Kissa kursi ka…

Organising the Republic Day Parade at India Gate is an enormous task but the Defence Ministry manages to make it memorable and exclusive year after year. The Ministry is ably aided by the CPWD which takes care of logistics like chairs, barricading, decoration, ‘Salaami Manch’ etc., and other infrastructure modalities. The job begins in October each year when the CPWD issues tenders for logistics support; it spends around Rs. 1.25 crore on logistics. The most reputed tentwallah is engaged for the job. Approximately 90,000 chairs of all quality are arranged for visiting dignitaries. The CPWD and contractors have to hand over the complete India Gate site after making all stipulated arrangements to Army personnel by January 15 each year. It’s a drill. But there is another drill that is carried out without raising an eyelid. The moment the Beating Retreat is over on January 29, the contractors have to pack up and vacate India Gate by February 10 each year. This is the time when some CPWD mandarins become active. One will be surprised to know every year out of 90,000 chairs approximately 4,000 chairs and other logistic support goes missing. When gfiles enquired about this annual theft, it was disclosed that some of the lower CPWD staff run tent houses in their spare time and they shamelessly take away the chairs every year after the Republic Day parade. There is no theft report filed by contractors!

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Food Mafia in UP

Who is the most powerful functionary in the Uttar Pradesh bureaucracy? Obvious answer should be the Chief Secretary of the state. No. The most influential civil servant in Uttar Pradesh is the Panchayat Secretary of a District. He is the nerve centre of the villages in his/her district. The State has about one lakh villages. As per the Government scheme to feed the poorest, nearly 500 below poverty line (BPL) villagers in each village are being provided daily rations like rice, wheat, kerosene, sugar and salt. Sources disclosed that State politicians and civil servants are running the biggest mafia in the Public Distribution System. The modus operandi is simple: the wholesale distributor just allocates half the ration to the village supplier and the latter distributes half the sanctioned limit. The rest is sold in the open market at little lower than market prices. The village Pradhan has nothing to do with the distribution of the ration as the State Government has appointed private agencies in the villages. At a conservative calculation of one lakh villages and 500 people in each, every day 5 crore people are fed by the State and even if one rupee is siphoned each day per person, it comes to Rs. 18,000 crore each year. The villagers are still starving. Will anybody wake up in Uttar Pradesh!

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Lobbyist Bibek Debroy

Aregime change normally brings new faces. But, some academicians, economists and theory pro-pounders have survived the UPA1, 2 and NDA regimes. One such economist is NITI Aayog member Bibek Debroy. An analysis of his advocacy reveals the forces operating the system, which makes such people indispensible. Rethink rail electrification: Bibek Debroy redflags the railways diesel phase-out plan, writing “Several experts have questioned the logic of 100 per cent electrification and have argued that if few countries have done this, there is a good reason for it. And that includes the need to have a back-up plan in case of a grid failure-due to sabotage or natural reasons-as well as the fact that certain routes simply do not have the requisite transport volumes to justify electrification.” He has been advocating for diesel locomotives for the last four years since Alstom started its Rs. 40,000 crore manufacturing project of electric engines in Bihar. If the Railways opt out from 100 per cent electrification and cancels the order of Alstom and GE, who is benefitted? Back in 2015, Manoj Sinha, the then Minister of State for Railways, informed the Lok Sabha that the single largest bulk consumer of diesel in the country, (Railways) requires about 2.5 billion litres of diesel a year and has to foot a bill of about Rs. 17,000 crore. “Sinha did not tell the house that Essar Oil and Reliance had won the rate contract to supply diesel to the Railways, edging out Indianoil, Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum. We leave you draw your own conclusions.

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Eccentric Barugaru

Sanjay Baru alias Barugaru is a seasoned professional (he was a journalist once upon a time). Many say that professionals generally don’t have a loyalty factor in their genes; they move wherever their bread and butter are earned. Sanjay Baru is not an exception to this. He was the Press Advisor to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh but moved out and wrote a book, The Accidental Prime Minister: The Making and Unmaking of Manmohan Singh. Nobody in the Congress leadership understood till now how Sanjay Baru got the job in the PMO and who forwarded his name. Last year, Barugaru joined FICCI, which claims to be the ‘voice of industry’, reportedly with the blessings of Finance Minister Arun Jaitely. Barugaru is acting like his masters’ voice since he has joined FICCI. This year’s budget briefing at FICCI headquarters was fabulously arranged by Baru but the result left everybody puzzled. For the first time, FICCI bought telecast rights of the Finance Minister’s speech to ETNow TV. Not only this, FICCI restricted the entry of all other journalists from different newspapers and TV networks. The impact was instant; except for Economic Times, very few newspapers carried the advocacy of budget by Arun Jaitely the next day. FICCI President Rashesh Shah, Chairman and CEO of the Edelweiss Group, does not know what to do with Barugaru’s eccentric behaviour.

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UIDAI falls flat on its feet

As of February 15, 2018, the Government has issued over 117 crore Aadhaar cards with a countrywide coverage of over 89 per cent. In some of the States and Union Territories, such as Delhi, Goa, Chandigarh, Punjab and Kerala, the registration rate is over 100 per cent. The worst in terms of performances are the North-Eastern states of Assam, Meghalaya and Nagaland. Depending on which side of the fence–pro-privacy or anti-Aadhaar–you are on, it can be deemed to be a huge success or monumental malaise. But if there is one failure that was unanticipated, not-thought-through, it was in the area of governance, management, and continuation. The nodal agency, Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), should have known that the real problem is invariably post-issuance management. At any given point in time, 10-20 per cent of the card holders will require changes–change of names due to marriage, new cards due to births, and change of address in an ever-migrating ecosystem. The authority seems totally unprepared to deal with such changes in 20-25 million Aadhaars on an annual basis. The number of branch offices for changes are limited even in Delhi, the nation’s capital. Queues are common; people line up at 5 a.m. reminding one the old ‘Socialist’ days of the 1970s. Government servants at UIDAI branches are ‘lazy’ or ‘uninterested’ and citizens have to make frequent visits. The issue has more critical after the Government has insisted on linking Aadhaar with almost everything– PAN, bank account, mobile number, subsidies, etc.

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