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This article examines @santvarun's tweets summarizing the press briefing by senior INC leader Ajay Maken and connects them with relevant information in the public domain.

Three days ago, the UK newspaper, Guardian, made public excerpts of a 97-page show cause notice issued by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) to an Adani Group company: M/S Maharashta Eastern Grid Power Transmission Company Limited (MEGPTCL).

On 5/2/2013, DRI under UPA-II initiated an enquiry into over-invoicing on import of electrical machinery by a subsidiary of the Adani Group.

This investigation ended on 15/05/2014. The summary of this investigation:

Note: The accused MEGPTCL, a wholly owned subsidiary of Adani Enterprises Limited, an Adani Group company, is a Power Transmission Company (TransCo). For electricity to reach our homes, first the fuel is procured, then electric power generated in a plant. This power is then transmitted through a Distribution Company to our homes. So the electricity chain is: import coal --> import machinery for Generation Company (GenCo) --> import machinery for TransCo --> sell power through DisCom. The DRI investigation exposes the TransCo part of this chain. The background, as described in Michael Safi's Guardian report:

India is electricity-starved. More than 240 million Indians – enough people to form the fifth-largest country on Earth – lack access to regular power.

In the early 1990s, to encourage power companies to build electrical infrastructure, the Indian government eliminated import tariffs on technical equipment such as reactors and transformers. Profit margins on these projects increased overnight.

Adani saw the business opportunity. In 2010, the Maharashtra Eastern Grid Power Transmission Company Limited (MEGPTCL), a wholly owned subsidiary of Adani Enterprises, was granted a license to develop two electricity transmission networks in the north-east of the state.

Per the DRI investigation, Adani Group routed the purchase of equipment via a front company in Dubai, thus inflating the price of equipment by nearly 400%. The ensuing profits were then transferred to a trust in Mauritius controlled by Vinod Adani.

Vinod Shantilal Adani, the elder brother of industrialist Gautam Adani, set up a firm in the Bahamas in 1993 and, shortly afterwards, "corrected the spelling" of his name to Vinod Shantilal Shah.

The Guardian article also detailed how the illicit profits were siphoned off out of India (as summarized in the DRI notice).

How much money was siphoned off  by MEGPTCL? Nearly INR 1,500 crores!

The DRI notice was issued May 15, 2014. 9 days later, Narendra Modi flew from Ahmedabad to Delhi on an Adani aircraft to become India's 15th Prime Minister.


What happened to the DRI investigation once Modi took office is detailed by investigative journalist Josy Joseph in his book, A Feast of Vultures: The Hidden Business of Democracy in India, whose excerpts were carried in The Wire.

So there's a siphoning off of illicit profits by the Adani Group, who have backed the winning horse in the 2014 General Elections Narendra Modi, who then proceeds to stymie the investigation against them. The public is left to bear the cost of it all, which is where the INR 2/unit #AdaniTax comes in. It’s not only about the INR 1,500 crore; inflated invoices have a downstream impact on wheeling & generation charges:

Further, Adani Group clearly stands to profit from every part of the electricity chain ( import coal --> import machinery for Generation Company (GenCo) --> import machinery for TransCo --> sell power through DisCom). There are more dots to join - one detailed in the June 2016 issue of The Economic & Political Weekly by Paranjoy Guha Thakurta.

Thakurta also co-wrote with Aman Malik a similar article in The Wire which talked about an ongoing investigation into over-invoicing by as many as FORTY of India's biggest energy companies. A side note: Thakurta recently resigned as Editor of EPW after a defamation notice from - no prizes for guessing - Adani Group!]

Summaries of these articles from the INC Press Release:

The more you delay the adjudication process, the more the cases fade away from public memory and our collective consciousness.

Adding up all the over-valuations: in coal imported - INR 29,000 crore; in power plant machinery - INR 9,000 crore; in compensatory tariffs - minimum INR 10,000 crores!

So the INR 50,000 crore question is, how does this affect the electricity tariff charged to consumers? See the excerpts below:

To repeat: As many as 40 energy companies, including Adani Group, overvalued invoices and transferred the (inflated) cost to electricity consumers! Why should consumers foot this padded bill? Why is Narendra Modi, of na khaunga na khaane doonga fame, silent on this?

The demands made by the INC:

  1. Immediate reduction of tariff by up to factor of ₹2/ unit wherever these companies are producing & transmitting electricity.
  2. Immediate CBI investigation monitored by a judge of the Supreme Court into the corrupt practices of over-invoicing
  3. The Central Electricity Regulatory Commission should investigate all private power generating entities to identify over-pricing of equipment

It is high time that Narendra Modi stopped dishing out #LalQileKeJumle and took strong action against looting of Indian public! Expose ! Remove !

Postscript: Aamjanata.com agrees it is high time Narendra Modi delivered on his repeated vows to cleanse the system of political corruption.

Post-postscript:

  1. A piece in The Voice of Nation that tells you of the closeness of the Adani brothers - note the sympathetic tone. Is this supposed  to be the voice of India?
  2. A recent Climate Change news article on Modi & Adani wreaking havoc on the environment.
  3.  Vinod Adani was mentioned in the "Panama Papers"

11 June 2012, Mumbai: This isn’t about Ratnakar Gaikwad, who was sworn in as Chief Information Commissioner of Maharashtra last Friday in the teeth of widespread opposition from RTI activists. This is about the decision-making environment in Mantralaya, MMRDA and many other government offices. It is about how government documents are nowadays like burqas, concealing the real decision-making process and often making the RTI process infructuous.Ratnakar Gaikwad’s correspondence with a chief of Western Naval Command shows how, when he was head of MMRDA, he did not even reply for over 60 days. And then, when he did reply, our new Chief Information Commissioner casually flung aside a plea for basic information by a top naval officer placed three levels below the President of India, Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Armed Forces. This article is about the real nature of government decision-making, and about how CM Prithviraj Chavan has strategically positioned Ratnakar Gaikwad in the Information Commission to ensure that the burqas of Mantralaya and MMRDA are not lifted by RTI activists.

 

Accountable and transparent governance demands that every decision must be properly minuted and documented. To maintain system integrity in the administration, every decision must leave clear footprints on paper. But are ministers and bureaucrats leaving an official paper trail? No.

 

DECISION-MAKING IS NOT REVEALED IN DOCUMENTS AND FILE-NOTINGS. Often, decisions made in unofficial ways are clothed in post-facto justifications that are written down to create a semblance of legitimacy. This creates a “black administration” or parallel administration in Maharashtra. (Yes, this is happening in other states and Govt. of India also.)

 

TEN METHODS OF “BLACK” DECISION-MAKING:

 

1)       POLITICAL PARTY BOSSES, GODFATHERS & OTHER DECISION-MAKERS decide selections, permissions, award of major contracts, land allotments etc. Decisions of ministers are actually the decisions of their party bosses, and bureaucrats’ decisions are proxy-decisions of political godfathers who are not connected to the concerned department. Can any RTI activist get minutes of meetings held in the political party offices, or in the air-conditioned cars of party bosses while driving between venues? The answer is: No. Even if the agenda and minutes are kept in party offices, these are outside the purview of the RTI Act.

 

2)      STICKY-NOTES AND LITTLE PAPER CHITS go from hand to hand. These are not filed, but discarded in the rubbish. Meetings and decisions happen at several venues around Mumbai and also Nagpur e.g. Mantralaya and New Administration Building at Nariman Point, MCGM headquarters in Fort, MMRDA headquarters at Bandra, Chief Minister’s bungalow and Sahyadri Guest House at Malabar Hill, and at similar venues in Nagpur. Can any RTI activist ever get access to all the chits of paper that are swept out in the rubbish? If an activist gets them, can he make sense of them? And if he makes sense, can he get such chits admitted as evidence by a law-enforcement agency or a court of law? Next to impossible.

 

3)      SMALL NOTEBOOKS OF STENOGRAPHERS & SECRETARIES who sit beside ministers etc. contain scribbled shorthand messages. Notebooks are not official government stationery, and much of the government staff is on contract – here today, gone tomorrow. Quite often, big businessmen who are trying to get their work done at Mantralaya are told to be in touch with the PAs rather than the ministers and bureaucrats. Has any RTI activist got access to such notepads? Can he? Very difficult. But that is often the only place where key decisions are noted.

 

4)      EMAILS, SMS, MMS & PHONE CALLS go between ministers, bureaucrats, government officials, leading businessmen and celebrity fixers (more about this later). Although some landlines and mobiles are paid for by the government, important calls are made on private lines. For instance, if CM Prithviraj Chavan communicates with Anil Ambani on a mobile phone that is registered in the name of his daughter, can you get the call records using RTI? No. Ideally, every communication of ministers and bureaucrats – whether formal or personal – must be recorded. But the reality is that maximum communications are unrecorded and unavailable for scrutiny. Although the RTI Act defines electronic exchange of data and communication as “information”, one is yet to meet a single RTI activist who got access to electronic communications between ministers, bureaucrats and stakeholders like companies engaged in PPP projects. As a rule, gov.in email ids are dead-letter-boxes; ministers and government officials use gmail or yahoo addresses. RTI activists are not asking for call-records, SMSes, recordings of telephone conversations and emails.

 

5)      MEETINGS IN CORRIDORS, CARS etc have no appointments, no agenda, no minutes and no records. A small number of these may be revealed by security cameras. Has any RTI activist got the CDs of security camera footage that shows, say, Sharad Pawar and IRB Infrastructure Developers as they get into a car together? Unlikely. Even if one gets the security camera CD, what will it prove? Because it will have no audio.

 

6)      ON FLIGHTS AND IN HOTELS ABROAD OR IN INDIA, our decision-makers have lengthy discussions without anybody monitoring them. Such meetings happen in Dubai, Mauritius, Malaysia or on the sidelines of IPL matches in India. People like Vijay Mallya, Mukesh Ambani and Subrata Roy Sahara or their trusted representatives participate in them. Is any RTI activist tracking the meetings that our ministers and bureaucrats have during their Indian tours, leave alone foreign tours? No.

 

7)      HARD DISKS OF COMPUTERS & LAPTOPS used by ministers and bureaucrats, and their assistants contain lots of information. They may be messaging and emailing with special NIC software that is encrypted. Has any RTI activist asked for a full copy of all the computer drives of, say, the Maharashtra’s Revenue Minister’s office? No. Even CAG doesn’t look at computers.

 

8)      PERSONAL MESSENGERS including peons, junior staff, political party-workers, Mantralaya-frequenters, journalists like Barkha Dutt, Vir Sanghvi and fixers like Neera Radia -- form the communication channel between political bosses and private entities. Some visitors are recorded in gate registers that may be accessed under RTI, but not all. Peons, junior staff, drivers, cops etc. slip in and out of offices, often unrecorded and unnoticed.

 

9)      FAMILY MEMBERS of ministers and bureaucrats are not all leading private or professional lives. Some are active participants in decision-making. Bribes are given through family members and their trusts; a favourite route is for them to purchase properties at a low price and then sell them back at a higher price, and pocket crores within a couple of years, during which the bribe-giver and bribe-taker are bound together in a relationship. Sons and daughters are awarded lucrative business contracts or seats on company board of directors. As family members are not under RTI, the meetings that they hold are difficult to track.

 

10)  CRICKET BODIES are being used by Sharad Pawar and Vilasrao Deshmukh to control government decisions and deliver money to foreign bank accounts, especially in tax haven countries. Politics, government, cricket and money mix freely at BCCI (Board of Control of Cricket in India) and MCA (Maharashtra Cricket Association). Cricket celebrities, including veterans like Sunil Gavaskar, travel to Dubai, Mauritius, South Africa and tax-haven countries many times a year. They meet with foreign companies that are part of mega-sized Public Private Partnership projects (PPP) such as Mumbai International Airport Limited. Cricket celebrities visit corporate offices like Sahara India and Kingfisher, as well as various government offices, without coming under a scanner. They are couriers for both money and decisions that are made elsewhere. Corporate money flows through BCCI and MCA without questions being raised, and these organizations are kept out of the scope of Right to Information. IPL (Indian Premier League) celebrities like Shah Rukh Khan and Shilpa Shetty are also part of this circuit. [Note: If this sounds like a far-fetched theory, ask why political heavyweights like Sharad Pawar and Vilasrao Deshmukh invest so much of their effort to head these sporting bodies!]

 

Given this background of toxic decision-making in Maharashtra government, take another look at Ratnakar Gaikwad’s communications with Western Naval Command, which relates to Adarsh building. Download this file:http://tinyurl.com/Adarsh-OC-Ratnakar-Gaikwad-red

 

This PDF file contains three letters:

  • The first two pages are a plea for information from Western Naval Command to Chief Secretary, Municipal Commissioner and Principal Secretary of Urban Development Department (UDD) on 25 June 2010.
  • The third page is a covering letter from UDD, forwarding Western Naval Command’s letter to (then) MMRDA Chief Ratnakar Gaikwad on 30 August 2010.
  • The last page is Ratnakar Gaikwad’s amazing reply to Western Naval Command on 29 September 2010.

 

HOW GAIKWAD DENIED INFORMATION TO NAVY CHIEF

 

ON 25 JUNE 2010, the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Western Naval Command (FOCIC WNC), wrote to Maharashtra’s Chief Secretary, Municipal Commissioner of Greater Mumbai and Principal Secretary of Urban Development Department. It was a reminder, as a similar letter had been written on 8 June 2010. (Bear in mind, FOCIC WNC is a very high office, third in line from President of India, who is Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. While MMRDA is in charge of planning for the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, Western Naval Command is in charge of coastal security of four states, namely Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka.)

 

This letter raised “serious concern with regard to the construction of a building by a private housing society in the vicinity of defense installations at Colaba Defence Station, Mumbai, and the necessity for screening of the allottees from the security point of view”. Mentioning the increased threat perception post 26/11 and asking for the list of allottees, FOCIC WNC said, “It is of the utmost urgency from the point of view of security… that necessary directives under Section 154 of the MRTP Act 1966 be immediately issued by the Government of Maharashtra to the Planning Authority not to grant any Occupation Certificate, partial or otherwise whatsoever, to the said building/society, which is in the vicinity of the WNC Defence installations /Colaba Defence Station till the desired information is provided by them, and vetted by this Headquarters. You are requested to kindly take action on the aforesaid, failing which HQ WNC would be constrained to take legal recourse to legal proceedings.”

 

Bear in mind, Western Naval Command did not ask the government to refuse OC to Adarsh; they only asked for issue of OC after the information about Adarsh allottees was provided to them, vetted by them and approved by them. It was a reasonable demand. It is a matter of national shame that FOCIC WNC wrote, “…all efforts to procure the requisite information from the Deputy Registrar “A” Ward, Registrar of Societies, Mumbai, and also from the Housing Society itself, failed as neither of them forwarded the desired information as per the format forwarded to them.”

 

ON 30 AUGUST 2010, this letter was forwarded without written instructions to Ratnakar Gaikwad, Metropolitan Commissioner, MMRDA. (See page 3 of PDF file.) Mantralaya (i.e. the Chief Secretary, Chief Minister Ashok Chavan or Principal Secretary UDD) could have replied directly to FOCIC WNC, or they could have issued directions to Ratnakar Gaikwad. But they did not, because they wanted Ratnakar Gaikwad to do a dirty job. (And yes, he did the dirty job and came out smelling like roses! God alone knows how many top people he shielded by doing this, and how many people owe him a debt of lifelong gratitude.)

 

ON 29 SEPTEMBER, Ratnakar Gaikwad delivered a killing stroke to Western Naval Command. Rendering the navy’s plea for information completely infructuous, Ratnakar Gaikwad stated in his letter that HE HAD ISSUED THE OC ON 16 SEPTEMBER i.e. 13 days earlier, despite having received their forwarded letters several times. The basis of this decision to give the OC unilaterally, without consulting the most important stakeholder i.e. Western Naval Command, was given as a letter written by the secretary of Adarsh Society. Let me repeat: The word of an ordinary building secretary – representing a very private interest – was Ratnakar Gaikwad’s justification for acting against the word of a defense chief, and denying him information about who was going to live in the building. Gaikwad’s letter went on to conclude that if the defense chief had any security concerns, he should now approach the police commissioner.

 

In other words, go to hell. Desi bhasha mein bole toh“Thenga! Security concerns gaye bhaad mein! Ja ukhaad le jo ukhaadna hai!

 

TEXT OF GAIKWAD’S AMAZING REPLY TO NAVY CHIEF

 

“Sir, please refer to your above cited letters. In this regard, secretary of the society has written a letter to MMRDA in which it is stated that ‘It is reliably learnt that Naval Authorities have also written to your office regarding the antecedents of members of our Society. In this context, I would like to bring it on record for your kind information that the society consists of members from Army, Navy, Government of India Officers from IAS, IPS, IFS, IRS and other Government Officers. Our members are including Ex Chief of Naval Staff, Ex Flag Officer Commanding in Chief, two formal Chief of Army Staff and other senior officers from Army, Navy, Defence Estates etc. The Society also have Hon’ble Members of Parliament, State Assembly besides senior people who held position of Union / State Cabinet Ministers and Speaker of Maharashtra Assembly. It is also brought on the record that the land in question is State Government land allotted to the Society by the State Government and Membership have been approved by the Government of Maharashtra/Collector Mumbai according to the Government Resolution in force and antecedents of all the members have been verified and approved by the government prior to allotment of membership. In the light of above, any further verification of antecedents of members by the navy appears to be overstepping the right of propriety vested in the Government of Maharashtra and Collector Mumbai City, who have verified and approved the names.’

 

“IN VIEW OF THE ABOVE, IT IS FELT THAT AFTER COMPLETION OF THE BUILDING, BASIC ISSUES MAY NOT BE RAISED (emphasis supplied). If there is any reasonable apprehensive (sic) about the members of the society from the security point of view, you may refer the matter to the appropriate authority such as Commissioner of Police, Mumbai. MMRDA has issued the Occupancy Certificate to the Adarsh Society on 16/9/2010.

Yours faithfully, Ratnakar Gaikwad, Metropolitan Commissioner.”

 

IS THIS HOW IT REALLY HAPPENED?

 

Is it likely that Metropolitan Commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad – a seasoned bureaucrat and head of MMR’s planning authority -- dismissed the safety concerns of a high-ranking naval officer based on a letter from a mere building secretary? Was it his own decision as Metropolitan Commissioner to give Adarsh the OC? Why was he in such a hurry to give the OC that he actually gave it first, and then wrote a letter to the Navy chief giving a lame justification?

 

This amazing letter leads you to the conclusion that Ratnakar Gaikwad received orders by non-official channels. For his obedience and cleverness in providing a cover for the state government, he was later rewarded with the post of Chief Secretary. And now, to cover up the documents of Mantralaya and MMRDA, Ratnakar Gaikwad has been made the Chief Information Commissioner. Chief Information Commissioner is the only one who hears RTI second appeals relating to Mantralaya and MMRDA. Former Metropolitan Commissioner Suresh Joshi was also made the Chief Information Commissioner despite being severely hearing-impaired, and coincidentally, he too had played a role in Adarsh. (Not to mention suspended State Information Commissioner Ramanand Tiwari, a former UDD Secretary, who recently spent 60 days in CBI custody for his role in Adarsh.)

 

GAIKWAD’S KNOWLEDGE OF ADARSH CONSPIRACY VS. TOTAL INNOCENCE

 

Firstly, Ratnakar Gaikwad cannot deny his knowledge of the Adarsh conspiracy in Mantralaya, involving at least 7-8 top bureaucrats and numerous top politicians, including Chief Minister Ashol Chavan. Everybody knew; and as MMRDA chief, it was Ratnakar Gaikwad’s job to know. Adarsh had been 10 years in the making, and a red flag had been raised in newspaper reports as early as in 2003. Besides being  in the Indian Navy’s sensitive zone and in the Coastal Regulation Zone, MMRDA’s Development Plan had been modified to accommodate this 31-story building Coastal Regulation Zone. As MMRDA chief, it was Gaikwad’s job to have his ears to the ground and know everything there is to know about this building, including the security concerns, and the conspiracy and the cover-ups surrounding it. So Ratnakar Gaikwad cannot claim that he gave the Occupation Certificate innocently. Therefore, the letter that he wrote to Western Naval Command is completely disingenuous; it is a total cover-up.

 

Secondly, Gaikwad’s letter acknowledges that he had received forwards of the Navy chief’s letter on 28/7/2010, 1/9/2010 and 14/9/2010. Again, on 15/9/2010, he received a letter from the Navy directly addressed to him. Why did he not reply to all these letters until it was too late for the Navy to do anything about it, i.e. 29/9/2010, two weeks after he gave the OC to Adarsh? The gap between MMRDA receiving the first letter and its reply to the Navy was over 60 days. (The information that the Navy was requesting was never given by the Cooperatives Registrar, Chief Secretary, UDD, Municipal Commissioner, MMRDA; maybe they might have got it if they had filed an RTI application instead of writing letters!)

 

Finally, Ratnakar Gaikwad must have received phone calls from the Chief Secretary, Chief Minister, Municipal Commissioner, and Principal Secretary UDD soon after the Navy’s letter reached them on 8 June and 25 June 2010 – because it concerned issuing the occupation certificate, which was his turf. In fact, the letter must have been scanned and emailed to him. (The top brass must surely be emailing and phoning one another several times every week or even every day on an ongoing basis!) The Naval chief had threatened them with legal proceedings; would anybody take such a threat lightly? These people must have held many closed-door meetings that were not minuted or recorded.

 

There are surely dozens of emails, phone calls, SMSes and meetings that are not on record. So, Ratnakar Gaikwad was definitely not acting all alone in perfect innocence and good faith as he put the proverbial cherry – the occupancy certificate – on Adarsh building, the towering cake of deceit. But that is how they made it look.

 

And now Prithviraj Chavan and Ratnakar Gaikwad want us to believe that it was incidental that the post of Chief Information Commissioner in Maharashtra lay vacant for 10 months, while Gaikwad finished his term as Chief Secretary. They want us to believe that it was coincidence that the selection committee meeting was held three days after Gaikwad’s retirement from IAS. They want us to believe Ratnakar Gaikwad is the best man for the job.

 

Last but not least, they want us to believe that Chief SIC Ratnakar Gaikwad really cares about the rising pendency at Maharashtra State Information Commission, and that he will help the RTI applicant and the common man make this government transparent and accountable.

 

Prithviraj Sir, Ratnakar Sir, we are finding these things a little bit difficult to believe, No? When you will be giving appointment, Sir, for discussing all these things in the open? Lot of people are eagerly waiting, Sir.

 

Warm Regards,

Krishnaraj Rao

98215 88114

thebravepedestrian@gmail.com

 

PS: We have already sought an appointment with CIC Ratnakar Gaikwad to discuss these and other “allegations” with documents in hand. We have asked for an open-door meeting, where media and activists will be free to watch and ask questions. Hopefully, our new CIC will not disappoint.