Let Modi tell us also of the ‘Bad Governance Day’

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

December 25 has been christened as the ‘Good Governance Day’ by Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi. Now, therefore, it is incumbent upon him to tell us which day is the ‘Bad Governance Day’. Because, nothing is good unless something is bad.

If there is a ‘Good Governance Day’, there must be a ‘Bad Governance Day’, as otherwise ‘Good Governance Day’ would remain a mirage; because mirage is the only exception when every other phenomenon has its opposite phenomenon. And, for a Prime Mister to push the country into a mirage is serious offense.

When the new official calendar for 2015 comes out, it can be known whether December 25 is to continue to be a national holiday as Christmas Day or the ‘Good Governance Day’ is to replace it.

But, Vajpayee’s birthday being the basis of this new nomenclature, it is better to recall his conduct as Prime Minister of India to study if his tenure was really a period of good governance.

A brilliant young man of Orissa, whose name I am not going to give here on privacy ground, lost his kidneys because of misrule that had inspired the adulterators to act as they liked when Vajpayee had become the Prime Minister for the first time. He was at that time pursuing his studies in JNU and had taken food prepared with mustard oil. Mustard oil merchants, strong supporters of political economy of capitalism, whom occupation of the Prime Minister chair by Vajpayee was as if their own era had arrived, had indulged in instant profit fetching through adulteration of essential food materials and the most popular mustard oil was one of them. Hundreds of people in Delhi had died of instant renal failure by taking adulterated mustard oil and thousands had been given extensive treatment followed by warnings that the fatal harm may hit them within a year or two. The survivors were advised to report for kidney treatment the moment they encounter symptoms as were notified by AIIMS. Never before Vajpayee, had the capital city of India suffered such health hazard due to adulteration of edible oil. Forensic tests had determined the adulteration and police investigations had located the adulterators. But no action against any of them was visible. The business community was not to be antagonized in Vajpayee raj.

His tenure as Prime Minister was vitiated with many dubious deals the like of which India had never witnessed earlier. He was a shrewd trader of ‘feel good’ factor, when instead of investment on nation’s means of productions and proper management thereof –  as that was the real and major responsibility of the Government – he had created a disinvestment ministry that destroyed the economic back bone of India. Yet, he had appointed high caliber brain-washing experts like Trikaya Grey and Crayon to coin misleading advertisements and slogans to dazzle the people into the trap of his vote boxes. He had perpetrated a ‘media war’ against the people of India in order to blur their electoral wisdom with the sole purpose of bagging their votes for benefit of plutocracy, which he was ushering in at the cost of Indian democracy. There is reason to fear that he had manufactured the Kargil war to cultivate votes of gullible people, which could have been established had a Judicial Commission of Inquiry been appointed to find out the real reason of reinduction of George Fernandes as defense minister of India.

I had, in these pages on October 13, 2006 stressed on this point under the caption “Vajpayee be Enquired into in context of Fernandes” on grounds discussed therein. I reproduce below the entire article for ready reference.

VAJPAYEE BE ENQUIRED INTO IN CONTEXT OF FERNANDES
Posted on October 13, 2006 by Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

The Central Bureau of Investigation has initiated prosecution against the Country’s former defense minister George Fernandes, who, in its probe-propelled opinion, is guilty of weakening our defense system through corruption.

Being in online journalism, it is a moment for me to celebrate because this is the first manifestation of major victory of internet media in India.

One is now reminded of the corrupt and scheming administration that Vajpayee had subjected the nation to.

Instead of acting against corruption, Vajpayee had made Tarun Tejpal and his team in tehelka.com, who had exposed that corruption, face inquiries on their method of locating news!

As is his wont, Fernandes is trying to divert public attention from his misdeeds by shouting that he is being prosecuted because of “that lady” Sonia. But in doing so he is showing his fidgetiness.

Why he fidgets?

He is now bound to face the consequences of his involvement in corruptions in defense deals. The game of politics that he nastily played in the Parliament will not come to his rescue in the examination box of the concerned court of prosecution. There is no doubt in the fact that the CBI has taken a lot of time to spot his dubious deals. But it is indicative only of how shrewd is he in transacting venal ventures. Who can and for how long stop the truth from prevailing?

Tehelka tapes had made it convincingly clear that he had reduced his official residence to a dalali hub where his personal preference, the lady president of the political outfit he had formed, Ms. Jaya Jaitley was captured by camera while bargaining for and collecting bribe in the guise of donation to facilitate supply orders for defense materials.

These tapes having knocked at the bottom, the CAG of India, in subsequent time, made a sample audit of defense expenditure and came out with more startling instances of corrupt practice in vogue in the Ministry of Defense under Fernandes.

And, ultimately, now, the CBI has drawn up the charges.

The CBI has filed necessary FIR against Fernandes, Jaitley and former Navi Chief Sushil Kumar for alleged irregularities in purchasing of Barak system from Israel in 2000. When Fernandes maintains that the present President Mr. A.P.J.Abdul Kalam, during his tenure as Scientific Advisor to Prime Minister, had recommended the Barak system, reports reveal the opposite. According to these reports, Dr. Kalam had expressed doubts over the suitability of Barak. He even had written a letter to Fernandes in 1999 opposing the deal as the system had a 50 percent failure rate. But Kalam’s advice was ignored.

On the other hand, Bishnu Bhagwat, former Naval Chief, who was sacked by Fernandes in December 1998, because he did not favor the shady deal, has alleged that Fernandes was “highly interested” for the purchase and in order to eliminate obstacles, had gone inappropriately ahead to put his own man Sushil in the top most post of Navy. Against this backdrop, the FIR filed by CBI may be viewed as a better late than never step.

I will not, however, speculate on what would be the fate of this FIR.

But to me it occurs, justice cannot be arrived at unless inquiry is conducted into the conduct of former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee vis-a-vis Fernandes.

If the later has any benefit from the unprecedented volume of purchase of defense materials in the name of Kargil war, the former had derived the principal source of his sustenance in power from the said war only.

Had there been no Kargil war, Vajpayee would never have become the third time Prime Minister of India.

In May 1999, he had lost his alliance majority after AIADMK withdrew its support at the summit of a yearlong misrule that was anti-people, anti-worker but pro-traders.

The Country was set to set a fresh mandate in October but due to misconceived notion of democracy, Vajpayee continued as a care taker P.M.

Normally he could not have bagged any decisive support as the people had got severely disillusioned. But an abnormal development helped him. That abnormal development was what is known as the Kargil war.

This war gave Fernandes the ground to go for questionable defense deals that are now under the scanner. This war gave Vajpayee a fresh mandate by mesmerizing people to look away from his misdeeds. This being the unread similarity between the two, one gets inclined to ask as to whether there was an extra-parliamentary link between them both? It needs to be investigated into.

The backhander deals in defense procurement videotaped by tehelka.com were televised on 13th of March 2001. The whole nation was stunned. Allies of Vajpayee were ashamed of continuing their support to him. Pressure mounted on dismissal of Fernandes, but Vajpayee was reluctant to drop him or to ask him to quit. Mamata Banerjee resigned in disgust. The south Indian allies declared that it would be difficult for them to support the Government if Fernandes continues in the cabinet.

Fernandes had to leave within a few days in March.

But instead of initiating action against the exposed culprits, a commission of inquiry was appointed under K. Venkataswami under the Commissions of Inquiry Act to probe into the modus operandi of Tehelka!

Fernandes played a pressure game. He did not make any remarkable allegation against the Opposition for the predicament he was thrown into. But his protégés were raising their master’s voice against Vajpayee. If their leader was not reinstated they would expose the Prime Minister and his Office (PMO), they were asserting in statements to the media.

Vajpayee succumbed to the circumstances and emitted such signals that bureaucracy, which was going to provide the inquiry commission with necessary official information on the defense deals, got the impression that Fernandes was a man who was not at all away from the center of power. He was made the kingpin of NDA with the power to monitor ministries in guise of assessing manifesto implementation.

Despite this shrewd attempt of Vajpayee to enable Fernandes to wield power unfathomable enough to influence officials, the process of the proceedings of the commission of inquiry was so typical that it was felt impossible on part of bureaucracy to keep back any required document from the Commission when called for.

There was apprehension that admirers of Bishnu Bhagawat in the Navy and in the Ministry of Defense may help production of such documents before the inquiry commission that may jeopardize Fernandes.

Production of such documents before the commission may be withheld only by a Minister who can claim privilege over any document under his administrative control. Therefore, he decided to take over the Ministry of Defense without any further delay.

And, he was re-inducted by Vajpayee barely six months after he had to quit in March, 2001, in the same position of defense minister!

The Venkataswami Commission was in the midst of its probe on offenses exposed by tehelka.com. The Kargil Review Committee headed by K. Subrahmanyam, eminent defense study expert, appointed on 29 July 1999 to “(i) review the events leading up to the Pakistani aggression in the Kargil District of Ladakh in Jammu & Kashmir; and (ii) recommend such measures as are considered necessary to safeguard national security against such armed intrusions”, had submitted its report which was placed before the Parliament on 23 February 2000. This report had clearly shown as to how under Fernandes the defense intelligence and preparedness of the country had collapsed. The tehelka tapes had shown how under him and in his official residence defense-deal brokers and commission agents were having their heydays. He had no legitimacy to be re-inducted in the same post of defense minister, at least not before submission of its report by the Venkataswami Commission. But to the astonishment, dismay and embarrassment of the entire nation, Vajpayee reappointed him as the defense minister.

The Opposition refused to accept him as such and the world witnessed the unique and historical boycott Fernandes faced from the Opposition in Parliament.

Had there been an iota of political probity in Vajpayee, he would never have re-inducted Fernandes as the defense minister and after facing the Opposition boycott, would never have retained him.

But he re-inducted and retained him.

Why? What was his modus operandi? What was the compulsion? Vajpayee was questioned by the Press, was grilled by the Opposition, and was looked at askance by the people over these questions.

But he never answered, never clarified.

Did he succumb to blackmailing by Fernandes? If yes, what was his weakness that Fernandes was able to exploit?

Only a high power judicial probe can unveil the truth.

Till the truth is found out, speculations will continue. In fact speculations cannot be stopped.

People who love their motherland must try to know as to what was the secret bond between Vajpayee and Fernandes that prompted the former to make a farce of parliamentary accountability by misuse of his prime-ministerial prerogative in favor of a man who was considered even by his senior colleagues as a “liability”!

Vajpayee’s conduct in re-inducting Fernandes as defense minister and in retaining him in that position in utter disregard to disapproval thereof by the people, by the Press and by the Opposition was an instance of abnormality besides being an instance of misuse of prerogative.

Why Vajpayee, a very normal man known for unfailing wits, behaved so abnormally in favor of Fernandes?

Why the ablest leader of the right-wing BJP, once honored as the best parliamentarian of a year in India, willfully misused his prime-ministerial prerogatives for serving the purpose of a leader of the self-styled left-winger Samata?

The mystery is not yet solved.

But it is a cruel mystery.

And the mystery deepens in the context of Kagril.

The Kagril Review Report placed before the Parliament on 23 February 2000 fails to convince that there was a real war.

It reveals that the Committee had before it a lot of evidence that the Pakistani armed intrusion in the Kargil sector had come as a complete and total surprise to the Indian Government, Army and intelligence agencies as well as to the J & K State Government. The Committee did not come across any agency or individual who was able to clearly assess before the event the possibility of a large scale Pakistani military intrusion across the Kargil heights.

On the other hand, the Pak intrusion was half hazard.

A number of former Army Chiefs of Staff and Director Generals of Military Operations were near unanimous in their opinion that a military intrusion on the scale attempted was totally unsustainable because of the lack of supportive infrastructure and was militarily irrational, the Committee has noted while in course of observation harping on how, whatever be the circumstances, our surveillance posts were left unmanned.

So the Kargil war does not convince that it was a real serious war.

But this war helped Vajpayee in coming back to power and helped General Musharraf in becoming supremo of Pakistan. More intriguing is the fact that when the world had refused to recognise Musharraf as the new leader of Pakistan, it was only Vajpayee who had unreservedly recognized him and had felicitated him in India. Was there a secret pact between Vajpayee and Musharraf even before the mysterious Kargil war?

Mystery deepens over the fact that the Kargil war, held as India’s first video-war, had been followed by fake encounters in subsequent times. An example jumps from a June 2004 confession of some Indian soldiers that they had helped in staging fake encounters with Pakistani troops on Siachen in August 2003.

On 7 June 2004, Rifleman Shyam Bahadur Thapa had told a military court that he had not only demolished a fake “enemy-held” objective with a rocket launcher in August 2003, but also had acted as a Pakistani soldier killed in the action when video cameras were whirring away. He said that he had to do this at the behest of a company commander, Maj. Surinder Singh, who had asked him “to remove the jacket and cap and to lie there” (near the demolished objective).

Whether the order of termination and imprisonment passed against Maj. Singh was finally implemented or not is a different issue. But it established that he had documented the stage managed encounter to convince people that Pakistan had attacked us but under him our forces had annihilated the attacker. If anything, this was part of a fraud played on our people, whatsoever might have been its impact.

It also established that there was a climate in that terrain which was made congenial to fake encounters or wars when Fernandes was the defense minister and Vajpayee was in search of an escalade to fetch votes.

Then, was the Kargil war a fake war which Fernandes had organized to help Vajpayee get the escalade? Was it a secret between them two? Had Musarraf joined hands?

It cannot be ignored that Fernandes was known for his frequent trips to Siachen; at least 17 times is on records, during his tenure as defense minister. Was he really in sympathy with the soldiers or was he anxious to see that our defense personnel do not keep in mind the climate of such a fraud?

Answer is yet to be found out. Answer can be found out if modus operandi of Vajpayee’s patronization to Fernandes is openly inquired into by a team of experts including criminologists and psychologists.

Looking at Vajpayee’s illogical and disproportionate patronization to Fernandes in retaining his defense minister portfolio, notwithstanding the frauds, one is inclined to suspect that unless his modus operandi in continuing this patronization or his acquiescence into extending this patronization is inquired into, the gamut of the background of the defense-deal offenses that Fernandes is charged with, will not be fully discovered and hence the history of the relevant period shall remain blurred forever.

Therefore, in national interest, and in the interest of Indian sub-continent, Vajpayee should be inquired into in the context of Fernandes.

When this is the picture of Vajpayee’s governance, it is sad that, his birthday is made ‘Good Governance Day’. Under his umbrage, Pramod Mahajan, son of a low paid school teacher with a large family, had acquired more than 2000 crores of rupees, before succumbing to bullets of his own younger brother in feud over sharing the booty.

What sort of good governance these instances of dubiosity reveal?

Clearly a misleading leadership has taken over India.

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STOP THE PADMA FARCE

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

The farce that is going on in the name of awarding civilian titles like Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shree needs to be stopped. The highest civilian honor Bharat Ratna, excepting the nomenclatural difference, also belongs to this spectrum.

The Constitution of India has put a blatant ban on such titles. Article 18 (1) has stipulated, “No title, not being a military or academic distinction, shall be conferred by the state”. This means, under the scheme of this Article the Government is debarred from conferring any title excepting the military or academic distinctions on any citizen. Titles under the Padma spectrum are neither military nor academic. Hence these titles are unconstitutional, anti-constitution and unlawful. Of course, a Supreme Court verdict on 15 Dec.1995 has gone in favor of constitutional validity of these awards, but as we know, the Supreme Court has always the opportunity to disagree with its own earlier verdict. The Industrial Disputes Act is a point of reference in this respect. However the Supreme Court has not said that the ban imposed under Article 18 (1) on the State doling out titles other than military and academic is illegal. And this original Article of the Constitution is not susceptible to nullification by the Supreme Court. When this original article bans conferment of any title other than military and academic by the State, any and every legal interpretation on validity of awards of civilian titles cannot be the last word in the matter of interpretation. So, notwithstanding the Supreme Court verdict, on reading of the language of Article 18(1), which is a very unambiguously plain, simple and understandable language, civilian titles of the Padma spectrum are extra-constitutional, to say the least.

It is a shame that eminent Judges and Jurists have accepted these illegal titles without any qualm, so degraded a nation we have become!

Besides being illegal, award of these titles give glimpses of so much favoritism that it is difficult to say who has not bagged a Padma title without lobbying for the same or without grace of a godfather in Government.

“The stark truth is that in order to bag an award, one has to know how to pull the right strings”, vocalist Prabha Atre on whom the title of Padma Bhushan was conferred in 2002 after more than a decade of receiving Padma Shree, is on records to have said.

Describing it as `a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma’, Justice V.R.Krishna Iyer, even while welcoming conferment of Padma Vibhushan on jurists Sloi J. Sorabjee and K.K.Venugopal in 2002 had to say, “I must confess my puzzle about who really selects, what criteria govern and how a nationally acceptable screening process is adopted”. (The Hindu, 30 Jan.2002)

This year’s distribution of Padma titles expands this “puzzle”.

Ten persons have been selected for Padma Vibhushan, the highest amongst the three Padma Awards. Out of these ten, Delhi has bagged six, one has gone to Delhi’s immediate neighbor Haryana, one has gone to the home province of the Prime Minister’s closest ally in destroying India’s resolution for socialism, P.Chidambaram and the rest two have gone to USA.

In the next highest segment, Padma Bhushan, Delhi has bagged six, the highest in number next only to the users of their respective expertise in foreign lands; USA bagging four, U.K. getting two and Japan, South Africa as well as France bagging one each. So dwellers of the National Capital City and foreign Countries have together taken away 15 Padma Bhusahan titles leaving only 14 in this segment for the rest of India. Out of these 14, two of the provinces, Kerala and West Bengal, under grip of reformed Communists – reformed, because they have been supporting Man Mohan Singh, who opened up India’s economy to strangulate socialism- have bagged as many as six when another strong muscle of Man Mohan Government, Sarad Pawer’s Maharashtra has fetched three of these awards. One each has been bagged by Assam, Mizoram, U.P. and Tamilnadu as well as by Chandigarh. No other province of India has had any body to qualify for this second class Padma title.

Even for the third class Padma, i.e. Padma Shree, lobby looks like having played the decisive role. Otherwise, how it is that massive majority of the awardees of Padma Shree belong to places where the present central government has his support base? See the position. Delhi has bagged 17 of these titles whereas Maharastra has got nine and Tamilnadu has bagged eight. Similarly U. P., where Mrs. Sonia Gandhi and her son have their political stake, has taken five of these titles equaling the Congress ruled Andhra Pradesh. Next highest batch of Padma Shree awardees numbering four belongs to Congress ruled Uttarakhand whereas Kerala and Karnataka bag three each. When Congress led Punjab has got two Padma Shrees, two each have gone to Gujarat and Manipur.

J and K, Rajasthan, Goa, Chandigarh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Bihar, Assam, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh have got one each when dwellers in foreign countries such as Russia, Ireland and U.K. have bagged five Padma Shrees.

West Bengal, though not shown as home State of any new owner of Padma Shree title this year, the Bengalis have bagged four of this segment through two addresses at USA and one each at Delhi and U.P.

This shows that there is no uniformity in selection from the States. This again suggests that there are provinces where people are more capable and render more distinguished service than people of other provinces. If this is what the government wants us to accept, then this is bad, unacceptable, untenable and anti-integration. No true Indian can tolerate this nonsense.

Selection of majority persons from provinces, where the union government has its stronghold; and non-selection of worthy persons belonging to provinces, where the set up in central power finds opposition; is nakedly indicative of nepotism, favoritism and regional chauvinism and political parochialism.

Moreover the phenomenon is blatantly discriminatory. Lest people know this aspect, the criteria for selection and with whom the selected persons were compared to be adjudged best in their respective fields are kept hidden from public gaze.

The entire exercise needs to be tested on the matrix of the criteria, if any. But no criterion is codified.

I do not mean to say that all the persons that are not worthy of national honor for their respective contributions in enlisted fields have been given the honor, but lack of any codified and legalistic criterion to ensure that no worthier is left behind has made the entire exercise questionable.

To me as an Oriya Prativa Roy getting a Padma Shree may be a matter of pleasure. But when question of responsible citizenship arises, it becomes a matter of despair.

It comes to notice that a worthy Oriya like Barendra Krushna Dhal has been again ignored for such an honor. Why? The question hunts.

Dhal has not only won Central Sahitya Academy award, but also he is the soul behind the Book-fair movement that has made innumerable people develop reading habit in Orissa.

So as a man of letters his role is solely social.

Selection of persons for Padma title, though the criteria are not yet codified, is touted to be based on how far useful to society are the life long contributions of the person under consideration.

On this ground only, as a man of letters, Barendra Krushna Dhal, the social campaigner for letters, surpasses every Indian in merit for the first class Padma Award for literature and education.

If journalism’s sole aim is to educate the people about everything that affects man and society and earth and environment, Barendra Dhal is a top ranking educator.

His contribution to the cause of journalism is well recognized by the National Union of Journalists of India that had unanimously elected him to the post of its President. He has the rare distinction of having reported the last public meetings of Prime Ministers like Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, going against the tides and overcoming many odds in the process that establishes his devotion to duty for democracy.

When Roy is selected for the Padma Shree title in the segment of literature and education from Orissa, why a more worthy person like Dhal has been ignored?

Unless some body has conspired against him, he is not likely to have been ignored.

I cannot say who is responsible. But when Roy is selected under the category of literature and education, non-selection of Dhal seems intriguing. This prompts to recapitulate the past.

When Roy had been made a member of Orissa Public Service Commission, it is Dhal only, who had questioned the appropriateness thereof in his column. She was not found by the OPSC eligible to become a Reader; but there after, as the then Government, marked for manipulative tactics, placed senior lecturers in selection grade in the Readers’ scale of pay, she became a de facto Reader. Dhal had questioned as to how a person like her could be given a constitutional position to control and conduct selection of Professors; specifically when some of such persons were the very persons who had superseded her for promotion to the rank of Reader?

Against this backdrop, selection of Roy for Padma Shree when Dhal remains in oblivion generates suspicion.

Who can say whosoever suggested and/or selected Roy was/were not made not to consider Dhal, who alone had questioned the wisdom behind appointing her to OPSC?

Lobby and further lobby

Circumstances discernible in Dhal’s attack on the said appointment suggest that without a strong lobby Roy could not have been chosen for the OPSC membership.

There was also reason to suspect the role of lobby behind her bagging the Central Sahitya Academy award. Dr. Hara Prasad Parichha Patnaik, former Secretary of Orissa State Sahitya Academy had told me four months before she got it that she will get the Central Sahitya Academy Award. And to my astonishment that had come true. When the Central Sahitya Academy award was not finalized, how could Dr. Parichha Patnaik know that Roy would surely get that award? Was he aware of the lobby and the power of that lobby?

If lobby like this has propelled her to positions and recognitions in the past, it would not be surprising to suspect that the Padma title might also have been netted through the lobby. As Prabha Atre, quoted supra, has stated, “in order to bag an award, one has to know how to pull the right strings”!

Unless the government makes it unambiguously clear by placing before the public as to who were taken into consideration along with Roy and why it is only they that were taken to consideration and with whom her contributions were compared and by whom compared, the injustice done to Dhal cannot be fully comprehended and the conspiratorial side of the story cannot be wiped out.

This is an intricate issue. It would not have developed had the criteria for selection of persons for Padma titles been codified and made public.

As lobby plays the trick, worthy persons are often ignored. Not only in Orissa, also elsewhere.

I remember, Kathak Queen Sitara Devi had expressed reluctance to accept Padma Bhushan in 2002 because persons far below her age, experience and expertise had been conferred with the higher category title of Padma Vibhushan.

Who does not know how announcement of the title of Padma Shree in favor of Shyama Charan Pati for his supposed contribution to Chhau had been objected to by almost all of the Chhau exponents from Jharkhand and Orissa last year?

Terming it “a big Padma Shree fraud”, they had attracted attention of President A.P.J.Abdul Kalam (The Telegraph, 10 Feb.2006) and had demanded for a probe, which had exposed to what nasty extent lobby helps in bagging Padma titles.

Pati was a person whose credential as a Chhau artist was also seriously questioned. Accoding to Tapan Kumar Pattanayak, Director of Government-run Chhau Nritya Kala Kendra, Seraikela, “ever since the organization came into existence, there is no mention of Pati having contributed in any way to the art form”. Stating that the State of Jharkhand organizes Chhau festivals every year, Pattanayak had revealed, “Pati never featured in that event. There are eight Gharanas of Seraikela Chhau while four of Kharsawan Chhau. But we have no information as to which Gharana he belongs to”, he had told then.

On being apprised of how Padma titles are manipulated, the Supreme Court had issued a direction that the no selection beyond the list prepared by selection-committees in various States can be made in respect to persons belonging to the corresponding province.

The Secretary of Culture of the Jharkhand Government, N.N. Sinha had made it clear that Pati was never recommended by his department. It transpired that he was not sort listed by the provincial government. But his name was announced on the eve of the Republic Day! This shows that some one in the top most corridors of power had selected him from beyond the official list in stark disregard to the Supreme Court order. Who is this person that unofficially selected him, when and why?

The Pati issue has made it clear that absolute lack of eligibility notwithstanding, people have been bagging Padma titles if they know “how to pull the right strings”.

Famous poet Dilip Chitre is quoted in Times of India on 2 Feb.2003 as having said, “We have a darbari culture and awards are often doled out as favors, apparently in exchange of personal loyalty”. He has cited how Yashwantrao Chavan had cultivated a Padma Bhushan title for his professor N.S.Phadke, even as senior and more deserving litterateurs languished in anonymity.

It is a shame to recall how Atal Behari Vajpayee as Prime Minister was seen as the force behind a junior vocalist of Mumbai in being chosen for Padma title in 2001 leaving behind much more deserving, senior and superb exponents to languish, simply because he had given voice to his poems.

This reminds one of how such phenomenon was described by S. Kalidas, Associate Editor of India Today in its pages in February, 2001 in a reaction to refusal of Padma Bhushan by Ustad Vilayat Khan. He had noted, “Our mandarins in the government have always behaved like the proverbial lotus-eaters. They are invariably so full of their own sense of self-importance and power of patronage that they are blind to all nuances of ground realities. Besides the system of selection of Padma Awardees is flawed to the core. For some reason this is something that the ministry of Home Affairs, the cabinet, the Prime Minister and the President are all involved in. And with these luminaries, State Chief Ministers, Chief Secretaries and Governors also have a say in recommending people from their respective States. But none of these VIPs are ever really well informed about any of the fields that they are supposed to select the recipients from. So the choice is more often determined simply by the exigency of who knows whom”.

Giving a picture of how mandarins manipulate Padma awards, B. N. Tandon, an erstwhile power-player in the Prime Minister’s Office during Indira Gandhi’s regime, in his diary dated January 17, 1975, has noted, “This afternoon, at lunch, the topic of the Padma awards came up. This year I have not taken any interest in this. It is true that I wanted Amjad to get the Padma Shri because last year his name had been left out. The committee of secretaries has recommended his name again this year, but it has been removed by the Prime Minister at the instance of Usha Bhagat. Sharda didn’t approve of this and he told the Prime Minister that it was his and my view that it would be wrong to deny this award to Amjad this year. Then something happened which necessitated consultation with Haksar who also took the view that Amjad should definitely get the Padma Shri. Now his name is on the list, but I haven’t told him.” (PMO diary-I, page 157)

Evidences of manipulation in conferment or achievement of Padma titles are galore. Mr. K. Natwar Singh has put on records that in 1983 he had wanted Padma Bhushans and Padma Shrees for those who had helped organised the two summits, NAM and CHOGAM in New Delhi on the precedence created by conferring Padma on organizers of the Asian Games in 1982. But Indira Gandhi did not approve. She approved Alexander’s recommendations in his favor as a result of which, his name was announced for Padma Bhusan on 26 January 1984. (Profiles and Letters, P. 204).

Call it an instance of sycophancy if you like. But conferment of Bharat Ratna on Indira Gandhi by V.V. Giri on his own accord points out to the fact that the highest Civilian Title of the Country is susceptible to individual preference. How President K.R.Narayan had wanted Bharat Ratna for C. Subramaniam has been on records by former Prime Minister I.K.Gujral.

So, lobby and the ability to pull “the right string” are fetching Padma titles for the aspirants. Even the committees constituted for selection are suspected to be comprising of lobbyists of different aspirants. Had it not been so, in 2005, Ranbaxy Laboratories founder Bhai Mohan Singh, then under trial for bouncing of a Cheque, would not have been chosen for Padma Bhushan.

The entire business of Padma besides being ultra vires of Indian Constitution; is unprincipled.

Jawaharlal Nehru as Prime Minister was a man of many dreams and as dreamers usually arrive at emotional decisions, he had formulated these national honors. In a letter to Chief Ministers in 1954, he had told them that the awards were meant for “rather distinguished people in science, engineering, medicine, art, literature and social work. This indicates the way India looks today. We honor the creative and the developmental activities of the nation and we wish people to honor them”. He had not contemplated then that a time will come when self seekers shall not only engage lobbyists to fetch these titles, but also shall endeavor to fetch still higher titles one after the other.

Look at Orissa’s Kelucharan Mohapatra, in whose perception his son and his daughter-in-law are the only true sources of education in Odissi dance, on whom students of the dance form may depend in future. To a question from Orissa’s the then art-sentinel Bibhuti Mishra as to as Sanjukta Panigrahi was no more there, who could be considered a guide; he had said that role may fit to his son who holds his banner Srjan or to “any dedicated student of mine or my daughter-in-law or even my granddaughter” as if no other Odissi exponent had any worth. In fact so averse was he to others that he had no hesitation in alleging that they are polluting the dance form “in the name of improvisation and innovations and many so-called great dancers are also guilty of this”.

When reminded of the innovations he has claimed to have made himself, in this interview, Mohapatra had tried to confuse the interviewer by jargon like “I have operated within the basic idiom of the classical code”.

What classical code? Mohapatra had never given due credit to Kavichandra Kali Charan Pattanayak but for whom Odissi was never to earn classical status and artists like him were not to so easily shine as they did. On the other hand, he has never followed Abhinaya Darpana Prakash, the only scripture held as Grammar of the dance form, on the basis of which Odissi is bound to be regarded as classic for ever. He was a performing artist, not a scriptural scholar. When he is no where on records to have followed the Code of Odissi, i.e. the Abhinaya Darpana Prakash, authored by the Prince of Tigiria, Jadunath Rai Singh, his attempts to justify his so called innovations in the name of classical code is nothing but a tactful escapement.

Reacting sharply to Bibhuti’s suggestion that Sanjukta Panigrahi “could not get anything beyond Padma Shri while others of doubtful merit but with better contacts and lobbying power got even the Padma Bhushan …” he had asked “what has my wife, Laxmipriya Mohapatra got? She was the first female Odissi dancer who brought the dance form to the stage. She is also the one who inspired a whole generation of dancers, but she has remained unsung. Even the State Sangeet Natak Akademi has not bothered to honour her”.

Mark the man. He was so severely angry over his wife not getting State recognition that he did not hesitate to keep it on records. But he has never said that the best of civilian title should be bestowed upon Kavichandra Kalicharan who was the real architect of Odissi’s classical status. Can any self-centric person be different from this type?

But this gentleman is remembered for the promotions he acquired one after one in the ladder of Padma. He bagged Padma Shree in 1972, Padma Bhushan in 1989 and Padma Vibhushan in 2000. Is there a curriculum in Padma scheme on fulfillment of which one qualifies for higher degree? If in 1954 this scheme was formulated for recognizing people of excellent contribution to various fields of academic and socio-cultural activities, any one ward in recognition thereof must suffice. Why a man like Mohapatra had been given all the three Padmas in succession? There is no codified yardstick to determine as to what quantum of contribution would justify what sort of Padma. So which part of his activities exceeded which determined quantum of his Padma Shree fetching contributions to justify his elevation to Padma Bhushan and similarly to further elevation to Padma Vibhushan?

Mohapatra is not alone. M.S.Subhalaxmi had started her run from Padma Bhushan in 1954. Her performance in music was matchless and if at par with Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, Dr. Chandrasekhar Venkat Raman and Chakrvarti Rajgopalachari she could have got Bharat Ratna in 1954, which she finally acquired in 1998, there was nothing to object. But she was first conferred with Padma Bhushan in 1954, then with Padma Vibhushan in 1975 and finally with Bharat Ratna in 1998. Many such instances are there. Sans a governing Law, it is fed to public that it requires a decade to lapse for a Padma title holder to be conferred with a higher Padma title. This is also an attempt at hoodwinking the nation, because in reality it is not followed. As for example, Dr. V.S.Arunachalam who had a Padma Bhushan title in 1985, bagged Padma Vibhushan in 1990, which is not a decade but only a half of it.

What does it show? It shows that Padma titles are manufactured and manipulated in favor of persons who know how to pull the right string and distributed sans any principle.

This apart, religion and castes are also being taken into consideration while entertaining any nomination for these titles into consideration. The columns that are required to be filled up in the nomination Form comprise one item captioned “Religion” and another item captioned “Category” where information on whether the person nominated belongs to Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe or Other backward Castes or General Castes are sought for.

This farce must not be allowed to infest our body politic like this any more.

VAJPAYEE BE ENQUIRED INTO IN CONTEXT OF FERNANDES

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

The Central Bureau of Investigation has initiated prosecution against the Country’s former defense minister George Fernandes, who, in its probe-propelled opinion, is guilty of weakening our defense system through corruption.

Being in online journalism, it is a moment for me to celebrate because this is the first manifestation of major victory of internet media in India.

One is now reminded of the corrupt and scheming administration that Vajpayee had subjected the nation to.

Instead of acting against corruption, Vajpayee had made Tarun Tejpal and his team in tehelka.com, who had exposed that corruption, face enquiries on their method of locating news!

As is his wont, Fernandes is trying to divert public attention from his misdeeds by shouting that he is being prosecuted because of “that lady” Sonia. But in doing so he is showing his fidgetiness. Why he fidgets?

He is now bound to face the consequences of his involvement in corruptions in defense deals. The game of politics that he nastily played in the Parliament will not come to his rescue in the examination box of the concerned court of prosecution. There is no doubt in the fact that the CBI has taken a lot of time to spot his dubious deals. But it is indicative only of how shrewd is he in transacting venal ventures. Who can and for how long stop the truth from prevailing?

Tehelka tapes had made it convincingly clear that he had reduced his official residence to a dalali hub where his personal preference, the lady president of the political outfit he had formed, Ms. Jaya Jaitley was captured by camera while bargaining for and collecting bribe in the guise of donation to facilitate supply orders for defense materials. These tapes having knocked at the bottom, the CAG of India, in subsequent time, made a sample audit of defense expenditure and came out with more startling instances of corrupt practice in vogue in the Ministry of Defense under Fernandes. And, ultimately, now, the CBI has drawn up the charges.

The CBI has filed necessary FIR against Fernandes, Jaitley and former Navi Chief Sushil Kumar for alleged irregularities in purchasing of Barak system from Israel in 2000. When Fernandes maintains that the present President Mr. A.P.J.Abdul Kalam, during his tenure as Scientific Advisor to Prime Minister, had recommended the Barak system, reports reveal the opposite. According to these reports, Dr. Kalam had expressed doubts over the suitability of Barak. He even had written a letter to Fernandes in 1999 opposing the deal as the system had a 50 percent failure rate. But Kalam’s advice was ignored.

On the other hand, Bishnu Bhagwat, former Naval Chief, who was sacked by Fernandes in December 1998 because he did not favor the shady deal, has alleged that Fernandes was “highly interested” for the purchase and in order to eliminate obstacles, had gone inappropriately ahead to put his own man Sushil in the top most post of Navy. Against this backdrop, the FIR filed by CBI may be viewed as a better late than never step.

I will not, however, speculate on what would be the fate of this FIR.

But to me it occurs, justice cannot be arrived at unless enquiry is conducted into the conduct of former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee vis-a-vis Fernandes.

If the later has any benefit from the unprecedented volume of purchase of defense materials in the name of Kargil war, the former had derived the principal source of his sustenance in power from the said war only.

Had there been no Kargil war, Vajpayee would never have become the third time Prime Minister of India.

In May 1999 he had lost his alliance majority after AIADMK withdrew its support at the summit of a year long misrule that was anti-people, anti-worker but pro-trader.

The Country was set to set a fresh mandate in October but due to misconceived notion of democracy, Vajpayee continued as a care taker P.M.

Normally he could not have bagged any decisive support as the people had got severely disillusioned. But an abnormal development helped him. That abnormal development was what is known as the Kargil war.

This war gave Fernandes the ground to go for questionable defense deals that are now under the scanner. This war gave Vajpayee a fresh mandate by mesmerizing people to look away from his misdeeds. This being the unread similarity between the two, one gets inclined to ask as to whether there was an extra-parliamentary link between them both? It needs to be investigated into.

The backhander deals in defense procurement video taped by tehelka.com were televised on 13th of March 2001. The whole nation was stunned. Allies of Vajpayee were ashamed of continuing their support to him. Pressure mounted on dismissal of Fernandes, but Vajpayee was reluctant to drop him or to ask him to quit. Mamata Banerjee resigned in disgust. The south Indian allies declared that it would be difficult for them to support the Government if Fernandes continues in the cabinet. Fernandes had to leave within a few days in March.

But instead of initiating action against the exposed culprits, a commission of enquiry was appointed under K. Venkataswami under the Commissions of Inquiry Act to probe into the modus operandi of Tehelka!

Fernandes played a pressure game. He did not make any remarkable allegation against the Opposition for the predicament he was thrown into. But his proteges were raising their master’s voice against Vajpayee. If their leader was not reinstated they would expose the Prime Minister and his Office (PMO), they were asserting in statements to the media.

Vajpayee succumbed to the circumstances and emitted such signals that bureaucracy which was going to provide the enquiry commission with necessary official information on the defense deals, got the impression that Fernandes was a man who was not at all away from the center of power. He was made the kingpin of NDA with the power to monitor ministries in guise of assessing manifesto implementation.

Despite this shrewd attempt of Vajpayee to enable Fernandes to wield power unfathomable enough to influence officials, the process of the proceedings of the commission of enquiry was so typical that it was felt impossible on part of bureaucracy to keep back any required document from the Commission when called for.

There was apprehension that admirers of Bishnu Bhagawat in the Navy and in the Ministry of Defense may help production of such documents before the enquiry commission that may jeopardize Fernandes.

Production of such documents before the commission may be withheld only by a Minister who can claim privilege over any document under his administrative control. Therefore, he decided to take over the Ministry of Defense without any further delay.

And, he was reinducted by Vajpayee barely six months after he had to quit in March, 2001, in the same position of defense minister!

The Venkataswami Commission was in the midst of its probe on offences exposed by tehelka.com. The Kargil Review Committee headed by K. Subrahmanyam, eminent defense study expert, appointed on 29 July 1999 to “(i) review the events leading up to the Pakistani aggression in the Kargil District of Ladakh in Jammu & Kashmir; and (ii) recommend such measures as are considered necessary to safeguard national security against such armed intrusions”, had submitted its report which was placed before the Parliament on 23 February 2000. This report had clearly shown as to how under Fernandes the defense intelligence and preparedness of the country had collapsed. The tehelka tapes had shown how under him and in his official residence defense-deal brokers and commission agents were having their heydays. He had no legitimacy to be reinducted in the same post of defense minister, at least not before submission of its report by the Venkataswami Commission. But to the astonishment, dismay and embarrassment of the entire nation, Vajpayee reappointed him as the defense minister.

The Opposition refused to accept him as such and the world witnessed the unique and historical boycott Fernandes faced from the Opposition in Parliament.

Had there been an iota of political probity in Vajpayee he would never have reinducted Fernandes as the defence minister and after facing the Opposition boycott, would never have retained him. But he reinducted and retained him. Why? What was his modus operandi? What was the compulsion? Vajpayee was questioned by the Press, was grilled by the Opposition, was looked at askance by the people over these questions. But he never answered, never clarified.

Did he succumb to blackmailing by Fernandes? If yes, what was his weakness that Fernandes was able to exploit?

Only a high power judicial probe can unveil the truth.

Till the truth is found out, speculations will continue. In fact speculations cannot be stopped.

People who love their motherland must try to know as to what was the secret bond between Vajpayee and Fernandes that prompted the Prime Minister to make a farce of parliamentary accountability by misuse of his prime-ministerial prerogative in favor of a man who was considered even by his senior colleagues as a “liability”!

Vajpayee’s conduct in re-inducting Fernandes as defense minister and in retaining him in that position in utter disregard to disapproval thereof by the people, by the Press and by the Opposition was an instance of abnormality besides being an instance of misuse of prerogative. Why Vajpayee, a very normal man known for unfailing wits, behaved so abnormally in favor of Fernandes? Why the ablest leader of the right-wing BJP, once honored as the best parliamentarian of a year in India, willfully misused his prime-ministerial prerogatives for serving the purpose of a leader of the self-styled left-winger Samata? The mystery is not yet solved. But it is a cruel mystery. And the mystery deepens in the context of Kagril.

The Kagril Review Report placed before the Parliament on 23 February 2000 fails to convince that there was a real war. It reveals that the Committee had before it a lot of evidence that the Pakistani armed intrusion in the Kargil sector had come as a complete and total surprise to the Indian Government, Army and intelligence agencies as well as to the J & K State Government. The Committee did not come across any agency or individual who was able to clearly assess before the event the possibility of a large scale Pakistani military intrusion across the Kargil heights. On the other hand, the Pak intrusion was half hazard. A number of former Army Chiefs of Staff and Director Generals of Military Operations were near unanimous in their opinion that a military intrusion on the scale attempted was totally unsustainable because of the lack of supportive infrastructure and was militarily irrational, the Committee has noted while in course of observation harping on how, whatever be the circumstances, our surveillance posts were left unmanned. So the Kargil war does not convince that it was a real serious war.

But this war helped Vajpayee in coming back to power and helped General Musharraf in becoming supremo of Pakistan. More intriguing is the fact that when the world had refused to recognise Musharraf as the new leader of Pakistan, it was only Vajpayee who had unreservedly recognized him and had felicitated him in India. Was there a secret pact between Vajpayee and Musharraf even before the mysterious Kargil war?

Mystery deepens over the fact that the Kargil war, held as India’s first video-war, had been followed by fake encounters in subsequent times. An example jumps from a June 2004 confession of some Indian soldiers that they had helped in staging fake encounters with Pakistani troops on Siachen in August 2003.

On 7 June 2004, Rifleman Shyam Bahadur Thapa had told a military court that he had not only demolished a fake “enemy-held” objective with a rocket launcher in August 2003, but also had acted as a Pakistani soldier killed in the action when video cameras were whirring away. He said that he had to do this at the behest of a company commander, Maj. Surinder Singh, who had asked him “to remove the jacket and cap and to lie there” (near the demolished objective).

Whether the order of termination and imprisonment passed against Maj. Singh was finally implemented or not is a different issue. But it established that he had documented the stage managed encounter to convince people that Pakistan had attacked us but under him our forces had annihilated the attacker. If anything, this was part of a fraud played on our people, whatsoever might have been its impact.

It also established that there was a climate in that terrain which was made congenial to fake encounters or wars when Fernandes was the defense minister and Vajpayee was in search of an escalade to fetch back votes. Then, was the Kargil war a fake war which Fernandes had organised to help Vajpayee get the escalade? Was it a secret between them two? Had Musarraf joined hands?

It cannot be ignored that Fernandes was known for his frequent trips to Siachen; at least 17 times is on records, during his tenure as defense minister. Was he really in sympathy with the soldiers or was he anxious to see that our defense personnel do not keep in mind the climate of such a fraud? Answer is yet to be found out. Answer can be found out if modus operandi of Vajpayee’s patronization to Fernandes is openly enquired into by a team of experts including criminologists and psychologists.

Looking at Vajpayee’s illogical and disproportionate patronization to Fernandes in retaining his defense minister portfolio, notwithstanding the frauds, one is inclined to suspect that unless his modus operandi in continuing this patronization or his acquiescence into extending this patronization is enquired into, the gamut of the background of the defense-deal offences that Fernandes is charged with will not be fully discovered and hence the history of the relevant period shall remain blurred for ever.

Therefore, in national interest, and in the interest of Indian sub-continent, Vajpayee should be enquired into in the context of Fernandes.