A thorough probe in the dealings of the NMML will be an ideal step that government can take. Who knows, another scam will be unearthed?
The Congress-led Government had submitted an affidavit in the Supreme Court in which the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) said there were no historical records to prove the existence of a manmade Ramsetu. The affidavit prepared by ASI had gone on to say there were no historical records to prove the existence of Lord Ram either. Hence Ramsetu should be broken. It is surprising that such an advanced political party is worried about mere revamp of Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML). Congres’s objection to revamp is more vociferous than their defence of Manmohan Singh’s involvement in Coal Scam. This makes one think that there is more to NMML, than what meets the eye.
The mess the museum is in can be best understood by the fact that:
“In 2009 several well-known academics such as Ramachandra Guha, Sumit Sarkar, Nivedita Menon, Nayanjot Lahiri, Mushirul Hasan, Mukul Kesavan, Mahesh Rangarajan and Krishna Kumar, alleged that the institution was being run in an inefficient and corrupt fashion. They pointed out that NMML had discontinued its publication programme, and that the acquisition of manuscripts and oral histories had all but come to a halt.” These are quite serious charges. Specially if coming from academicians like Ramachandra Guha. After all NMML has funded works of Ramachandra Guha.
On September 22, 2010, Two Circles reported “Nehru memorial library gets clean chit, director feels ‘vindicated’.” The report said: The reputed NMML, which was caught in a controversy over alleged funds diversion, has got a clean chit from the Culture Ministry, prompting its director Mridula Mukherjee to say that the institution has been “fully vindicated”.
The ministry in a communique to the pay and accounts office “set right” anomalies in two of its earlier missives and admitted that it had made a mistake.
The ministry’s apology letter said: “Although funds had been transferred by NMML to the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund with the approval of the competent authority, it has led to an anomaly. A decision has been taken to issue an amendment to the sanction letters to remove the anomaly.”
……The ministry’s letter absolves the 46-year-old library of charges of misuse of funds and mismanagement that had been heaped on it by the ministry’s chief controller of accounts in a report. The report in May had alleged that the NMML, one of India’s top research institutions, had channelled Rs 5 crore earmarked for publication work to a trust run by Congress president Sonia Gandhi. The report had said money for the “publication of selected works of Jawaharlal Nehru and C Rajagopalachari, salaries, development of museum and installation of CCTVs” were diverted to the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund.”
How many times has one heard of a ministry in Bharat apologising for its mistake?
A blog dated July 9, 2011, shared some more interesting facts. The chairman of executive council of NMML- Bharat’s premier institute for research on modern and contemporary history- Karan Singh told The Telegraph today that historian Mahesh Rangarajan would be its next director.
..The term of incumbent director Mridula Mukherjee expires on August 9. Her term, which began in 2006, has been plagued with controversies of flouting payment regulations, mis-utilisation of funds and her alleged proximity to the Congress. In 2009, 57 scholars led by Ramachandra Guha had written to the Prime Minister against her being given an extension. Rangarajan was part of this campaign.
The latest controversy pertains to the selection of the new director. Historians Arjun Dev, Irfan Habib, Shireen Moosvi, Bipan Chandra and DN Gupta have filed a petition in the Delhi High court challenging the procedure of selection and the executive committee’s amendment of rules extending eligibility for director to even non-historians. In February, the Bharatiya History Congress had unanimously passed a resolution asking the government to annul the changes amendment. …… “A premier institute of this country cannot run on the whims of former rajas (Karan Singh is the titular Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir). We want academics, not politicians, to run the place,” she said. (Shireen Moosvi) On Rangarajan’s selection, Ramchandra Guha said, “Finally, the government has got something right. …” ….Another senior Marxist historian said that Rangarajan fears trouble from Marxists as he is seen in the company of post-modernists like Guha.
On September 25, 2011, The Hindu reported:
A little over a month after renowned environmental historian, political commentator and Delhi University professor Mahesh Rangarajan took charge as director of the — one of the country’s top centres for research on modern Bharatiya history — the Delhi High Court has struck down his appointment on the grounds of an invalid selection process.
On January 24, 2012 The Hindu further reported:
Environmental historian and political commentator Mahesh Rangarajan has been formally selected and appointed as director of the NMML, …. This comes four months after the Delhi High Court struck down his original appointment on the grounds of an invalid selection process…… Rangarajan’s appointment is still subject to the disposal of another petition filed in the Delhi High Court by a group of well-known historians — Bipan Chandra, Shireen Mousvi, Irfan Habib, Arjun Dev and DN Gupta – who are challenging the selection process and NMML’s move to allow non-historians to also apply for the position of director… Finally, The Supreme Court had ruled in Mahesh Rangarajan’s favour in 2012. A glimpse of what happened after his takeover is described by Shaguna Gahilote, who has worked with NMML in an article dated September 3, 2015. Reading about the NMML being revamped as a governance museum, brought back fond memories of working in the place. Also known as NMML or the Teen Murti House, this is where I worked with counterparts from the NMML’s children's centre to organise the “Peace Across Border” workshop with school children from the subcontinent way back in 2011.
… However this stint of good luck was to run out soon and with the change of guard the next year, the Children’s Centre and its team was the first one to be hacked. The NMML went back to being a place for the intellectuals, the children and their numerous programmes limited to the bare essential. It was therefore good to read in the Economic Times (September 2, 2015), that the current Chairman Lokesh Chandra’s vision for the revamp would focus, “To attract visitors, especially children, (the place has to be made attractive, relevant to contemporary times).
It is clear that Rangarajan’s appointment was neither hassle free nor his tenure healthy for the organisation. But the faith shown in him by Sonia Gandhi led Congress is worth knowing. On May 16, 2014, Economic Times reported: A raft of new appointments in public institutions is one of the perks of a new government. But Congress-led UPA has made sure that BJP-led NDA, the likely election winner, can’t pick its nominee for directorship of a public institution very close to Congress’ heart. UPA leaders worked overtime over the past few days to ensure their choice as director continues to retain the job, no matter who’s in power. That is, even if it’s a Modi sarkar, environmental historian Mahesh Rangarajan (50), who was appointed by UPA as director of NMML in 2011, will retain his job. Previous NMML directors have traditionally served till the age of 60. Extending Rangarajan’s tenure till retirement age had not been done until the final days of the UPA regime, though the decision had been taken more than six month sago. As a result of the change made by UPA, Rangarajan’s three-year tenure has been changed to a permanent job till retirement age — which means he gets ten more years in office. Senior ministers who did not want to be quoted said Congress had concerns that a new government could have replaced Rangarajan, whose three-year term was to end in August.
With barely 48 hours left for the announcement of election results and a new government taking over, Congress leaders worked at a furious pace. Many phone calls were made, relevant bureaucrats and ministers located, all signatures obtained and the file cleared, a senior minister said. Guaranteeing Rangarajan’s job was probably the last major executive action by UPA, a senior official said.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi resigned from the Chairpersonship of NMML in May 2014 only. The Economic Times story that Ministers worked overtime to give Rangarajan a life time assignment proves my charge made in the beginning that “Congress’ objection to revamp is more vociferous then their defence of Manmohan Singh’s involvement in Coal Scam.”
The total issue becomes murkier, if the above facts are looked along with the following fact: “In 2013 Union Budget, the NMML was granted Rs. 168.30 crore (approximately $20 million), a massive increase from last year’s Rs.17.07 crore (approximately $3.6 million).”
Looking at the past where atleast for a decade, Director has been accused of corruption to the fact that the appointment of Director has reached Supreme Court, to top it keeping the track record of NMML, Congress and its members, and the amount involved; a thorough probe in the dealings of the NMML will be an ideal step that government can take. Who knows, another scam will be unearthed?
Sandeep Singh (The writer is founder of www.swastik.net.in)