Thursday, December 19, 2013

Aslam Khan IPS Transfer Imbroglio: Sentimental, Not Sensitive

Aslam Khan IPS Transfer Imbroglio:
Sentimental, Not Sensitive
By Denis Giles

This is no loose talk, neither a negative remark ... It is the truth which cannot be suppressed. And, there is nothing sensitive about it. The issue of transfer of an active and honest officer like Mrs. Aslam Khan IPS, Superintendent of Police, Anti-Corruption Unit was initially brought to the notice of the Administrator by Andaman Chronicle through twitter on 11th Dec 2013.  Instead of taking the cue, the Administrator lambasted the paper using phrases like ‘loose talk’, and warned not to comment on such sensitive issues on social media.

In fact, the technological advances and convergences happening in the world of media, has redefined the presentation of news and views. Social media, today plays a major role in breaking stories.

Furthermore, in the absence of an active opposition in the Islands; circumstances compel the media to highlight such issues. The reply by the Administrator on the twitter was in bad taste, which forced AC to bring out the facts before the readers. Instead of going public with the issue, it thought it prudent to meet the Administrator and appraise him about the issue. But, the meeting once again reiterated the fact that the Administration was in no mood to listen to the sentiments of the Islanders.

Chronicle had no option, but to bring out a full-fledged report on the issue highlighting its various facets.

The issue, which could have been resolved in a 20 minute rendezvous with the Administrator fizzled out only because of the ‘negative’ attitude of the Administration towards media and the present Administrator falling prey to misconceptions created by his officers.

Media being the fourth estate is a pillar without which democracy cannot prevail. It has a significant role to play when it comes to development of the society at large, as the views expressed are nothing but the voice of the common man; which gets suppressed or are sidelined, intentionally. 

The issue is not of Mrs. Aslam Khan as a person. The issue is the sentiments of the Islanders, which are being fiddled with. Had it been any other competent and honest officer in place of Mrs. Khan, AC would have taken the same stand.

The report carried in Andaman Chronicle on 16th Dec. 2013 has raised many eyebrows. While few took it as an attempt to degrade, there were many who could not grasp the catch. 

It is high time the Administration seriously engage the media in the process of policies and decisions, if at all it really means for the Islanders. Although, the media woke up to the situation and highlighted the mistake, there were no takers.

The issue is a huge blow to the Islanders who had sighed relief after the frustrating six and a half year tenure of the former Lt. Governor Bhopinder Singh, when corruption was at its best and the Anti-Corruption Unit in deep slumber. There was a sigh of relief for the Islanders, when Lt. Gen. (Retd) AK Singh took over as the new Lt. Governor of Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

A promising, energetic, focussed, people friendly, open hearted and by following what he preached, Lt. Governor AK Singh became the messiah of the Islanders. He is the most happening person in the Islands who promises to rewrite the history of the islands. In fact his promises seem better than what was published in a multi colour glossy book of achievement, a special supplementary issue on the then Lt. Governor Vakkom Purushottaman titled ‘Golden Era of Andaman & Nicobar Islands’, published by the first private daily of the islands, ‘Andaman Herald’ in 1995.

AK Singh announced that his prime focus would be on Health, Education, Connectivity and zero tolerance for corruption. The announcement came as soothing relief for the islanders who never expected the pace at which their new LG could grasp their pulse. Orders were issued, directions given and time frame set, and the best part was the LG himself interacting with the islanders through social media. His major achievement in a short span came with his initiative for ‘Mock Disaster Management Exercise’, which was proved during the recent Cyclone ‘Lehar’. 

Even the Anti Corruption Unit in deep slumber suddenly woke up, realizing they were sailing in a different boat altogether. Connecting with the ideology of the Lt. Governor AK Singh, the Superintendent of Police ACU, Mrs. Aslam Khan IPS came heavy on the corrupt. She sent shivers down the spine of corrupt and disseminated the clear message of Lt. Governor. To add, for the first time, the CID under her leadership cracked the impossible, interstate crime ‘ATM Fraud’, the victims being from across the country including the islanders. It was something which was never imagined and even the police in the mainland India wondered.

When thing were gaining momentum, with halted projects being reviewed and revived by the Lt. Governor; it came as a major blow for the hope with the announcement of transfer of Mrs. Aslam Khan from ACU. It shocked the Islanders, especially the youth and sent negative vibes. Blushing faces turned pale, hopes for a bright future dimmed and the question ‘why?’ loomed large.

Aslam Khan IPS Transfer Imbroglio: How Did They Goof Up?

Aslam Khan IPS Transfer Imbroglio:
How Did They Goof Up?

The only sensible thing that the Administration should do at this juncture is to come out with the non-existent allegations against the Officer or render an apology for the goof-ups and re-instate her back as the SP, Anti-Corruption Unit.

By Zubair Ahmed

The Administration, it appears to be in no mood to accept the fact that they goofed up in this issue big time. To make things worse and murkier, the goof up continues. It would be sensible and advisable that instead of finding a motive behind the articles, they should be undoing the wrong committed to the officer, and put an end to the 'loose talk' emanating from high places.

Undoubtedly, the recent transfer of Mrs Aslam Khan SP, Anti-Corruption Unit as Principal of Police Training School was a miscalculated step by the Administration, which appears to have backfired. It was projected as a routine Administrative step. However, when the news of her transfer and the tads of allegations leveled against her appeared in the social media, the Lieutenant Governor tried to play it down saying that it was sensitive issue and the media should not indulge in 'loose talk' and comment without verifying full facts. Unfortunately, there are no facts either.

The first goof-up was the transfer of an honest officer, with a motive to keep her away and protect a few corrupt elements. When media tried to bring it to the notice of the Administrator, he tried to set in the media in harsh words, and then started a series of lies.

When the Administrator was contacted, he reiterated that there are many allegations against her, which cannot be revealed or shared. A sense of mild guilt too was pervading, or why he had to stress and say that the officer was commended for her good work. An officer, against whom, many allegations are pending does not deserve any commendation. This was the first instance of cover-up. However, the media did not buy that and went ahead and published the story revealing all the facets.

For the next 48 hours, there has been a deafening lull from the side of Administration. However, its not all silent. Vibes from the Police Headquarters confirm that there are no allegations as of now against the said officer. But, a senior police officer is learnt to have been engaged in a series of Goebbelsian propaganda against the officer as well as the media.

Rather than addressing the issue, or coming out with a clarification, they found it convenient to float rumours of gargantuan proportions. As widely quoted, when all arguments fail, religion is the only argument left. Playing favourite mind games, the senior police officer is learnt to bring a communal angle to the issue. They seriously believe that the communal angle might divert the attention from the issue.

Moreover, another rhetoric that is gradually cropping up is that some vested interests are instigating the media, which is another allegation, which they won't be able to substantiate ever.

Initially it was unfound allegations against Mrs Aslam Khan, and now one upon another they are trying to build as many lies as possible. Only regret is that they will utterly fail in establishing any one of them.

Some elements close to the Chief Secretary Anand Prakash did send feelers that the Chief Secretary is interested to meet, but it would be prudent on the side of media to communicate through the paper instead of a personal meeting. The only sensible thing that the Administration should do at this juncture is to come out with the non-existent allegations against the Officer or render an apology for the goof-ups and re-instate her back as the SP, Anti-Corruption Unit.

Its high time, the Administration refrains from venturing into rumuor mongering and initiate an enquiry. Or all the bluff they are interested in propagating might not help them in diverting the media or the Islanders from the core issue.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

King and His Lieutenant

King and His Lieutenant

By Zubair Ahmed

Core values like Imandari, Wafadari and Izzat should be the guiding forces, reiterated our Lieutenant Governor in two very important gatherings last week.

Its almost six months, the new Administrator, A K Singh took charge of the Island territory. A refreshing change for the Islands after prolonged six and half years, the territory gets a new Administrator with clear vision and intentions.

He is trying his best to be a contrast to his predecessor and has been successful to an extent. AK Singh wants to stand against everything, in word and deed, that Bhopinder Singh was. He tried to connect with people and employed all tactics for that. His whirlwind tours were well attended and appreciated. Indeed, he changed the way people look towards an Administrator.

However, he is yet to understand the mechanics of civil administration, where mutual trust and faith are two important factors rather than regimentation and commands.

In Defence forces, everything is sensitive and discreet. However, in a civil governance setup, transparency and openness are paramount. No decision is sensitive to be kept a secret as far as public office is concerned.

After six months, although he has good grasp of the Islands, its challenges and opportunities, it seems he miserably failed in gauging the dynamics of civil administration. He should have approached the Administration without a myopic vision. But, his vision was blurred by his immediate advisor, the Chief Secretary. Today, he looks the Administration through CS’s eyes, who engineers and manipulates his views according to his whims and fancies. There are officials in the good book as well as bad book of the LG and unfortunately, the books are photocopies of the Chief Secretary. He failed to have an impartial and neutral assessment of the officers. The Islands that the Chief Secretary has created within the Administration remains disconnected without a bridge.

The lieutenant in question here enjoys blind trust of the Administrator. On the one hand, the Administrator harps on zero-tolerance against corruption, but his lieutenant openly supports and protects corrupt elements. The Administrator wants encroachment to be eliminated, whereas his lieutenant gives instructions to the DC to go slow on it. The Administrator talks positive and development, whereas his lieutenant thinks only negative and anti-development.

Either the Chief Secretary's memory power is very high, or he don't give a damn to all the announcements the Administrator makes at the functions. The announcements and decisions made by the Administrator at different functions are never followed up.

The Lieutenant Governor who like to mingle with common man on the ground, and have cup of tea on the streets and mutton delicacies on far away beaches with local tourists, also needs to meet people in Chief Secretary’s absence, to get proper feedback, in an unrehearsed atmosphere. He will get to know the true meaning of the core values – Imaandari, Wafaadari and Izzat!

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.

Aslam Khan IPS: Victim of Honesty

Aslam Khan IPS:  
Victim of Honesty

By Zubair Ahmed

In the past six years, the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU) was misused and abused to mint money and settle scores by a set of officials, and its a fact every Islander acknowledges. However, the picture changed with the Lieutenant Governor setting a goal of zero-tolerance towards corrupt practises. The change in guard in the ACU and structural changes were monumental in setting a new standard in dealing with corruption.

Mrs Aslam Khan, SP, ACU in a short span proved her mettle by trapping many corrupt government servants. Series of successful operations had started to create a sense of fear, when she was moved out and made Principal, Police Training School.

From the outset, the transfer of SP Aslam Khan might look like any other administrative decision, but it is a failure of collective morality of the Administration.

She has become the victim of calumny and many unsubstantiated charges are being floated by a section, and unfortunately, the rumours emanating from the Chief Secretary's chamber is what is now discussed on the streets.

In fact, she was shunted out of the department, as she had ruffled many feathers, and the interests of many had been compromised.

It all started with the arrest of four officials of Port Blair Municipal Council by the Anti Corruption Department, of A&N Police based on a complaint of corruption received. The arrest was made on 9th Oct. 2013 at evening hours under section 13(1)d/13(2) of Prevention of Corruption Act 1988 read with Sec. 420/120B of IPC. All of them were later released on bail.

Prior to the arrest, when the Anti-corruption Unit moved the file, what conspired between the Secretary, Vigilance, Municipal Secretary and the Chief Secretary is a mystery. However, when SP Aslam Khan met the Chief Secretary, there was clear instruction not to proceed in the case. She was asked to drop the charges. According to reliable sources present in the CS's chamber, when she demanded a written note from the CS, he turned wild and instructed Public Prosecutor, S K Mondal not to contest the bail. The Public Prosecutor did not appear, and sent his Assistant. All four of them were released on bail.

What were the circumstances, where a Chief Secretary had to intervene to block the arrest of junior level employees of PBMC, indulged in corrupt practices? Does the buck stop at the four foot soldiers or it has ramifications beyond that ? Is the Municipal Secretary also being protected?

The Chief Secretary enjoys the clout of both the Politicians as well as the Administrator, and in this specific case, it is learnt that he obliged his political friends and did not deter from putting immense pressure on Aslam Khan to submit, which he didn't budge. However, Court granted the accused bail, as CS had the last say.

The Chief Secretary is the Chief Vigilance Officer (CVO), with 40 departments under him. In many cases, trying to protect his own officers, he sits on the files. In another instant, a case on an Assistant Engineer in APWD in Rangat, is still pending. The AE, a native of Rangat also runs proxy business units and indulges in various corrupt practices, which were substantiated by Anti-Corruption Unit. Because of the proximity of the AE to the Chief Engineer (APWD), who in turn, as of now is in the good books of the CS, there is no movement in the case.

Above all, the Chief Secretary has started a slander campaign against Mrs Aslam Khan, SP. Wild allegations that she has indulged in corrupt practices are all over the place. The latest rumour is that she was hand in glove with a non-governmental organization, working against corruption, and has indulged in corrupt practices. And it is being spread through various channels, which are yet to be substantiated. When asked for a list of allegations, the authorities said that it cannot be shared with anybody.

The way the whole issue was dealt smelt of corruption and favouritism in higher places, and the fallout was the transfer of a competent officer, who was performing well. The justification that the replacement officer, Shibesh Singh, IPS is highly qualified and competent is not the answer to the question why an honest and competent officer like Mrs Aslam Khan IPS is being replaced.