Are civil servants in the Ministry of Finance aware of the big ticket funding by Japan’s Soft Bank to many Indian companies. The way Indian companies are receiving funds from foreign banks has surprised many. North Block needs to be vigilant. Are Indian companies really getting clean money? International finance is a multilayer business; nobody knows who is financing whom. Currently, international finance is in a recessionary mode and yet, Soft Bank’s Chairman Masayoshi Son is very aggressive. Paytm, it is learnt, is in talks for funding from Soft Bank. The Alibaba-backed online marketplace company Paytm, is looking to raise around Rs. 12,000 crore from Soft Bank, in the single-largest investment in an e-commerce company. Rajeev Misra, Soft Bank Group’s head of strategic finance, is reportedly looking after the deal. The news surprised many: Saudi Arabia and Japan’s Soft Bank Group will create a technology investment fund along with ‘several other large, unnamed investors’ who are in active talks on their participation and could bring the total size of the new fund up to $100 billion, Soft Bank said. The only solace is that Saudi Arabia’s top sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), will be the lead investment partner and may invest up to $45 billion over the next five years. It is not yet known who is investing the balance $55 billion.
There are two important awards functions in Vigyan Bhawan, Delhi, every year. The first is the SCOPE Awards on the occasion of Public Sector Day on April 11. Second, the Prime Minister’s Awards for Excellence in Public Administration on Civil Services Day on April 21. The SCOPE Awards are presided over by the President of India and the PM’s Award is presented by the Prime Minister of India. The Ministry of Heavy Industry and Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances administer the awards, respectively. Both the functions this year were botched up and there was utter chaos. In the SCOPE Awards, officials did not know the sitting arrangement. It was free for all. The cool-headed Home Minister Rajnath Singh was the Chief Guest on the first day. Miffed at a 12-minute delay in starting the function, Singh used the opportunity to chide bureaucrats on their lack of punctuality and even asked them to introspect on whether the delay was due to a “laxity of commitment”. The gathering of senior IAS and IPS officers, including Cabinet Secretary PK Sinha and Additional Principal Secretary to PM PK Mishra, were stunned to hear the plain talk of Home Minister. Secretary DAPRG C Viswanath , who was managing the function, was clearly embarrassed before senior officers. Media persons were the biggest victim in both the functions as they did not receive any press material. Earmarked media seats in both functions were occupied by senior officers. Some very senior journalists were seen sitting on the aisles. In the PM Awards function managed by ITDC, none of the attendees had any clue who are the awardees. The printed awards booklet was being offloaded from the truck after the function was over.
The use of red beacons which symbolise power, a sense of entitlement and VVIP culture in the corridors of Delhi and state capitals has come to an end from May 1. There is an eerie silence among the civil servants but some are enthused and welcome the change. Ashok Khemka, an IAS officer of Haryana cadre, took to Twitter to say that, “some other privileges must go too. “Use of British honorifics, ‘Sir, His Excellency, My Lord’ like the use of red beacon light on car also need a review.” IAS-turned politician Jayaprakash Narayan says banning red lights on cars for ‘VIPs’ is long overdue. After welcoming the move, he added: “All other trappings of VIP culture in our democracy should go.” Haryana State Election Commissioner Dr. Dalip Singh uploaded a photo on Facebook removing the “red beacon” from his car. Significantly, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan had not used vehicles with red beacons even before the decision was taken. Air India Chairman and Managing Director and 1980-batch Indian Railway Service of Mechanical Engineering (IRSME) Officer Ashwani Lohani said that the VIP culture had always disturbed him since the time he had joined bureaucracy. In a Facebook post, the senior bureaucrat went beyond the red beacon to argue that the culture of officials accepting and expecting “bouquets, special arrangements, protocol, slew of subordinates to receive and see off and to top it all gifts and freebies” must also end along with red beacons. “A reminder of the raj era, such conduct that diverts focus away from deliverance would hopefully also diminish considerably,” he wrote in his Facebook post. “The red beacon now has gone for good but nobody can say with certainty that the same in the mindset has also disappeared,” the PM said in his recent ‘Mann ki baat’. Clearly more is on the anvil.
Dr PK Sinha gets a one-year extension as Cabinet Secretary in a one-line order/ The government said that the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet approved the extension of Cabinet Secretary and 1977 batch Uttar Pradesh cadre IAS officer PK Sinha’s tenure for one year beyond June 12, 2017. It means, Sinha will get tenure of three years as India’s top bureaucrat. The extension clearly indicates that PM does not want to take risks in experimenting with a new hand at this juncture. The efficient and able KM Chandrasekhar and Ajit K Seth were given extensions multiple times. Each got a chance to serve for four long years. The sanction of an extension is the prerogative of the Prime Minister. There’s is nothing wrong in it. The only issue is that it denies bright and performing bureaucrats of at least three successive IAS batches the chance to reach the top of the bureaucratic stratum. The Secretary of Defence and External Affairs gets a two-year fixed term. The term of S Jaishanker, the External Affairs Secretary, has already been extended for one year. The debate among senior civil servants is, what if union secretaries too are given extension for a year or two? Will it not destabilise the IAS structure? Chandrasekhar’s first one-year-extension ruined the hope of Sudha Pillai of the 1972 batch of becoming India’s first woman cabinet secretary. In June 2011, Ajit K Seth of the 1974 batch became Cabinet Secretary. He first got a one-year extension during the UPA-II, but many were surprised when Narendra Modi decided to retain him as the Cabinet Secretary. But the extension was on expected lines as Modi needed a smooth transition of power and who can do a better job than the Cabinet Secretary. If the current trend continues, incumbent Sinha too may end up getting a four-year-term. The extension to Dr. Sinha not only recognises his work ethic but ensures smooth sailing during the elections for President and Vice President. As has been observed during the recent Civil Service Awards, Sinha is well in tune with the mindset of the PM and acts accordingly.
IF the Asaf Jah dynasty (Nizam) built Hyderabad, it was the British who founded Secunderabad. Credit must be given to Chandrababu Naidu, who ruled un-divided Andhra Pradesh for a decade, for adding a new city called Cyberabad, a high-tech hub that is the pride of Hyderabad. Despite the partition of the State and Andhra Pradesh facing a huge financial crunch, Chandrababu is moving earth and heaven to build a new capital-Amaravathi-as the new destination for IT and compete with Hyderabad, Bangalore and NOIDA. As part of this strategy, after he became Chief Minister of new state in May 2014, he went on a long visit in April 2015 to the US and confabulated with several IT majors inviting them invest in Amaravathi. Now, in a fresh bid, Naidu is again on a nearly two-week long coast-to-coast visit of the US, via the mid west to invite investment in Amaravathi. While criss-crossing the US, Naidu is expected to meet about 300 CEOs. His visit is scheduled to end in Silicon Vally where he will be meeting Tim Cook (Apple), Sunder Pichai ( Google), Bill Gates and Satya Nadella (Microsoft). Meetings are also fixed with the heads of Facebook, Oracle, Twitter, Tesla and others. Before departing for the US, he met Nitin Gadkari, Arun Jaitley, Venkaiah Naidu and other ministers to give a final shape to deliverables promised to potential foreign investors.