Monday, July 12, 2010

Power & Politics/Snippets / Mail Today, July 12. 2010

The endless cycle of committees
LAW MINISTER Veerappa Moily has headed numerous commissions and submitted so many reports that I suspect even he may have lost count.

As chairman of the Administrative Commission, he has submitted 15 reports over the last five years on subjects ranging from good governance to ethics in government to conflict resolution and corruption in the bureaucracy.

Most of these are gathering dust as the government has neither the will nor inclination to tinker with the status quo. Sometime back, Moily handed a copy of the report on corruption in the bureaucracy to the Prime Minister.

After going through its contents, the PMO passed it on to the Committee of Secretaries who after due deliberations, suggested that a high- power committee be set up to further look into the matter. And so a committee of experts comprising P. C. Hota, former UPSC chairman, P. Shankar, former chief of the Vigilance Commission and A. K. Verma a retired UP cadre IAS officer was constituted in May.

Unlike most committees that sit on their jobs and seek extensions in order to continue enjoying the perks, this committee completed its work in two months flat. Though he was offered a secretariat and all other perks that go with such a job, Hota rejected these and opted to do the job himself, working out of his own house and keying in everything on his computer himself.

Last week, when Prithviraj Chavan, Union minister of state for personnel, called on Hota at his residence he was in for a surprise. Not only had Hota completed the task assigned to him well in time, he had put copies of his work on CD as well as on pen drives and sent these across to fellow members. He gave a copy to Chavan too, who needless to say was taken by surprise at the doggedness and tenacity of the 75 year- old retired officer. May his tribe increase. But on the flip side, I have the feeling that the government will set up another committee to study Hota’s report.

Abdullah father and son set to play musical chairs
NOT A day goes by without TV channels flashing visuals of the young and dapper Omar Abdullah in designer attire but you can see that the man is anything but relaxed. Kashmir is on the boil like never in recent times and last week, after 10 years, the army held flag marches.

There is a National Conference- Congress coalition government in place in Srinagar, but the deputy chief minister Tara Chand of the Congress is so busy inaugurating buildings and bridges that he hasn’t found time to form an opinion on the violence. Ditto for the state Congress president Saifudin Soz and former CM Ghulam Nabi Azad. But what really raised eyebrows was the absolute silence of Dr Farooq Abdullah. When his beloved Kashmir was burning, Farooq saab was much of the time in London. And when he surfaced last Sunday in Srinagar, Omar added another twist to the burning tale by saying that Papa Doc was “ here to advise me and not to intervene”.
It is worth recalling that Farooq was projected as chief minister last year, but an overnight coup by Delhi’s babalog saw son take over and father settling for Union ministership. Omar’s problem is that he understands the peer crowd in Delhi but not in Srinagar and has scant regard for the political and bureaucratic set up in Kashmir which his Papa nurtured and respected.

With every brief respite from violence resembling the lull before the storm and Omar feeling totally isolated and helpless but since he was the choice of the Congress Gen Next, senior leaders are in a bind. But a whisper campaign is now on within sections of the Congress and the NC leadership that the father- son duo be persuaded to swap jobs.

No one will be hurt, Omar who is clearly uncomfortable in Srinagar’s hot seat, may welcome a return to Delhi. As junior external affairs minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, he did an excellent job. For the sake of Kashmir, it is to be hoped the father and son duo comes to an agreement on a job trade off.

THERE are few who are not genuinely impressed by the way Home Minister P Chidambaram goes about his job. His dogged pursuit of terrorists, Naxals and other extremists has impressed even the BJP that the main opposition party demanded that PC be given a free hand to do his job. The trouble with PC is that he is as irritating as he is honest and well intentioned. That puts most of his colleagues off.

Much of what he does are unilateral decisions, the Khap bill aimed at tackling honour killings being the latest. He came up with the idea without consulting his colleagues or the state governments in the North where the Khap Panchayats are very powerful.

Predictably, he met with stiff opposition. Ministers from the North ganged up against him and the cabinet meeting last Thursday witnessed frayed tempers as PC was accused of ignoring regional sensitivities and pursuing a legislation that could be an emotional minefield for the Congress, particularly in Haryana, which apart from Delhi is the only Northern state where the party is in power. Though PC would settle for nothing less than a free hand as long as he is North Block and prime minister will gladly grant him his wish, the majority opinion in the Cabinet was that the issue needed further discussions at multiple levels. So they have constituted another Group of Ministers and its back to the red tape brigade.

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