Skip to main content

Smell of suspicion

By Rajiv Shah
Last week, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi hosted a sumptuous dinner for the state’s top officialdom based in Gandhinagar. I knew in advance that, ahead of the dinner, there was going to be some speechifying – at least two senior-most officials, Gujarat chief secretary AK Joti, and his No 2, additional chief secretary, planning, Varun Maira, were to be fielded to speak on the Modi miracle, on why other states should “replicate” Gujarat model. Modi was jittery. Officials say, the dinner was in retaliation of 2,025 Sachivalaya babus’ pre-assembly poll signature campaign demanding pay hike, warning him, they are not alone, they are backed by five in the family, and their “support” can multiply. As would happen with any newsperson, I curiously tried to phone up and dig out what exactly had happened at the dinner, which Modi termed Vikas Ni Suhas, or Fragrance of Development. Late in the evening, I got return phone call from one of the participants. “Good food, but speeches were boring. There were too many statistics. But what puzzled us was – the presence of each of us was marked. The general administration department had prepared a list of officials who were called, and a tick was marked against the name of every official who entered in”, this official said.
When I wished to know more, this official remarked, “Rajiv, you know, our phones are tapped. I think, this conversation may have also begun being tapped. Let’s talk one-on-one.” We hung the phone. This was not for the first time what a senior Gujarat bureaucrat was complaining that his phone “may have been tapped.” A few days earlier, a senior official working in a blue-chip public sector undertaking (I am deliberately not naming the PSU, lest this official would be easily identified) had something very similar to tell me. He said, “You are always welcome, but I have stopped picking up your and your colleagues’ phones, because I have the lurking suspicion that someone is trying to find out who all I talk to, whether it was I who was passing on any information." I asked him who this someone could be, and he named a top Modi minister. “Why take risk? Let me be satisfied with my work”, he said. There is nothing new in all this. A senior bureaucrat, before moving to Delhi on deputation in 2008, would occasionally tell me: “I would request you to come and see me after office hours. During day time, your presence is marked and reported, as if I am passing on some crucial information to you.” I never believed him, but this bureaucrat also wouldn’t talk on mobile, citing phone tapping.
Suspicion of phone tapping in the state babudom is not new. Those who believed that their phones were being tapped include two former senior bureaucrats who headed – imagine! – the state home department. One of them is retired and is serving on post-retirement job, and the other, if Sachivalaya buzz is any guide, is tipped to be Gujarat’s next chief secretary. Both of them are known for their excellent administrative skills, and both have told me in no uncertain terms that they had “stopped” picking up my phones on joining home as they feared tapping. While one of them said, “Who knows what devices are installed where, so it is better to be careful”, the other one told me that he had seen the demonstration of an Israeli phone tapping device, shown to him in the presence of former Modi minister Amit Shah and several other police officials. He added, though as an afterthought, looking at me beyond his specs, “I don’t know if the device was installed.”
Around the same time when Modi was hosting Fragrance of Development for the Gandhinagar babudom, I chanced upon a video on Youtube, where senior economist Bibek Debroy spoke as guest speaker at the Friends of BJP gathering in US, called to celebrate Modi’s birthday – September 17. All know Debroy as long-time protege of Modi, ever since he was with Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies and Research – when he declared Gujarat’s economic freedom index as the best in the country. What he wrote was widely publicized by Modi’s propaganda machine. Same this time around – the Youtube video was promptly put on all of Modi’s numerous websites. When I was watching him on Youtube, his economic logic, based on Gujarat’s rate of growth, didn’t interest me as much as the reason he gave to prove what he had to say on “Gujarat miracle’s enabling environment” – that Modi has “empowered” Gujarat bureaucracy, that the state babudom acts without any political interference, and that the administration has become truly decentralized. Debroy’s remark prompted me to email a question to him as to what he had to say about Gujarat’s “empowered” babudom in the context of the way Modi’s handpicked babus are made to handle 2002 riot cases, involvement of several top cops in gruesome fake encounters, and the probe into a Modi minister’s direct hand. A clever economist, he knows he shouldn’t be “misunderstood” about his support to Modi. This is what Debroy replied: “I take your point. Perhaps I should have qualified. I meant in the context of development programmes (sic! not Gujarat’s growth story!). Tenures, transfers, postings, decisions, that kind of thing. And in that context.”
In case Debroy had interacted with state babus he would have known better. It’s common knowledge in Sachivalaya how, before being posted as district collector, Porbandar, HN Chhibber was asked by a top Narendra Modi aide, who happens to be one of the senior-most IAS bureaucrats, to “dig out” facts against senior Congressman Arjun Modhwadia. Known for his no-nonsense approach, Chhibber chanced upon a huge mining scam, instead, and involvement of a former minister of Modi’s Cabinet, Babubhai Bokhiriya. With this began Chhibber’s travails. On the last day of his retirement in November 2011, Modi’s men acted quickly to chargesheet him for his “involvement” in a decade-old debris removal scam in quake-hit Kutch. On Modi’s advice, the government also served a chargesheet on a young IAS official Rajiv Topno, who served as district development officer about the same time when Chhibber was Kutch collector, and is now in the Prime Minister’s Office. There is nothing new about chargesheeting officials like this. A retired bureaucrat, JS Rana would have served as Gujarat chief secretary if he was not forced to put in his papers in 2007. His mistake: He refused free State Transport buses for Modi’s Gaurav Yatra in 2002. An inquiry was institute, which hasn’t yet been fully closed, though he has been cleared by Central Administrative Tribunal.
There are, of course, senior IAS officials who have gone very, very close to Modi by toeing his line. One of them is his longest-serving principal secretary, K Kailashnathan. On poll eve, Modi is taking his services to approach district revenue and forest officials in order to “activate” them to distribute forest land among the tribals. On weekdays he is in Sachivalaya. But a senior official revealed, every Saturday and Sunday he goes to some tribal area or the other in order to organize land for the tribals, though official documents, quoting satellite imagery, suggest that 90 per cent of the tribal claims are “false”. Another IAS official, Vipul Mittra, using his Bollywood contacts, even today takes pride of how he “organized” Amitabh Bacchan for Modi’s tourism ads. “Bacchan was about to back out when controversy about his relations with Modi erupted. I used my connections to bring him back”, Mittra declares now. Mittra, significantly, also “organized” a big chunk of land for Bacchan near the proposed Gujarat International Finance Tec-city (GIFT), the new real estate hub near Ahmedabad. “Modi deputed me to do all the paper work”, he says.
---
https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/true-lies/smell-of-suspicion/

Comments

TRENDING

Hold your breath! UK ex-Muslims to celebrate Blasphemy Day on September 30

Soheil Arabi The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB), in a suprise move, has decided to observe September 30 as the Blasphemy Day. In an email alert, Maryam Namazie, CEMB spokesperson, has asked anyone interested to join CEMB in celebrating blasphemy by " uploading your photo into our #blasphemyday frame and sharing on social media."

What this veteran Gandhian witnessed at Rajghat is indeed intensely disturbing

Renowned Gandhian, activist and physicist Professor VK Tripathi witnessed an “intensely worrisome” event at the Gandhi Samadhi on his birthday on October 2, 2021. “The children of the Hindutva criminals who assassinated him have captured places which are supposed to keep Gandhiji's heritage alive”, says Deepak Joshi in a Faceook post, insisting, “We should strongly protest against it. It is already too late.”

Forthcoming book explodes Western myth: Personal qualities are biologically inherited

Jonathan Latham, PhD, Executive Director, The Bioscience Resource Project, New York, has said in an email alert via JanVikalp that his forthcoming book about genetics and genetic determinism, provisionally titled "The Myth of The Master Molecule: DNA and the Social Order" criticises the notion that personal qualities are biologically inherited: *** The contention of the book is that the key organising principle of Western thought is the seemingly innocuous and seemingly simple idea that our personal qualities are biologically inherited. That is, our character derives from our ancestors rather than being an always-adapting product of our own experiences, decisions, and education. The book makes the case, first, that genetic determinism is a scientific fallacy. Organisms are self-organised systems and therefore are not genetically determined. Second, the explanation for the myth, which predates Mesopotamian cities of 6,000 years ago, is its utility. Genetic determinism rationa

International Energy Agency floats new plan to end oil, gas, and coal expansion

In major shift, International Energy Agency (IEA)’s World Energy Outlook has mainstreamed 1.5°C pathway, showing need to end oil, gas, and coal expansion, insisting on new fossil fuel phase-out benchmarks in order to test government ambition ahead of COP26. A report by Oil Change International, distributed by BankTrack: *** For the first time, the International Energy Agency (IEA)’s flagship annual report on global energy pathways, used worldwide to influence trillions of dollars in investment, details an achievable roadmap to keep global heating below 1.5 degrees Celsius (°C). By making a 1.5°C scenario the benchmark of this year’s World Energy Outlook (WEO), the IEA challenges governments and companies to back up lagging Paris pledges with immediate action to shift the energy system away from fossil fuels. Notably, this year’s WEO solidifies the policy conclusion, first presented by the IEA in May , that no new oil, gas, and coal extraction projects should be approved under a 1.5°C-

Gujarat cadre woman IAS official who objected to Modi remark on sleeveless blouse

By Rajiv Shah Two days back, a veteran journalist based in Patna, previously with the Times of India, Ahmedabad, phoned me up to inform me that he had a sad news: Swarnakanta Varma, a retired Gujarat cadre IAS bureaucrat, who was acting chief secretary on the dastardly Godhra train burning day, February 27, 2002, which triggered one of the worst ever communal riots in Gujarat, has passed away due to Covid. “I have been informed about this from a friend in Jaipur, where she breathed her last”, Law Kumar Mishra said.

Known to have assissinated O'Dwyer, Udham Singh chose not to apologise to the British

Udham Singh (26 December 1899 – 31 July 1940), best known for assassinating Michael O'Dwyer , the former lieutenant governor of the Punjab in India , on 13 March 1940, done in revenge for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar in 1919, for which O'Dwyer was responsible, was subsequently tried and convicted of murder and hanged in July 1940. While in custody, he used the name Ram Mohammad Singh Azad, which represents the three major religions of India and his anti-colonial sentiment. Writes a well-known analyst, "He too could have apologised. He chose the noose instead!" Udham Singh's speech prior to sentencing in UK: *** “I say down with British Imperialism. You say India do not have peace. We have only slavery Generations of so called civilisation has brought us everything filthy and degenerating. known to the human race. All you have to do is read your own history. If you have any human decency about you, you should die with shame. The brutality and blood

Diaspora protest as Biden failed to publicly address persecution of minorities in India

As Modi addressed UN, human rights groups decried “monstrosity” of persecution of Muslims, Christians, Dalits, and other minorities in India. Demonstrators gathered outside UN to protest fascism, hate campaigns, weaponized rape, apartheid, lynchings, unlawful arrests, attacks on the media, and other abuses in India: A report distributed by the diaspora group Hindus for Human Rights: *** While observers said it was “shameful” that President Biden failed to publicly address widespread persecution of religious minorities in India when he met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 24, more than 100 members of interfaith and human rights groups spoke out as Modi addressed the United Nations General Assembly. Speakers condemned the egregious human rights violations and murders of religious minorities in India under a government that openly supports Hindu supremacy. The rally was sponsored by 21 organizations, including Ambedkar International Center, Ambedkar King S

Indian Doctors for Truth want Modi to stop overzealous universal vaccination drive

At a time when there is a huge demand to ensure that vaccination should be universal in order to gain immunity against the pandemic, an organisation called Indian Doctors for Truth, have asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the “urgent need to stop the overzealous universal vaccination drive against Covid-19.  Read the letter, signed by 18 doctors and a health expert: ***

Non-entity 6 yrs ago, Indian state turned Fr Stan into world class human rights defender

Jharkhand's Adivasi women  By Rajiv Shah A lot is being written on Father Stan Swamy, a Jesuit priest who is known more for his work for tribal rights in Jharkhand. His death at the age of 84, even when he was an under trial prisoner for his alleged involvement in the Bhima Koregaon violence three years go, has, not without reason, evoked sharp reaction, not just in India but across the world.

Ex-official: Why not offer Vaishnaw loss making BSNL, Air India to prove his worth?

By Rajiv Shah A senior chartered accountant, whom I have known intimately (I am not naming him, as I don’t have his permission), has forwarded me an Indian Express (IE) story (July 18), “Ashwini Vaishnaw: The man in the chair”, which, he says, “contradicts” the blog (July 17), "Will Vaishnaw, close to Modi since Vajpayee days, ever be turnaround man for Railways?" I had written a day earlier and forwarded it to many of my friends.