Special Report:UPA’s Last Minute Rewards
Defying all sense of political decency and administrative decorum, the Congress-led UPA government showered favours—from appointments on constitutional and non-constitutional posts to transfers—on its loyalists at the eleventh hour. Nothing could deter it, be it the code of conduct or the electoral debacle, from behaving in such a silly manner to benefit its buddies.
Official documents, procured through RTI by this correspondent, reveal that even while the election results were being announced on May 16, the Finance Ministry was busy in issuing transfer orders of around 148 Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officers in Income Tax Department. Some officers of the Central Customs and Excise Service, serving as private secretaries to various ministers, also got new postings as soon as they realised that the game was over for their political masters. The Government also empanelled 45 IAS officers as Additional Secretaries.
BL Joshi quits, what about others
According to the information procured through an RTI dated May 21 (No. 4-1/2014-CLM), the Ministry of Minority Affairs appointed Prof Akhtarul Wassey as Commissioner for Linguistic Minorities (CLM) with effect from March 4, 2014, a day before the imposition of moral code of conduct for general elections. The notification to this effect was issued on April 4. The tenure of the post is three years. The designation is equivalent to the post of Secretary to the Government of India and he is paid a salary of Rs 80,000 per month plus other allowances as admissible.
The appointments in other ministries or departments include that of Raghvendra Singh as Additional Secretary in Ministry of Information & Broadcasting. Dr Rajpal was made Medical Superintendent of Safdarjung Hospital on May 16. Later, on May 19, the Finance Ministry issued transfer orders of another 11 IRS officers to coveted posts of the Income Tax Department in Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad. Even on May 20, the Finance Ministry issued orders for promotion of 104 officers of Customs and Excise Department from Group B to Group A ranks of Assistant Commissioners. Similarly, Ashwin B Pandya was appointed Chairman of the Central Water Commission and ex-officio Secretary to Government of India. On May 6, Bhagwati Prasad Pandey was appointed Additional Secretary and Financial Adviser to the Department of Commerce under Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
Showering largesse with free hand
Even being at the exit gate, the government hurriedly filled top positions and made major appointments. Interestingly, most vacancies filled were those lying unattended for several years. One such case is the appointment of Narendra Kothari as CMD of National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC). The post was lying vacant since 2011 and it was the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) headed by Prime Minister which cleared the appointment at the eleventh hour. Another post filled up was that of the Chairman of Housing and Urban Development Corporation Limited (HUDCO). Dr Medithi Ravi Kanth, a 1986 batch IAS officer, was put in the chair towards the end of April.
Not just the appointment of Lt Gen Dalbir Singh as new Army Chief, many other key appointments in security establishments were made including that of Devendra Kumar Pathak as Director General of Border Security Force. The appointment of Jammu & Kashmir Police DGP Ashok Prasad as Special Director of Intelligence Bureau also came in first week of May.
The appointment of Prof Mahesh Rangarajan as Director of Nehru Memorial Museum and Library is a classical case of obliging people of choice. Despite strong objections from Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT) Dr Manmohan Singh, on May 5, approved his permanent absorption as Director of NMML.
This extension was rushed through in a fortnight in the last days with the ministry putting up the proposal for approval of the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) on April 30 and was cleared just days ahead of the election results. The order was issued on May 14. Rangarajan’s three-year term ends in August but now after this permanent absorption he will serve as Director until his superannuation in April 2024.
In the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes under Ministry of Tribal Affairs also some appointments on constitutional posts were made in November 2013. According to an RTI dated May 26 (F.No.11030/2/2014-C&LM-I), the Ministry appointed Dr Rameshwar Oraon as Chairperson on November 1, 2013, Ravi Thakur as Vice Chairperson on November 13, 2013, Smt K Kamla Kumari as Member on November 1, 2013 and Bheru Lal Meena as Member on November 1, 2013. Though the previous three names have graduation or post graduation degree but the fourth one, Bheru Lal Meena, is just matriculation pass. The term of all the four persons is three years.
Not only this, Sheila Dikshit was appointed Governor of Kerala just a day before the imposition of model code of conduct i.e. on March 4. RTI response from Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) confirmed that her selection as Governor was a one-man verbal directive of the then Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde with all formalities from resignation of Nikhil Kumar, temporary posting of HR Bhardwaj followed by permanent posting of Sheila Dikshit on the post was completed within hours on the same day, March 4, 2014.
Not only these appointments, the Congress showered largesse of spacious bungalows in the prestigious Lutyens' zone to its favourites a mere three days before the voters wiped it out of the power. On May 13, the government allotted bungalow at 5 Janpath to Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and allowed Nandan Nilekani, the former Chairman of Unique Identification Authority of India, to extend his occupation of a bungalow allotted to him as the Authority's chief. Sources say former Additional Solicitor General KTS Tulsi, who represented Robert Vadra in his land deal cases, was allotted a Type VIII bungalow at Motilal Nehru Marg.
According to sources, there are hundreds of such other Congress nominees who were showered largesse just before the exit. Detail of all such appointments is yet to come out. It is yet to be seen whether these people continue or the new government removes them from their posts. It is undisputed fact that the Congress by appointing its people on key posts prior to leaving the office tried to ensure that it remains updated with what is going in the government. 10 Janpath confidant Sam Pitroda has already been shown the door, but when the Congress leaders who were made Governors just to avoid their arrest in corruption cases, will be removed is yet to be seen.