Monday, September 15, 2014

What Vinod Rai’s book says about bureaucrats: Pulok Chatterji, Vini Mahajan, TKA Nair, PJ Thomas, Sunil Arora etc.

Rai with wife
1980 batch IAS officer Sunil Arora is an “outstanding officer”.
Former principal secretary to PM TKA Nair was a “priest” in the PMO. 
Former Comptroller and Auditor General Vinod Rai’s book “Not Just An Accountant” has a few interesting anecdotes about men who mattered in corridors of power. Here are about 7 of them:

NK Singh, Former IAS
(Coining the “Bhumihar from Ghazipur” comment)
The then rural development minister Jairam Ramesh once asked Vinod Rai why N.K. Singh (Rajya Sabha MP and former IAS) used to refer Rai as a Bhumihar from Ghazipur. Rai says in his book: “Since my father had been in the army and we had moved all across the country, the significance of caste had been lost on us.... In all fairness, I cannot credit Jairam Ramesh with coining this casteist comment (“Bhumihar from Ghazipur”, in an interview)

Pulok Chatterji, Former IAS
(“Where spectrum is scarce, it should be auctioned”)
The book talks about a note by Pulok Chatterji, the then additional secretary at the PMO dated January 6, 2008, that said, “ideally in a situation where spectrum is scarce, it should be auctioned”. “By the time this note reached the prime minister, the DoT had issued licences,” says Rai in his book.

Vini Mahajan, IAS
(Conveying the wishes of the then PM)
After a modified note (on 2G spectrum) was put up to the prime minister by Pulok Chatterji on January 15, Vini Mahajan recorded that the prime minister still wanted this to be “informally shared with the Dept” (telecom department) Rai asks in his book: “Informally, still? Why?”

PJ Thomas and TKA Nair, Both former IAS
(Nair, the Priest)
PJ Thomas, who later became the CVC for a short period, joined the telecom ministry after the “scam” was over. Thomas told Rai once that his minister (Raja) had gone to meet the principal secretary to the prime minister (TKA Nair). But why principal secretary, and not the PM himself? “My minister believes it is not enough to appease the deity, you have to appease the pujari [priest] also.” A remarkable hypothesis, isn’t it?”

RP Singh, Former IAAS
(The officer who opposed Rai?")
Calling RP Singh “a valued teammate” Rai says in his book that they used to converse more as colleagues than as CAG and DG. “We discussed his move from Chandigarh to Delhi to facilitate the marriage of his daughters—this transfer had been granted. He even discussed strained personal relations with some of his seniors. What was unexpected, therefore, was for him to claim that he was being compelled to draw conclusions which were unacceptable to him”.

Sunil Arora, IAS
(A victim of writing against his minister?)
Rai calls Arora “an outstanding officer” who as MD of erstwhile Indian Airlines “took risks in career” to write a formal letter to (the then cabinet secretary) BK Chaturvedi on how the Airlines board was forced to take decisions at the direction of the civil aviation minister (Praful Patel). Rai wrote how Arora had to pay a price for that, as he could not join the Centre on deputation even after his cool period was over. Only recently (after the book was printed), Arora was appointed as Union secretary in the newly created department of skill development and entrepreneurship.

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