Friday, December 31, 2010

Year 2010 and a Happy new year

As I start writing this, the year 2010 is just ending. A bad year? A year of scams and scams? No, a wonderful year when the scams which had been brewing since years ago surfaced so that people of India could know how deep and widespread the muck was. Courtesy RTI Act? Could be. Let us hope the necessary cleansing takes place in the new year that has ushered in (by this moment). Wishing all non-existent (and existent if any) readers of my blog a very happy new year!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

M for Mamata, M for Metro Rail

Today I learn from newspaper advertisements that Metro Rail will be getting status of a Railway zone. When I was working in Metro Rail, I realized, and all my colleagues agreed, that interests of Metro Rail and Indian Railways would have been served much better had Metro Rail been a division or a sub-division in Eastern Railway. Today's development shows that our momentous decisions and actions are not driven by common sense or common prudence but considerations of self-interest. One could argue that to be driven by self interest is also common prudence. But I hold that to be driven by larger interest is better prudence, as self-interest also gets better served (though we don't realize it). Self-interest is nothing but a subset of larger interest.

The event is also a strong statement that the top bureaucracy, at least in Indian Railways, does not have backbone any more. And why should they have when they know that their very existence as it is, depends on the whims of one individual i.e. the Hon'ble Minister for Railways? Survival must come first. Problem doesn't lie with them but the system that turns men into moles.

If we look back, we find that most of our political decisions are governed by same approach or thinking that has been governing Ms Mamata Banerjee since she took over as Railway Minister. Indian Railways have become Bengal Railways at the cost of the organization. Those in the organization know it but are either not bothered or feel helpless. I know morale of officers is at its all time low, with proximity to Ms Banerjee or her coterie deciding most of top level postings and her whims reigning supreme. An example of how a great political leader, and a greater individual could be a disastrous administrator when keeping counsel of only self-serving sycophants. Driving force~ whether larger interest or parochial thinking~ will distinguish between a Statesman and a neta. Alas! no statesman is around.

Nothing is new under the sun

Every individual is unique, no doubt. At times we also feel doing great and unprecedented things. But hard fact remains - nothing is new under the sun. We just survive in our own way.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Binayak Sen

CWG was a massive scandal- as considered by media and public. CAG report on 2G spectrum allocation, a Rs. 176000 crore perceived loss to public exchequer, made CWG scam look insignificant in monetary terms, though its political significance on account of personal involvement of a seasoned MP continues. Now comes life sentence to Dr. Binayak Sen. This issue doesn't involve any monetary loss while compared with scandal after scandal involving thousands of crores of rupees of public money. But is it not the greatest scandal of all? A well meaning person~ his ideologies may be debatable~ is sentenced for life for sedition on some flimsy evidence, as one learns from media reports and human right activists protesting over the Globe. People say he is free to appeal to higher court and this is not the end. Yes, but why should such absurd miscarriage of justice take place in the first place? Why should he and his family suffer and be miserable till justice is done. No one knows how many years it will take, given our judicial system. We take pride in being a free democracy and here is a soul, being tortured for doing what it thought good for the masses, for the people. Because he dared to raise voice against establishment for its wrong doings. Whom do we deceive saying we are free? We are worse off than in colonial times because now the feudal forces rule in garb, the garb of democracy.

By above I don't mean to sympathize with the Maoists. I condemn, and can't condone violence. But I am not able to understand how could Dr. Binayak Sen be so dangerous or unlawful in his acts as to deserve life imprisonment while perpetrators of such massive scams as referred above not only roam free but rule. Was he in any way instrumental in killing of innocent people? It is an open secret that the State allowed Anderson, the man responsible for killing and maiming thousands of countrymen, a safe passage. Might remains right whether it was English rule or 60 years after independence. Then we got trampled upon expecting so, now we get same or worse treatment, not expecting. May not be wrong to say that we are more a colony now than we were before independence. We, as a nation, are burying ourselves into a deeper hole on daily basis. It is our innate goodness as individuals that is still keeping us afloat.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

India- A free State

Who said India was a failed state? Did I? I must have taken free for failed. Today it is a free state for sure. Free for all. A Minister is clearly implicated in a multi-thousand crore rupees scam and his party comes out openly in his support. Prices of everything keep on spiraling freely. Media feels free in making noises as they like, side tracking or dumping the issues altogether again as they like. The corporates are free to act through Radias. Radias are free to act through top journalists who in turn are free to access and influence the government.

The opposition feels free to raise hell on issue of corruption by the ruling alliance but will allow its own tainted chief minister to continue. The ruling alliance of course is free in allowing or having allowed scam after scam, each bigger than the previous one, to brew and then not be sorry either when the scams surface. They are free to imply that loot became their right as soon as they came to power. They are free to go on repeating false promises. They are free to always talk about welfare of common man and do everything to screw him. Good men are free not to do anything, bad men are free to do whatever they like. The top functionaries are free to be epitomes of incompetence and corruption. The common man is free to find ways and means of his very survival. India is a truly great free country. Even whistle-blowers like me are free to blow the whistle and then get screwed by very those for whose benefit they blew the whistle.

PM Sh. Manmohan Singh

As a citizen of India I feel really indebted to our beloved Prime Minister. First because he made a great sacrifice in accepting the premiership knowing fully well he would be nothing more than a puppet whose strings would not be in one hand but in many hands and he would be dancing to many tunes. The movements of his neck would be under control of UPA chairperson. The strings of his eyes would be drawn by the allies like Rajas and Pawars who would make them remain closed. Then Radias would come into play and control his hand movements. There would be opposition always pulling his legs. Please don't take it as satire, giving whole body control willfully to so many diverse forces must have not been an easy sacrifice.

I feel further indebted to him because when he had become so comfortable with such an arrangement, the others started demanding their pound of flesh and he came out of stupor to oblige them as well. When media would persist and not budge, he took strong action against one Mr. Kalmadi and started ignoring him. He was quite comfortable keeping his eyes closed for years but did open those when forced to do so by one Supreme Court to be able to see affairs of one Mr. Raja at last. Not only this, even when so handicapped he was always worrying about 'aam aadmi', the common man, and ensured that he didn't have to take daily tough decisions as to what to buy and what not to buy, by allowing prices to rise for everything such that he could buy nothing, not even onions. When it was made to dawn upon him that if only one item, the onions, could remain in reach of common man then also he would not face the ordeal of choice in buying, he took a few fingers out of grip of Radias and took great trouble in writing a letter to his Minister asking him to bring down the onion prices. Tell me, which PM could take so much trouble or do so much for aam aadmi.

More than PM, Sh. Manmohan Singh, I feel indebted to the big-wigs of Indian society from all fields for always singing praises for Dr Singh's integrity, his political acumen and his statesmanship. Because it was this support of theirs that continued giving Dr Singh the encouragement and strength to keep going and doing his wonderful bit for the common man in such adverse circumstances.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A rleased open letter

I reproduce below an open letter released by me about a fortnight back, resulting from my recent experiences. It is self explanatory and gives a true picture of Indian society, reconfirming whatever has been said in my earlier posts. Doesn't mean, though, that there is nothing good left.

An Open Letter

To All Concerned Dated: 30th November, 2010

Sub: Continuing colossal leakage of upwards of Rs. 5000 crores per year, increasing year after year, through procurement of material in Railways, having caused an estimated loss of Rs. 50000 crores in last decade and estimated to cause further loss of above Rs. 100000 (one lakh) crores in next decade to public exchequer.

Necessity for this letter: Issue of this letter has now become necessary because Railways instead of attending to the issues fairly and objectively have launched into my all-out victimization and character assassination.

How the issues stand out in comparison to various scams rocking the nation: The issues being talked about are much more important than the CWG and Adarsh Housing Society scams recently having stirred the consciousness of the nation for the sheer volume of leakage involved. These are more important than the 2-G Spectrum scam in the sense that it is not about making noises about a colossal loss after same having taken place but about preventing even greater loss in the coming decades, same being continuing with abandon as of now. The implication will be of the order of Rupees 10000 crores per year within next couple of years. I never raised the issues as a cry about corruption or for holding individuals responsible but for necessary systemic corrections. But media at large, unfortunately, has not taken much interest probably since the issues, howsoever important these could be, have been raised by an ordinary citizen of no-consequence and don't have any political force or money-bags behind to pursue these.

Issues and Media so far: I had brought out two important and major issues-interrelated- to the notice of apex Railway Administration through a well documented letter dated 24th March, 2010 (the crux of the issues was first raised by The Statesman in year 2008 as mentioned in my letter, and followed within the organization by me since then).

1. Leakage of Railway and public revenue to the extent of about Rs. 5000 crores year after year through cartels of pre-approved vendors as per existing material procurement system in Indian Railways, continuing for over a decade.

2. Non creation of the posts of Member Material Management and Member(S&T) by the successive Railway Boards for last ten years in spite of same having been mandated by the Government on recommendations of Vth pay commission and various parliamentary committees, and having been ordered for creation by various Railway Ministers in the interim.

The two issues are inter-related as has been brought out in my letter. Since procurement in Railways suffers from being under control of one of the consumers i.e. Member Mechanical and not being under control of a professional head i.e. Member Material Management.

These issues were then brought to the notice of whole nation through a series of reports in the national daily 'The Statesman' based on documents and data available and past CAG reports, in end June, followed by my interview dated 11/08/2010 and a strong editorial ‘Mamata Must Act’ soon after. The simple possible corrective measures were also suggested. In the meantime, 'Rail Samachar' published from Mumbai reported the first issue and continues to report in the matter.

In mid September, only the first issue was highlighted by a prime English news channel, 'NDTV 24x7', using my bytes and was quickly forgotten. On 15/11/10, a major Hindi daily of Northern India highlighted the issue effectively but misquoting me in a way I had never intended. They then promptly followed it up with my character assassination at the behest of the Railways, finding it convenient not to mention or publish my rejoinder to the ridiculous and childish efforts of the Railways. Very quickly issue was converted into that of my character rather than the avoidable colossal leakage of the public money. On the 15th evening, in Mumbai, two national Hindi news channels also approached me and took my interview for using my bytes. One of the channels, I learn, started broadcasting the story the next evening and immediately took it off the air. Having become wiser, I requested the other channel not to use my bytes. It appears the implication of a number of journalists in ‘Radia’ tapes is not an aberration.

Understanding the key issues in a simple way: Majority of Railways’ purchases, to the tune of approximately Rs. 20000 crores per year at present, are made from limited private vendors pre-approved by the Railways. And then these sources dictate the prices at which Railways buy from them and allow themselves to get fleeced by astronomical sums, a cautious estimation now being more than 50% on an average of what would be reasonable prices based on cost estimation. It is all so simple ~ to be evident to a teenager ~ but incomprehensible and invisible to the top bureaucrats of a top organization of a top democracy over decades. No organization worth its name in the world will allow it but Indian Railways do so gleefully year after year. Towards that end the Railway Board Members won’t let the post of Member Material Management to materialize even though the same has the mandate of the Government for last one decade. They, it appears, fear that the Member Material Management could bring out evidently necessary policy corrections in Railways’ procurement system, and would dilute their powers. No doubt, the figure of Rs. 10000 crores per year is debatable, but no doubt the leakage occurring is of the order of a good many thousands of crores of rupees year after year, as a result of absurd procurement systems and practices in Indian Railways.

Action/Reaction by the apex Railway Administration so far:

1. My letter has not even been acknowledged by the Railway hierarchy till date as if it does not exist and no one from apex Railway administration has ever spoken to me on the issues.

2. The Railway Minister applauded the reports in The Statesman in June end this year for objectivity and analysis saying Railways had learnt from those reports. Everyone clapped.

3. Vigilance investigations have been initiated, as is the norm, deadline of which has already been shot many times over.

4. In the meantime, pending investigations, though obvious to everyone in the organization, the loot continues.

5. Serious action is on under the very nose of the same Minister who had applauded the reports, on one front, though– to fix the whistle-blower for good for world to see such that no one in future should dare to think of public good and giving suggestions to the infallible authorities.

6. Posts of two more Members- out of question- existing Board can’t allow dilution of powers of existing Members – two hoots to parliamentary committees and mandate of the Government.

What was called for: While bringing out the issues, some glaring examples have been given. My purpose has never been any vilification but to seek systemic corrections. In fact as per existing system and practice, almost each high-value purchase from pre-approved private vendors, must be with some exceptions, is a scam in itself and thousands of such purchases are made over Indian Railways every year. It will be impossible to investigate all such purchases. Therefore the matter is one requiring necessary policy corrections much more than ordering vigilance investigations. Ordering investigations and allowing the leakage to continue side by side is akin to ordering investigation into a razing fire and not taking any action to extinguish it.

The Tragedy: Normally one would expect to be valued by an organization for the courage, intellect and industry required to bring out the issues involving such large financial implications. But the archaic and feudal apex Railway administration instead of utilizing my services for the betterment of the organization, has decided that I had to be taught a lesson. I took up the issues duly anticipating this reaction, at the cost of my own well-being knowingly, since at stake were astronomical sums of public money year after year. Tragedy is not that my well-being remains seriously threatened, but that the ever-increasing colossal leakage of public money still continues.

Summary: A systemic leakage of thousands of crores of rupees every year is currently taking place in Railway procurement. The officer pointing it out and suggesting simple and implementable solutions for its arrest, rather than being rewarded, is not only being victimized but being liquidated in broad daylight, by very those who knowingly or unknowingly are allowing the loot to continue on the other hand. The Minister and the Media ~ always on high moral ground ~ are quite happy looking the other way. The hypocrisy is at its very best. This is real ‘corporate India’ or ‘capitalist India’.

Hope from this letter: I am issuing this letter (shall also be posting it on my blog) not with much hope, as it will be fool-hardy to have any hope after my recent experiences and seeing other developments all around, but for record for posterity.

It is a foregone conclusion that the loot will not only continue but multiply. Media will act its own way, not understandable by ordinary mortals like me. The concerned Ministry will continue to hide behind snail-paced investigations, bureaucratic jargons, officialdom and my character assassination, driving sadistic pleasure at the same time from my liquidation. Mahatma Gandhis will no more turn in their graves as they would have been dead tired of same by now. It is a foregone conclusion that Vinod Duas, Arvind Kejriwals, Kiran Bedis, Arnab Goswamis, Chetan Bhagats and Rajinder Puris will continue to ‘turn’ live on channels and in print while nothing else will ‘turn’ anywhere. The opposition will weigh its own vested interests deliberating whether to be or not to be, and I may soon meet my own end (everyone has to meet one's end one day, so no complaints), keeping in with the fate of many a whistleblower in 'incredible' India. Some murdered, some driven to suicide- unable to bear their sustained harassment and persecution any more by the government of the ‘people’ for whose very cause they stood up. As an optimist, I do hope Yossarian (Catch-22) lives but I don’t feel optimistic.

Apologies: My apologies to my family for having been an utter fool and having let them down. My apologies to the hundreds of suppliers approved by production units and RDSO whose interests, thankfully, were not hurt by my childish attempts. My apologies to thousands of other vendors who couldn’t get themselves approved and couldn’t fight for their own cause. My apologies to the apex Railway administration for having wasted their time and energy for nothing but my liquidation. My apologies to Stores and S&T officers of Indian Railways for having dared to fight single-handed for their cause and having absurdly over-estimated their team-spirit. My apologies to Indian media for having been instrumental in wastage of their time and energy (including this letter) for issues which were ultimately to be decided to be non-issues by them. Last but not the least, my apologies to Indian public about whose money I started bothering.


(Atul Kumar)

(Ex-COS/Metro Railway, Kolkata)


An ordinary citizen of india.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Crruption must be one of the most talked about and discussed subjects, at least in India of 'Haves'. The people of standing in society talk about it no end in order to control it but it goes on increasing exponentially. Stringent laws exist, the powerful enforcing agencies exist, a massive judiciary exists, and yet it goes on increasing. The reason is simple. The powerful ones don't mean what they say and don't say what they mean, and probably they are powerful because they do so. Corruption is also something everyone loves to talk about hardly understanding it. Then it is something almost everyone indulges in or has to indulge in. Those in position of power because they are in power and others because they are not in power (they have to keep or make those in power happy for their survival).

It becomes quite amusing when epitomes of corruption - the real powerful ones- from whom corruption flows, publicly claim in context of scams that 'no one will be spared' or demand that 'no one should be spared.' Very often top politicians, media-moguls, judges or bureaucrats are exposed as having been out and out corrupt. Spare a thought. For years when they were enjoying power, how much they would have been instrumental in shielding and promoting the corrupt and corruption. More importantly, if they were so crrupt, who allowed them to rise to the top position? How did they rise to that position? We very conveniently tend to forget that we only are responsible in electing and empowering our political masters whom we later on call names for their corruption and incompetence. We are entrapped in a vicious circle.

It is a fact that in India the year 2010 has been a year of scams. Commonly by corruption people mean bribery. But corruption also means moral deterioration. It is this dictionary meaning of corruption that renders almost all of us corrupt even without having taken or given bribe. In fact, many of us never ever having indulged in bribe could be more corrupt than the people indulging in bribery. How often we do things out of consideration for our well being, out of fear, under influence of superiors, to pass on or reciprocate favours, to suit our nears and dears ~ things we would have done differently had we been acting with a pure conscience and without any of above or any other influence? To cite a few examples that come readily to my mind- marketing a third rate product knowing very well that it will harm the interest of the target customer, to abandon old parents or relatives, to butter the boss when he is being blatantly unjust to a colleague of yours, to be immune to wretched beggars and starving children around you, to tell lies in public and in private and above all not to mean what you say or not to say what you mean. If we pause to think, we would realise that such corruption, indulged in by almost all of us, is much more injurious to society than mere giving or taking of bribe, and is the foundation for scams. And yet there is nothing in law against this worse form of corruption.

While we find ourselves engulfed by all pervasive corruption, the good men/women doing nothing are equally, if not more, are to blame than the bad ones indulging in bribery. The corruption is now so deep rooted in our society that it is a part and parcel of our lives. The daily expose' of multi hundred/thousand crore scams and discussions and talk about these is nothing more than national pass-time. People who matter are not interested in corrections. If they were, things won't have deteriorated as these have. Even when not motivated by bribes, people only do what they have to. Media brings up the scams to keep itself going and its responsibility ends with informing the public. The big names from different walks of life appear on channels- some talk sense, some take pride in talking utter bull-shit - and their job gets over. Politicians across party lines do everything keeping one eye on party-fund and other on vote-bank. Judiciary remains victim of legal procedures and delays. Bureaucrats take pride in not seeing beyond their noses. Side by side the Swiss bank accounts continue to get fatter.

The daily exposes of scams are like discovery of 'kalas' in 'kamasutra' by Vatasyayan, the intercourse being an inevitable human activity. Existing systems can't even dent existing level of corruption, leave alone uproot it. Only revolutionary changes can have desired check.

A 'sher'

Here is a sher for the lone voices of reason, wherever they are, in the chaotic chaos all around them:

Reink rahe hon jahan gadhe hazaron hazar
hinhinahat ek teri sunega kaun

( Where there thousands and thousands of donkeys are braying, who will listen to neighing of a lone horse)

Monday, December 13, 2010

'I did nothing wrong and acted as per rules.'

So said Sh. A Raja and Sh. Suresh Kalmadi, both accused of being responsible for scams worth multi thousands/hundreds crores of Rupees. They may be proved so in times to come, and in all probability, going by previous experiences, it will be proved so. Yet the fact remains that astronomical sums of public money have been cornered by a few powerful haves from politics, industry and media. And thousands of children continue to die of starvation or become handicapped for life because of mal-nutrition. So, while media is quite happy creating sensations through implication of a few big names, the real malaise lies in the systemic corruption no one has time and will to bother about. The apathy of media to real issues of substance has been amply proved from its interest(lack of it) in the much bigger Railway Rot exposed through my efforts. No one is interested in saving public money. Responsibility of media lies only in making correct noises when a loot comes to its notice. A big big farce is going on all-around.

I blame you, You blame me and let the rot continue

What is happening? The opposition makes a lot of noise about corruption by/during tenure of the ruling alliance. Scam after scam is reported, the government does precious nothing. When persistence by media and/or judiciary becomes inescapable, enquiries are ordered. And the claims start, ' look, how concerned we are about corruption', and the examples where the opposition party making hue and cry failed to act in its own instances of corruption in present and past are highlighted by the ruling party. Nothing wrong per se. But to an ordinary citizen like me, it appears that corruption by ruling alliance is justified because opposition also has indulged in it and that by opposition was justified because they are indulging/indulged in it where they are in power or when they were in power. For corruption, the ruling party and the opposition , it would appear, are answerable only to each other and not to the people whom they represent. Similar thing happened when blasts took place in Varansi very recently. The Centre blamed the State Govt. and State blamed the Centre. That was the end of taking responsibilities. My dear common man, just take care how to survive and don't bother about rot all around you as it is there to continue.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Rotting from the Head?

A few days back, an editor of a national English daily, in reference to 2G spectrum and other scams, wrote a very bold article holding the top political leadership of the ruling party responsible. No doubt, they are responsible and happy that majority of media and nation at large are happy closing eyes to this obvious and simple fact. But what about the rest of the body? It is also rotting except probably the limbs. It is probably the lower and deprived strata of society that are still keeping the nation going and carrying a rotten body. The Radia tapes (about existence or implications of which I had no idea when I wrote 'fastest fingers first') have established that the rot is complete in all critical organs. The effectiveness of money-power in panchayat elections shows how widespread is the rot. Still there must be some hope somewhere.