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Crusader or Conspirator? (Coalgate and Other Truths)
Crusader or Conspirator? (Coalgate and Other Truths)
Description

About the Book

 

In 2012, a controversy over allocation of coal blocks to private companies rocked the country. The government's finance watchdog- the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) - found the government had picked favourites and avoided open and competitive bidding which would have generated far more revenue for a cash-starved state. The CAG concluded that India had lost ` 1.861akh crore (over $ 30 billion) in the process, all of which went to the private companies. It was the biggest recorded seam in the history of India.

 

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), India's premier investigation agency, then filed an FIR against the top officer in the coal ministry-Secretary PC Parakh and industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla. Parakh had by then earned a fine reputation for ability and integrity in over three decades. as a civil servant. His stint as the top bureaucrat in the coal ministry was his last posting in a sterling career. The FIR outraged the civil services and corporate India and was widely condemned by the intelligentsia of the country.

 

The book isn't just about the coal seam. It is also about working with some of the biggest Indian politicians, starting with chief ministers of Andhra Pradesh. It is about life in the coal ministry with Mamata Banerjee, Shibu Soren and Dr. Manmohan Singh, who was also the Prime Minister. It is about the lessons learnt before Parakh met any of these dignitaries. It is an account that startles with never-before revealed information.

 

About the Author

 

PC Parakh, former Coal Secretary is most known for his efforts in bringing transparency in the Indian coal sector. He was responsible for introducing e-marketing of coal in India, thus eliminating role of mafia in coal marketing. He also proposed a transparent system for allocation of coal blocks through open bidding.

 

A gold-medalist from the University of Roorkee (now IIT-Roorkee), Parakh worked as a Mining Geologist for National Mineral Development Corporation and Hindustan Copper Limited before joining the IAS in 1969. He received his Masters Degree in Fiscal Studies from the University of Bath (UK).

 

In his parent cadre of Andhra Pradesh, Parakh had a long tenure in the Industry Ministry and was instrumental in making Andhra Pradesh a preferred destination for investment. He was also responsible for restructuring and privatizing loss-making state public sector companies under a British government-funded DFID programme.

 

Post-retirement Parakh is looking after the work of Bhagwan Mahavir Viklang Sahayata Samiti, the world's largest organization for free supply of artificial limbs (the famous Jaipur foot) in Andhra Pradesh. He is also associated with another NGO, Bhagwan Mahavir Relief Foundation Trust that provides dialysis services to poor kidney patients in Hyderabad.

 

Foreword

 

In our Parliamentary System of governance, the Executive is primarily responsible for providing governance in the country. The System provides for a political executive, which is distinct from the permanent executive. The political executive at the centre and at the state-level is responsible, for policy formulation, decision-making in major matters of governance and development, as well as the supervision and monitoring of policy implementation. The bureaucracy mans posts at all levels, from the village to the block, to the district and all the way to the state and Central secretariats; and is primarily responsible for the implementation of tasks handed to it by the political executive and the senior bureaucracy. At its higher levels, the civil service acts as an adviser to the political executive and assists in policy formulation. While wider national policies are, ideally, debated and directed by the party in power, administrative policies are established by the executive. By very nature of things, the work of the political executive and the permanent executive have a large and complex overlap; their smooth and harmonious interaction is an essential prerequisite for good governance.

 

The bureaucrat and the politician are the two sides of the governance coin. Their smooth interaction, working in tandem in public interest is the key to good governance. In recent decades it has been noticed that this ideal structure, in practice, has been impaired to a serious extent with the political executive demanding not just servility, but abject obedience to meet the objectives and desires of the former. With a large degree of venality having crept into the political scenario, in effect this means that the minister or political chief demands that the bureaucrat functions in the personal interest of the politician, rather than in public interest. This is the basic cause of the sharp decline in governance standards.

 

In short, entering politics today is a business venture; much as a young entrepreneur would invest in a business, with the ultimate aim of making a fortune. With honourable exceptions, this has sadly become the rule of the day. Fortunately for the politicians, the courts generally are benign on the grounds of 'privilege of the legislator', and there is no equivalent of a 5EBI to watch over malpractices; in short, there is no regulator for politicians - we still await the Lokpal. In the first decades after Independence, much or most of the policy making was proposed, sponsored and developed by officials, especially the higher civil service, finally to obtain the formal approval of the political executive.

 

By the '70s, the ministers asserted to have their own say on decision-making, especially on individual cases. Policy- making was by and large still left to the bureaucracy; however, the need of the ministers to clear individual cases had become stronger by then. So during the '70s and '80s, it was quite usual for the ministers to overrule their subordinates, and enforce their writ. By the '90s it had become more and more difficult to overrule logical, correct and proper notes in a whimsical way, largely due to adverse attention shown by the courts, as well as the difficulties inherent in attacking a logical well-built case. The need came at that time to transfer out inconvenient secretaries or joint secretaries, and have them replaced with more pliant ones, at least those who would not write so strongly as to make it difficult for the minister to overrule the notings of the secretariat. Generally, the minister would be satisfied to get a wishy-washy note suggesting alternatives including the one that the minister would prefer to approve; clearly he encouraged his officials to firmly indicate the desired course of action, as has been verbally communicated by the minister to the secretary. The above required that the secretariat supporting the minister should be pliant and be willing to co-operate with the minister concerned. They need not really be eo- conspirators; it was sufficient if they were intellectually dishonest to write the kind of notes which were really required, and to guide the final decision in the desired manner. Of course there are many variants to this theme, depending on local circumstances and the situation. By and large, the minister wanted a secretary who will 'play ball' with him, even if he was not always required to 'tango' with him. It was the unspoken responsibility of the secretary to the department to handle the lower formations suitably, so that the system functions smoothly. This he did by suitably allocating the work within the department to ensure that he had least difficulty.

 

Preface

 

Irrespective of the nature of the State, whether democratic, socialist, capitalist, autocratic or imperialist, the only tool available to it for implementing its policies is its civil service. The efficiency, commitment, honesty and discipline of the civil service will determine the efficacy of its governance.

 

When India won independence from the British, it inherited the Indian Civil Service (ICS) at the apex of the civil service hierarchy. The ICS was the steel frame on which the entire edifice of the British Empire in India rested. A handful of officers of this service administered the vast Indian Empire with great ability and efficiency. Recruited and trained by a colonial government, although their commitment to democracy and the new political system was a matter of conjecture, there was near unanimity that the members of this service were disciplined, honest and objective.

 

There were serious differences within the Indian National Congress on the administrative structure of independent India. Jawaharlal Nehru was extremely sceptical of the ICS. He thought the Indian Civil Service was neither Indian nor civil. Nor, he thought, was it about service. Sardar Patel understood and appreciated the value and importance of an honest and independent civil service and the role it would play in building a new nation. As the first home minister of independent India, Patel had tested the ability of the civil service in the unification of the nation and in handling the mammoth post-partition problems of law-and- order and of migrants. Patel's faith in the ability and loyalty of the civil service was unflinching and it was entirely due to his efforts that the Constitution of India provides adequate safeguards to protect civil servants against any capricious action of their political masters.

 

After independence, not many political leaders shared Patel's vision for the civil service. In the present day, with corruption impacting the entire political system of India, the independence and fearlessness of the civil service as visualised by Patel is considered an affront to the elected political leadership. The differing perceptions of the role of elected representatives and civil servants have totally vitiated the relationship between civil servants and the political executive. This relationship is now either adversarial or collusive. In this situation, many members of the civil service have adapted to the new expectations of the political system. This in turn has seriously undermined the governance of India. The constitutional safeguards, for which Sardar Patel fought single-handedly, have not been able to preserve the integrity, neutrality and independence of the civil service. By a simple and devious tool, the politicians of today's India have undone all that the Sardar worked for. Officers deemed inconvenient, because they are upright, are frequently and arbitrarily transferred or consigned to insignificant assignments. Worse, officers have at times been suspended for offending powerful vested interests in the line of duty. Some have had investigations initiated against them for frivolous reasons.

 

In this monograph I reflect on and share my experiences while serving with State and Central governments. These are instances that have a bearing on corruption in governance. There are instances of how conflicts arise between civil servants and the political leadership when civil servants are not willing to be party to partisan or wrong decisions. Civil servants invariably suffer when such conflict arises because there is no code of conduct to govern the political class. I too have had moments of agony and frustration because I was forthright and I did not budge from what I thought was right. Yet, I was not victimised or relegated to insignificant assignments. Perhaps the political leadership in Andhra Pradesh was not as vicious and brazen as in other states. Perhaps I had the unflinching support of the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, in the coal ministry. Perhaps I was simply lucky.

 

Most of the ills in India's governance, if not all, arise from corruption in the government. There was always petty corruption. But it has now spread to the higher echelons of the civil service and the political leadership. With this, the government's ability to control corruption has been seriously compromised. It is not possible to curb corruption in India as long as the electoral and the political system of the country depend on illicit funds. It would seem that elected representatives have no option but to indulge in and support corruption. The cases of Members of the Railway Board and the Chairman of Coal India, the two largest employers in the public sector, are illustrative. How can they be expected to stop corruption in their organisations if they have to pay hefty bribes before their own appointment orders can be issued?

 

Contents

 

Foreword

13

Preface

19

Acknowledgements

25

Part One

With The State Government

1.

Welcome to Andhra Pradesh

29

2.

Sub-Collector, Asifabad: The First Lesson

33

3.

Commercial Taxes: The Milch Cow

39

4.

Civil Supplies: Oily Matters

45

5.

Collector and District Magistrate:

The Ego of Factions

49

6.

Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad:

The First Rebellion

54

7.

Andhra Pradesh Dairy Development Corporation:

A Rolling Stone

62

8.

Godavari Fertilizers and Chemicals Limited:

Corrupted Brilliance

64

9.

Industries Department: Home Delivery of Bribes

73

10.

Department of Public Enterprises: Political Compulsions

81

11.

My First Minister Ms Mamata Banerjee:

The Other Side of Simplicity

87

12.

Mr. Shibu Soren Joins and Resigns:

The Minister who Disappeared

92

13.

Prime Minister takes Charge: Three Big Ticket Reforms

94

14.

Allocation of Captive Coal Blocks: PMO and Ministers

Scuttle Transparency

98

15.

In Defence of CAG: Why the Prime Minister is Wrong

110

16.

E-Marketing of Coal: Ministers Dump Prime Minister's Policy

118

17.

Appointment of the CMD, Coal India:

Blackmail by the Ministers

122

18.

Games that Members of Parliament Play

128

19.

Mr Shibu Soren: The Minister with a Personal Agenda

138

20.

Supreme Court, CBI and Coalgate:

Looking in Wrong Place

145

Part Three

Code For The Future

21.

Civil Service, Ministers and People's Representatives

161

Epilogue

191

Annexures

195

Bibliography

267

Index

269

 

Crusader or Conspirator? (Coalgate and Other Truths)

Item Code:
NAG462
Cover:
Hardcover
Edition:
2014
Publisher:
ISBN:
9788170494874
Language:
English
Size:
8.5 inch X 5.5 inch
Pages:
288 (9 B/W Illustrations)
Other Details:
Weight of the Book: 525 gms
Price:
$25.00   Shipping Free
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About the Book

 

In 2012, a controversy over allocation of coal blocks to private companies rocked the country. The government's finance watchdog- the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) - found the government had picked favourites and avoided open and competitive bidding which would have generated far more revenue for a cash-starved state. The CAG concluded that India had lost ` 1.861akh crore (over $ 30 billion) in the process, all of which went to the private companies. It was the biggest recorded seam in the history of India.

 

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), India's premier investigation agency, then filed an FIR against the top officer in the coal ministry-Secretary PC Parakh and industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla. Parakh had by then earned a fine reputation for ability and integrity in over three decades. as a civil servant. His stint as the top bureaucrat in the coal ministry was his last posting in a sterling career. The FIR outraged the civil services and corporate India and was widely condemned by the intelligentsia of the country.

 

The book isn't just about the coal seam. It is also about working with some of the biggest Indian politicians, starting with chief ministers of Andhra Pradesh. It is about life in the coal ministry with Mamata Banerjee, Shibu Soren and Dr. Manmohan Singh, who was also the Prime Minister. It is about the lessons learnt before Parakh met any of these dignitaries. It is an account that startles with never-before revealed information.

 

About the Author

 

PC Parakh, former Coal Secretary is most known for his efforts in bringing transparency in the Indian coal sector. He was responsible for introducing e-marketing of coal in India, thus eliminating role of mafia in coal marketing. He also proposed a transparent system for allocation of coal blocks through open bidding.

 

A gold-medalist from the University of Roorkee (now IIT-Roorkee), Parakh worked as a Mining Geologist for National Mineral Development Corporation and Hindustan Copper Limited before joining the IAS in 1969. He received his Masters Degree in Fiscal Studies from the University of Bath (UK).

 

In his parent cadre of Andhra Pradesh, Parakh had a long tenure in the Industry Ministry and was instrumental in making Andhra Pradesh a preferred destination for investment. He was also responsible for restructuring and privatizing loss-making state public sector companies under a British government-funded DFID programme.

 

Post-retirement Parakh is looking after the work of Bhagwan Mahavir Viklang Sahayata Samiti, the world's largest organization for free supply of artificial limbs (the famous Jaipur foot) in Andhra Pradesh. He is also associated with another NGO, Bhagwan Mahavir Relief Foundation Trust that provides dialysis services to poor kidney patients in Hyderabad.

 

Foreword

 

In our Parliamentary System of governance, the Executive is primarily responsible for providing governance in the country. The System provides for a political executive, which is distinct from the permanent executive. The political executive at the centre and at the state-level is responsible, for policy formulation, decision-making in major matters of governance and development, as well as the supervision and monitoring of policy implementation. The bureaucracy mans posts at all levels, from the village to the block, to the district and all the way to the state and Central secretariats; and is primarily responsible for the implementation of tasks handed to it by the political executive and the senior bureaucracy. At its higher levels, the civil service acts as an adviser to the political executive and assists in policy formulation. While wider national policies are, ideally, debated and directed by the party in power, administrative policies are established by the executive. By very nature of things, the work of the political executive and the permanent executive have a large and complex overlap; their smooth and harmonious interaction is an essential prerequisite for good governance.

 

The bureaucrat and the politician are the two sides of the governance coin. Their smooth interaction, working in tandem in public interest is the key to good governance. In recent decades it has been noticed that this ideal structure, in practice, has been impaired to a serious extent with the political executive demanding not just servility, but abject obedience to meet the objectives and desires of the former. With a large degree of venality having crept into the political scenario, in effect this means that the minister or political chief demands that the bureaucrat functions in the personal interest of the politician, rather than in public interest. This is the basic cause of the sharp decline in governance standards.

 

In short, entering politics today is a business venture; much as a young entrepreneur would invest in a business, with the ultimate aim of making a fortune. With honourable exceptions, this has sadly become the rule of the day. Fortunately for the politicians, the courts generally are benign on the grounds of 'privilege of the legislator', and there is no equivalent of a 5EBI to watch over malpractices; in short, there is no regulator for politicians - we still await the Lokpal. In the first decades after Independence, much or most of the policy making was proposed, sponsored and developed by officials, especially the higher civil service, finally to obtain the formal approval of the political executive.

 

By the '70s, the ministers asserted to have their own say on decision-making, especially on individual cases. Policy- making was by and large still left to the bureaucracy; however, the need of the ministers to clear individual cases had become stronger by then. So during the '70s and '80s, it was quite usual for the ministers to overrule their subordinates, and enforce their writ. By the '90s it had become more and more difficult to overrule logical, correct and proper notes in a whimsical way, largely due to adverse attention shown by the courts, as well as the difficulties inherent in attacking a logical well-built case. The need came at that time to transfer out inconvenient secretaries or joint secretaries, and have them replaced with more pliant ones, at least those who would not write so strongly as to make it difficult for the minister to overrule the notings of the secretariat. Generally, the minister would be satisfied to get a wishy-washy note suggesting alternatives including the one that the minister would prefer to approve; clearly he encouraged his officials to firmly indicate the desired course of action, as has been verbally communicated by the minister to the secretary. The above required that the secretariat supporting the minister should be pliant and be willing to co-operate with the minister concerned. They need not really be eo- conspirators; it was sufficient if they were intellectually dishonest to write the kind of notes which were really required, and to guide the final decision in the desired manner. Of course there are many variants to this theme, depending on local circumstances and the situation. By and large, the minister wanted a secretary who will 'play ball' with him, even if he was not always required to 'tango' with him. It was the unspoken responsibility of the secretary to the department to handle the lower formations suitably, so that the system functions smoothly. This he did by suitably allocating the work within the department to ensure that he had least difficulty.

 

Preface

 

Irrespective of the nature of the State, whether democratic, socialist, capitalist, autocratic or imperialist, the only tool available to it for implementing its policies is its civil service. The efficiency, commitment, honesty and discipline of the civil service will determine the efficacy of its governance.

 

When India won independence from the British, it inherited the Indian Civil Service (ICS) at the apex of the civil service hierarchy. The ICS was the steel frame on which the entire edifice of the British Empire in India rested. A handful of officers of this service administered the vast Indian Empire with great ability and efficiency. Recruited and trained by a colonial government, although their commitment to democracy and the new political system was a matter of conjecture, there was near unanimity that the members of this service were disciplined, honest and objective.

 

There were serious differences within the Indian National Congress on the administrative structure of independent India. Jawaharlal Nehru was extremely sceptical of the ICS. He thought the Indian Civil Service was neither Indian nor civil. Nor, he thought, was it about service. Sardar Patel understood and appreciated the value and importance of an honest and independent civil service and the role it would play in building a new nation. As the first home minister of independent India, Patel had tested the ability of the civil service in the unification of the nation and in handling the mammoth post-partition problems of law-and- order and of migrants. Patel's faith in the ability and loyalty of the civil service was unflinching and it was entirely due to his efforts that the Constitution of India provides adequate safeguards to protect civil servants against any capricious action of their political masters.

 

After independence, not many political leaders shared Patel's vision for the civil service. In the present day, with corruption impacting the entire political system of India, the independence and fearlessness of the civil service as visualised by Patel is considered an affront to the elected political leadership. The differing perceptions of the role of elected representatives and civil servants have totally vitiated the relationship between civil servants and the political executive. This relationship is now either adversarial or collusive. In this situation, many members of the civil service have adapted to the new expectations of the political system. This in turn has seriously undermined the governance of India. The constitutional safeguards, for which Sardar Patel fought single-handedly, have not been able to preserve the integrity, neutrality and independence of the civil service. By a simple and devious tool, the politicians of today's India have undone all that the Sardar worked for. Officers deemed inconvenient, because they are upright, are frequently and arbitrarily transferred or consigned to insignificant assignments. Worse, officers have at times been suspended for offending powerful vested interests in the line of duty. Some have had investigations initiated against them for frivolous reasons.

 

In this monograph I reflect on and share my experiences while serving with State and Central governments. These are instances that have a bearing on corruption in governance. There are instances of how conflicts arise between civil servants and the political leadership when civil servants are not willing to be party to partisan or wrong decisions. Civil servants invariably suffer when such conflict arises because there is no code of conduct to govern the political class. I too have had moments of agony and frustration because I was forthright and I did not budge from what I thought was right. Yet, I was not victimised or relegated to insignificant assignments. Perhaps the political leadership in Andhra Pradesh was not as vicious and brazen as in other states. Perhaps I had the unflinching support of the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, in the coal ministry. Perhaps I was simply lucky.

 

Most of the ills in India's governance, if not all, arise from corruption in the government. There was always petty corruption. But it has now spread to the higher echelons of the civil service and the political leadership. With this, the government's ability to control corruption has been seriously compromised. It is not possible to curb corruption in India as long as the electoral and the political system of the country depend on illicit funds. It would seem that elected representatives have no option but to indulge in and support corruption. The cases of Members of the Railway Board and the Chairman of Coal India, the two largest employers in the public sector, are illustrative. How can they be expected to stop corruption in their organisations if they have to pay hefty bribes before their own appointment orders can be issued?

 

Contents

 

Foreword

13

Preface

19

Acknowledgements

25

Part One

With The State Government

1.

Welcome to Andhra Pradesh

29

2.

Sub-Collector, Asifabad: The First Lesson

33

3.

Commercial Taxes: The Milch Cow

39

4.

Civil Supplies: Oily Matters

45

5.

Collector and District Magistrate:

The Ego of Factions

49

6.

Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad:

The First Rebellion

54

7.

Andhra Pradesh Dairy Development Corporation:

A Rolling Stone

62

8.

Godavari Fertilizers and Chemicals Limited:

Corrupted Brilliance

64

9.

Industries Department: Home Delivery of Bribes

73

10.

Department of Public Enterprises: Political Compulsions

81

11.

My First Minister Ms Mamata Banerjee:

The Other Side of Simplicity

87

12.

Mr. Shibu Soren Joins and Resigns:

The Minister who Disappeared

92

13.

Prime Minister takes Charge: Three Big Ticket Reforms

94

14.

Allocation of Captive Coal Blocks: PMO and Ministers

Scuttle Transparency

98

15.

In Defence of CAG: Why the Prime Minister is Wrong

110

16.

E-Marketing of Coal: Ministers Dump Prime Minister's Policy

118

17.

Appointment of the CMD, Coal India:

Blackmail by the Ministers

122

18.

Games that Members of Parliament Play

128

19.

Mr Shibu Soren: The Minister with a Personal Agenda

138

20.

Supreme Court, CBI and Coalgate:

Looking in Wrong Place

145

Part Three

Code For The Future

21.

Civil Service, Ministers and People's Representatives

161

Epilogue

191

Annexures

195

Bibliography

267

Index

269

 

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