Sunday, December 15, 2013

Chief Secretary and His Myopic World

Chief Secretary and His Myopic World

Anand Prakash, IAS Chief Secretary of the Islands is a personified package of sarcasm, negativity, inaction, loose talk and flippant attitude, enjoying his clout with the Administrator. High time that the Administrator realizes that his Lieutenant's misdemeanors have serious repercussions on everything he envisions.

By Zubair Ahmed

"Angrezi mein bhi koi jhoot bolta hai kya?" is a dialogue from a Vishal Bharadwaj movie. This line aptly fits for our Chief Secretary Anand Prakash. The coterie around him chants same sort of lines - "CS bhi kabhi loose talk kar sakta hai kya?"

Don't be deceived by his age or position. He is a man known in all circles as one person, albeit second in command, who indulges in all types of loose talk and character assassination. Ask any responsible officer in the Administration, who has not faced the axe. Sarcasm and negativity are his two traits. In a recent meeting of Andaman and Nicobar Innovation Council, he started with the remark "What Innovation?" and that sets the agenda. Perhaps he needs a basic reorientation from Sam Pitroda, who heads the National Council.

This article was long overdue, but the compulsion of time and space required by the new Administrator to assess his family and take appropriate corrective measures had prolonged the wait for six months. This article can be conjured as a negative piece in LG's parlance. But this is a positive feedback, which is literally behind schedule. The language and tone of the article may be repulsive, but the transgressions of the Chief Secretary cannot be put in any dignified way.

The context being the recent bungle in the transfer of Mrs Aslam Khan, SP Anti-Corruption Unit, which cannot be misconstrued as a routine administrative step. The Chief Secretary played a very ruthless role in the episode. Moreover, to cover up his fault, he indulged in a vilification campaign against the woman officer. (See Story: Aslam Khan IPS: Victim of Honesty)

The chemistry between the Lieutenant Governor and the Chief Secretary is a matter of public discussion. Literally, the Chief Secretary is piggy-riding the Lieutenant Governor. In fact, all the photos of the Administrator riding the bike, and CS as a pillion rider sum up the approach and attitude. The role reversal is not anymore a secret.

The Chief Secretary who shirks from taking decisions, and had stalled projects citing one after another reason, was happy that the new Lieutenant Governor would do the decision making process, keeping him safe. In fact LG took the role of the CS and started visiting various ministries pursuing the issues. All the work of Chief Secretary is being done by the LG and CS is just enjoying the show.

In fact, what the Chief Secretary found in the Lieutenant Governor is a shoulder he can bank upon without any risk or accountability. Why all the major project, the Administrator is now pursuing with various ministries were delayed at the first place is not a mystery.

This Chief Secretary, who is negativity and anti-development personified, was instrumental in all those projects being delayed or shelved off. More than his negativity, shrouded in administrative procedures, his pessimism reflects in every decision he takes.

His cynical approach was the one reason why the Submarine Fibre Optic Project got delayed. It’s almost a scam. After opening financial bids, he calls Airtel, the ineligible party to negotiate. In a way, it’s a readymade case fit for CVC. Although the bid was opened in February 2013, work was not awarded, whereas the normal implementation period was 18 months and would have been commissioned by January 2015. The project which costs near about a thousand crores had put him in a dilemma, and the safest way out was blame his immediate subordinates about procedural lapses and over-stepping and delay it, and he did it in a bureaucratic finesse. The whole process is being repeated now without any remorse.

A High Powered Committee on Shipping was formed, which could have expedited the process of acquisition and wet lease of ships of various categories. When the Home Secretary had made it very clear that ANI Admn could itself acquire small ships, he as usual shirked responsibility, and wanted Shipping Corporation of India (SCI) on board, which delayed the project to his satisfaction. He handed over to SCI the job of 155-800 pax ships, which was fine, however, 27 small tugboats and small ships were to be purchased by ANI Admn. It was a windfall for SCI, when the whole procurement was handed over to them, as the money involved was huge. He also blocked payment of new ships being made by Bharti Shipyard, and the work was halted due to non-payment since February 2013. They were scheduled to give two 1500-pax ship in December 2014 and March 2015.

The Andaman and Nicobar Solar Power Policy was announced in April 2012. Chief Secretary Anand Prakash joined in May 2012. And he wishfully killed the project by October 2012. Same policy was announced by Govt of India in January 2013 for all India and in fact Delhi Govt has already started implementing it. The roof-top solar project, which was much needed to reduce the dependence on fossil fuel for power generation was cancelled at the last minute just before the tender was to be opened. He blamed his Principal Secretary of procedural lapses and got the project shelved.

The long pending issue between IPP Suryachakra Power Corporation Ltd and Andaman Administration was aggravated by the Chief Secretary, who off the record even blamed that JERC is corrupt, and hence a decision against the Administration. He was reluctant to release the long pending due of completion cost to SPCL, and JERC had ordered the payment immediately. The Chief Secretary took the order casually, and was finally fined Rs 1 Lakh or three months in prison.

The wet lease of 18-seater twin engine seaplane for long-haul inter-Island connectivity were also on the verge of finalisation, which he deferred citing umpteen excuses. The Islands could have two brand new aircrafts, the first one by April and the second September 2013. He chaired pre-bid meeting in November 2012 and unilaterally imposed change of supply schedule conditions from 8 months to 5 months. The suppliers backed out citing that no new twin engine carrier is available till February 2013. What was available was the refurbished ones. It is certainly felt that it was a deliberate attempt to ensure extensions to Mehair, which runs the existing seaplane. The bids were made thrice and all kept failing due to the wish-washy attitude. It’s a fact that the ANI Admn pays Rs one crore monthly to Mehair, in which only Rs 37 lakhs is the outgo. What happens to the balance money is anybody’s guess.

Many more projects which could have changed the face of the Islands also met same fate.

Chief Secretary Anand Prakash is a master of inaction, but found very active in loose talk. There is not a single officer including women on whom he has not traded his tirades. He spreads rumors about the fidelity of officers. He doesn't even care barging into their privacy and spread rumours about secretaries and directors. It’s a fact any person sitting in CS’s chamber can corroborate that if any female leaves his office, whether visitor or officer, he passes lewd comments the moment she steps out, even if other people are sitting in office. In meetings, all his remarks are sarcastic, which demoralizes the workforce.

Divide and rule is the policy he has honed and applied perfectly, and which he follows religiously. He has been quite successful in creating wide divides inside Secretariat. There has been no time, when the Officers were not divided into camps. The Secretariat has many Islands inside an Island. Since his posting, he has been meticulously working on creating a divide. There are officers, in his good book and there are others, who are thrown out at will.

Without a bete noire, his existence seems meaningless. As soon as Jalaj Shrivastav, Principal Secretary left the Islands, he turned his tirade against Ms Rina Ray, Principal Secretary. All those who were close to Jalaj Shrivastav was dumped and thrown into inconsequential posts. The divisions are quite obvious. He also pits junior officers against their seniors. The tactic Chief Secretary employs to reign in his Secretaries is by pitting Directors against them. It happened with SE Electricity, Chief Engineer APWD, Director, Education during last year. In a recent development, following the dictum of the Lieutenant Governor, Commissioner cum Secretary, Revenue asked the Deputy Commissioner to initiate eviction of encroachment. Soon, the DC was called by the CS and asked to go slow on this issue. And the Chief Secretary enjoys the heartburn between the Secretary and DC.

Unfortunately, the clout the Chief Secretary enjoys with the new Administrator is blurring LG’s vision towards many issues, which will take time for him to grasp. It was CS’s luck that he got an Administrator, who is pro-active and takes initiatives. Otherwise, he was such a character, who was just whiling away his time in the Islands. Albeit, he cannot guide, he enjoys the clout to misguide the Administrator, which will have serious repercussions.

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