Not long since a bunch of retired bureaucrats wrote to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, questioning the law against attempts of love jihad, a group of 100 former civil servants have written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi today raising questions over transparency in the PM-CARES Fund.
The babus said it was necessary that the financial details of receipts and expenditures be made available in order to avoid doubts of wrongdoing — for reasons of probity and adherence to standards of public accountability. “We have been keenly following the ongoing debate about the Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations, or PM-CARES — a fund created for the benefit of people affected by the Covid pandemic. Both the purpose for which it has been created as well as the way it has been administered have left a number of questions unanswered,” they said in the letter.
“It is essential that the position and stature of the Prime Minister is kept intact by ensuring total transparency in all dealings the Prime Minister is associated with,” the retired babus said.
Former IAS officers Anita Agnihotri, SP Ambrose, Sharad Behar, Sajjad Hassan, Harsh Mander, P Joy Oommen, Aruna Roy, former diplomats Madhu Bhaduri, KP Fabian, Deb Mukharji, Sujatha Singh and former IPS officers AS Dulat, PGJ Nampoothiri and Julio Ribeiro among others signed the letter to Prime Minister Modi.
Who are these people? A little digging unearths the fact that these retired babus operate in a gang.
- Former Secretary, Department of Social Justice Empowerment, GoI, Agnihotri had previously, in October 2020, ganged up with other retired babus to urge companies to stop advertising in ‘communal’ television channels. Former High Commissioner to Bangladesh and former Ambassador to Nepal Mukharji was part of this gang, as were former Additional Secretary, Ministry of Shipping and Transport, GoI, Ambrose; former Chief Secretary, Government of Madhya Pradesh Behar; former Commissioner (Planning), Government of Manipur Hassan; former Chief Secretary, Government of Chhattisgarh Oommen; former Ambassador to Portugal and ex-Aam Admi Party Bhaduri; former Ambassador to Italy Fabian; former Director-General of Police, Government of Gujarat Nampoothiri, and former Adviser to Governor of Punjab & former Ambassador to Romania Ribeiro.
- The gang was in July 2020 a section of 99 former senior bureaucrats who bemoaned the “consistent attack on the freedom of expression and the right to dissent” by the Modi 2.0 regime. This time, they also had in the crowd Ravi Vira Gupta (former deputy governor, Reserve Bank of India), Wajahat Habibubullah (former chief information commissioner & secretary, GOI), Sundar Burra (former secretary. Government of Maharashtra), MG Devasahayam (former secretary, Government of Haryana), Sushil Dubey (IFS, former Ambassador to Sweden), etc.
- The same gang had, in April 2020, been part of the 101 former civil servants from across India who had written an open letter to the chief ministers of all states and the lieutenant governors of all union territories that Muslims were being harassed due to the conduct of Tablighi Jamaat in spreading Covid-19.
- In the very next month, the gang was part of 60 former bureaucrats who wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri, voicing their concern over the government’s plan to redevelop the Central Vista project in New Delhi. The former civil servants have stated that the plan may significantly affect the heritage and may also cause severe environmental damage, a contention that the Supreme Court quashed recently.
- In April 2019, the gang had joined others in a group of 70 retired civil servants, which also had Shyam Sarna, R Venkatesan, former CIC Habibullah, Jawhar Sircar and NC Saxena, who expressed “disbelief and dismay” over the selection of Malegaon blast accused Pragya Thakur as a candidate for the Bhopal Lok Sabha seat, and her “enthusiastic endorsement” by none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
- Former Gujarat DGP PGJ Nampoothari was also the emissary of the National Human Rights Commission during the Gujarat riots of 2002.
- Aruna Roy and Harsh Mander were among Sonia Gandhi’s picks for the extra-constitutional National Advisory Council during the UPA government. While Roy was an interlocutor meant to pacify Kashmiri separatists under the ancien regime as well, Mander’s association with rabble-rousing needs no fresh description.
A search into their history, especially since the time they retired, shows they have turned activists, keeping themselves busy in seminars that say everything the government does is wrong besides complaining to the authorities with one open letter after another for more than a decade, with their voices turning shriller a few months after Modi came to power in 2014.
In March last year, the Centre set up the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM-CARES) Fund with the primary objective to deal with any kind of emergency situation like the one currently posed by the Covid-19 outbreak and provide relief to those affected.