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.


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)

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