilitary deployment and this is “not an ideal situation”. He cited the recent objections from Bengal government and it approaching Kolkata High court over withdrawal of forces from the restive Darjeeling.

According to the SOP, paramilitary forces would be able to meet “more pressing commitments” like guarding borders, fighting insurgency, anti-naxal operations and in “related situations which need immediate mobilisation” of forces.

“CAPFs cannot substitute the state police force as their deployment is related to emergency/unforeseen crisis in states for maintaining law and order,” the MHA said.

It noted that the Centre has sanctioned India Reserve Battalions in the states, whose purpose s to make states self sufficient in dealing with the law and order and internal security situation by avoiding being dependent on paramilitary forces.

The MHA has now advised the states to set up a state-level committee under the chairmanship of Additional Director General (Law and Order) where local representatives of Intelligence Bureau and paramilitary forces may be co-opted.

These committees should examine and scrutinise the requirements of paramilitary forces by keeping in view of internal security, previous scale of deployment, optimal utilisation of state resouces, intelligence inputs and availability of forces in nearby locations.

Its recommendation for deployment or extension of deployment should be specific and indicate the quantum of forces needed along with solid reasons to back their views.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Oct 20, 2017)

Not much gain for BJP in Kerala

The CPI(M) believes the BJP’s ambitious ‘yatra’ in Kerala was a blessing in disguise for the Left and did no good for the saffron party.

While the BJP is not yet sure of the exact impact it created through ‘Jan Raksha Yatra’, the Left party’s initial analysis is that there was an “effective counter” to the narrative that the saffron party was trying to set against them.

The BJP feels that they have successfully managed to bring to national attention the “violence perpetrated by the CPI(M) against political rivals” though they are not confident about how it would electorally benefit them in the future.

While CPI(M) central leadership marched twice to BJP headquarters during the yatra to protest against RSS-BJP violence, saffron party supporters organised daily marches to AKG Bhavan.

The BJP Core Committee in Kerala would meet soon to analyse the results of the ‘yatra’. The protest march throughout Kerala was organised to encourage the cadre and divert attention from the corruption charges against some leaders in the Medical College controversy.

Senior CPI(M) leaders acknowledged that the BJP managed to rally its supporters around the yatra but their reading is that it could not touch a chord with people.

They cite social media commentary to buttress their point. The CPI(M) had taken an unprecedented initiative to create a counter narrative on the ground as well as in the cyber world. To the surprise of the CPI(M), even non-Left supporters too joined their bandwagon to counter BJP.

The cancelling of BJP chief Amit Shah’s much publicised march through the village of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, subsequent allegations against Shah’s son Jay and the decision to field divisive saffron leaders like Yogi Adityanath added teeth to the campaign, a senior CPI(M) leader told DH.

The comments by central leaders against Kerala with Shah, Adityanath and others questioning Kerala’s development also worked in our favour, he said.

Amid the high-pitch campaign against CPI(M), the BJP also suffered electorally as it lost votes and slipped to fourth in bypolls in Vengara Assembly constituency in Malappuram where the yatra had passed through. It had finished behind SDPI, a Muslim outfit, and could not garner over 8,000 votes as expected.

For the BJP, there is still trouble in the NDA in the state. One of the influential allies, Vellapally Natesan-led BDJS has been creating noises against the party and one of the immediate tasks would be to mollify them.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Oct 20, 2017)

Minimum wages for domestic help in offing

In what could change the lives of hundreds of domestic helps, the government is now contemplating to bring them under a structure that enables them minimum wages, protection from harassment and organise unions.

The Ministry of Labour and Employment is now in the process formulating a national policy for domestic workers and has sought views from public by mid-November after broadly defining the contours of the policy in a two-page public notice.

One of the main tasks of the policy is to “explicitly and effectively” expand the scope of applicable legislations, policies and schemes to “grant domestic workers rights that are enshrined in the laws for other category of workers”, including “minimum wages, equal remuneration”.

While Rs 9,000 as minimum wage for a full-time domestic help in a previous draft, the latest publicised notice does not mention any figure.

The formulation of a national policy would be of great relief for the domestic helps, as many of them fail to earn enough to run their family despite working for more than 12 hours a day and in different households. They also face harassment, both physical and psychological, too and there is no mechanism for their grievance redressal.

Officials said the policy that will be formulated would have such issues addressed and they expect that stakeholders, including experts and those working for the welfare of domestic helps, would come up with innovative ideas that could be incorporated in it.

According to the broad policy framework formulated by the Ministry, this policy should result in setting up an institutional mechanism which provide for social security cover, fair terms of employment, grievance redressal and dispute resolution.

The policy will also provide for model contract of employment with well defined period of work and rest. It also envisages access to social security benefits like health insurance, maternity benefits and old age pensions.

The policy could also touch upon promoting the rights to organise and form their own unions and associations and affiliate with other unions and associations. The domestic helps could also have the right to register themselves with state labour department or any other mechanism available.

Amid increasing incidents of placement agencies playing foul, the policy will also work out a regulatory mechanism for such recruitment institutions.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Oct 18, 2017)

Yechury gets a boost in CC

CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury got a boost as the Central Committee (CC) on Monday asked the Polit Bureau to incorporate his ideas on working with “non-Left secular forces”, including Congress, to oust BJP from power, while finalising party’s political line.

After a fierce discussion for the past three days, the party issued a communique saying the CC has authorised the Polit Bureau to prepare the draft political resolution for the Party Congress in Hyderabad “on the basis of the Polit Bureau outline and the discussions in the Central Committee”.

The Polit Bureau will now meet for two days from on December 9 to prepare the draft resolution to be placed in the Central Committee for finalising it in three-day meet from January 19 next year. Once the draft is finalised, it will be put in public domain for comments and later placed in Party Congress for approval.

The party has already concluded that BJP should be ousted from power but there is divergence in views between Yechury and former General Secretary Prakash Karat’s faction. While Yechury is of the view that the party should not “tie its own hands” by excluding Congress or any other party or forces, Karat vehemently argues that CPI(M) cannot align with Congress.

sitaram-yechury

The three-day meeting saw 63 people participating in the threadbare discussion where, sources said, 32 broadly supported the Karat line which rejected any links with Congress.

Sources said 31 people were in support of Yechury, who argued that “a degree of understanding to achieve the objective of ousting and defeating BJP must be forged” while “not entering” into a political front with non-Left parties.

The impression given by a section of CPI(M) leaders was that the issue would lead to voting in the CC and a possible defeat of Yechury’s formulation. However, a large number of members found merit in Yechury’s argument in the CC that surprised Karat faction and this led to top leaders to decide that a voting would further rupture the atmosphere in the party.

One of the surprise was the support of Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac, whom many believed would toe Kerala faction’s line, for Yechury. Kerala veteran V S Achutanandan also supported Yechury while there were leaders from Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh who voiced apprehension about the Karat line.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Oct 17, 2017)

Pranab as HM in 2004: Mukherjee proposed, Sonia disposed

Former President Pranab Mukherjee’s tryst with unfulfilled dreams appears to be an unending saga throughout his political life.

If he thought he may become Prime Minister in 2012 with the possible elevation of Manmohan Singh as President, eight years before that he wished, to be the Home Minister but Congress President Sonia Gandhi had other ideas.

Mukherjee, who was elected President in 2012 and demitted office three months ago, recalls the stories of these misses between the cup and lips in the third and final volume ‘The Coalition Years: 1996-2012’.

Pranab Cover

He touches upon “prevalent expectation” that he would be the “next choice for Prime Minister” in 2004 after Gandhi famously declines to take over the top post, saying it was possibly based on the fact that he had extensive experience in the government but Singh, who was eventually chosen, was know for his bureaucratic expertise.

This even led to frenzied speculation that he would not join the government under Singh. Mukherjee remembers that he was “reluctant to join” but Gandhi insisted that his presence was vital to the functioning of the government as also a “support to Dr Singh”.

“As it turned out, Dr Singh would talk to me on all important issues and seemed to depend on me. We shared a good working relationship,” he recalls.

He joined the government as Defence Minister but that was not his choice. Gandhi initially wanted him to take over as Finance Minister but Mukherjee was unenthusiastic and told her that he would not take it up due to his “ideological differences on economic policy” with Singh.

“However, I told her that I would prefer Home over External Affairs — I had worked as the chairman of the Standing Committee on Home Affairs for over six years and was conversatn with the ministry — and that I had no experience in Defence,” Mukherjee writes.

“She heard me out, making no commitment, nor indicating a decision other than saying that Defence was a world in itself and the Defence Ministry would offer me maximum autonomyu, taking into account my seniority. It was at the swearing-in that I got to know that I was to be the Minister of Defence,” he says.

He also remembers that Gandhi telling him inn 2007 that she cannot spare him from government and elevate him as country’s President after the Left parties suggest his name. In 2012 also, initially Gandhi had told him so. (http://www.deccanherald.com/content/637643/had-vague-feeling-sonia-may.html)

In his second volume ‘Turbulent Years: 1980-1996’, he had recalled how his relationship with Rajiv Gandhi was soured over his reported wish to become ‘Interim Prime Minister’ after Indira Gandhi’s assassination. He had said he did not aspire so but such “false and spiteful” stories created misgivings in Rajiv’s mind. (http://www.deccanherald.com/content/525775/post-indira-pranab-didnt-want.html)

 Oct 16, 2017

Pranab thought he would become PM in 2012: Book

In a new revelation, former President Pranab Mukherjee says he had a “vague” feeling that Congress chief Sonia Gandhi wanted to nominate Manmohan Singh as UPA presidential candidate in 2012 and make him the Prime Minister.

In the third and final volume of his autobiography ‘The Coalition Years: 1996-2012’ released on Friday evening, Mukherjee also says Gandhi was inclined to make him the Home Minister after Mumbai terror attacks but the then Prime Minister Singh’s advice against it led to P Chidambaram replacing Shivraj Patil.

Recalling the days of hectic negotiations ahead of 2012 Presidential polls in July, he says that Gandhi told him on 2 June 2012 that he was “eminently suited” for the top post but said he “should not forget the crucial role” he plays in the government. She asked him to “suggest a substitute” to which he told her that he have acted as per the leadership’s decision.

“The meeting ended, and I returned with a vague impression that she might wish to consider Manmohan Singh as the UPA presidential nominee. I thought that if she selected Singh for the presidential office, she may choose me as the prime minister,” Mukherjee remembers.

The next fortnight days saw hectic political negotiations and Gandhi informing him that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had suggested the names of the then Vice President Hamid Ansari and Mukherjee for the post. Banerjee then consults Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav and in a surprise announcement names A P J Abdul Kalam, Singh and Somnath Chatterjee in that order as their choice.

The drama ended after a slew of meetings on 14 June 2012 and Singh informed Mukherjee about his discussions about the issue and their “joint decision” to nominate Mukherjee.

Pranab Cover

He also refers to Sharad Pawar who went to create his own party was irked with Gandhi because she relied more P Shiv Shankar on all important issues. “This sense of alienation and disenchantment may have been responsible for his statements on Sonia’s foreign origin and his subsequet exit from the party in 1999,” he adds.

Mukherjee also remembers that P Chidambaram was “stridently vocal” against Patil at a Congress Working Committee meeting, three days after the Mumbai attacks. He says he tried to bring the “sentiment down a bit”. On 1 December 2012, Singh calls him for a meeting where he was told Patil had resigned and tells him about Gandhi’s preference.

Singh said he told Gandhi he could not change Mukherjee at that time and “hence it was decided” that Chidambaram would replace Patil.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Oct 14, 2017)

Divided over Cong, CPI(M) to meet again

Factions led by Sitaram Yechury and Prakash Karat will lock horns once again at the three-day CPI(M) Central Committee beginning Saturday on whether to keep its doors “tactically open” for an understanding with Congress to counter BJP.

After the Polit Bureau failed to reach a consensus despite two meetings in the past one month, the Central Committee would now debate the outline for the draft political resolution that would be placed before the Party Congress in Hyderabad next April.

While the factions led by General Secretary Yechury and former General Secretary Karat have now arrived at a consensus on ousting BJP government as party’s primary task, the difference is over how to achieve this objective.

The Central Committee would debate the lines of both the factions though the Polit Bureau, where Karat faction has majority, had expressed its vociferous opposition to the idea of having any links with Congress.

Sources claimed the Karat faction wants an explicit mention against Congress in the draft resolution that will be finalised by January.

While the Karat faction, which has the support of Kerala unit, argue that tie-ups or understanding with Congress had never helped the CPI(M), the Yechury supporters, predominantly from the Bengal unit, argue that the party should hold hands with all non-Left secular parties, including Congress, to counter the BJP.

The Yechury faction believes that they are being unnecessarily branded “pro-Congress” when they do not insist on forming a political front with Congress.

cpm

Sources said their argument is that “why one should tie your hands” by singling out Congress when there were past experiments along with Congress on cooperating with Fronts “from outside” in the case of United Front and UPA governments. They argue that one cannot take anti-Congressism to “logical absurdity”.

While “not entering” into a political front with non-Left parties, the Yechury faction argues that “a degree of understanding to achieve the objective of ousting and defeating BJP must be forged”. They cite the example of allowing Andhra Pradesh unit to enter into a seat “adjustment” with Congress in 2004 elections as well as similar exercise in Punjab, Odisha and Tamil Nadu.

Sources said the meeting could see a vertical divide over the issue and if there is no compromise on the outline, the Central Committee in January next year to finalise the draft resolution would address the question.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Oct 13, 2017)

 

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: