Dilip Cherian | Wrong priorities: Why deluxe flats with public funds for Maha babus?
DECCAN CHRONICLE | Dilip Cherian
In a move that has raised eyebrows the Maharashtra government has decided to shift the Marine Drive police station to make way for luxury apartments for senior babus and police officers.
Sources have informed DKB that the state government is facing a shortage of official quarters, with over two dozen retired bureaucrats being posted on various government commissions and organisations. This shortage led to the decision to build Yashodhan-2, a seven-storey building with 24 apartments in the Churchgate area. The decision has been criticised, as Yashodhan is one of the most sought-after government residences by IAS and IPS officers. The new apartments will be allocated to officers above the rank of principal secretary and inspector-general of police.
While the Eknath Shinde government claims that the apartments are necessary to address the housing needs of senior officers, many feel that this is a blatant misuse of public funds. While most agree that there is a need for more apartments, it is important that these are allocated based on merit and not simply handed out to senior officials.
Shifting the Marine Drive police station to make way for luxury apartments is particularly concerning as it suggests that the government is more interested in catering to the needs of its officials than in serving the public. Senior officials at the state home department and the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) are trying to ensure that the issue is swiftly dealt with before it escalates and embroils the state leadership in a public controversy.
Centre’s surprising move at LIC
The Narendra Modi government’s decision to appoint Siddhartha Mohanty as interim chairman of Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) has raised several questions. The move comes as a surprise, especially since it was widely expected incumbent chairman Mangalam Ramasubramanian Kumar to receive another extension. Mr Kumar had already been given two extensions, including one that has now ended. So why did the government pull the plug on him?
According to sources, there are several possible reasons, one of which is the less-than-stellar performance of LIC’s IPO, which may have contributed to the decision. Another is the revelation of LIC’s investments in the beleaguered Adani Group, which may have added to concerns about the insurance giant’s management.
Mr Mohanty’s appointment as interim chairman also raises questions about the proposed revamp of the LIC board. The amended LIC Act 1956 requires abolishing the post of executive chairman in three years and transitioning to a CEO and four MDs. It is expected that the government will rope in private-sector individuals for these roles to bring new ideas and perspectives. But with the sudden naming of an interim chairman, it’s not clear how the revamp will proceed now.
On the whole, the decision to appoint Mr Mohanty as interim chairman is a bold move that suggests that the government is keen to shake up things at LIC.
US prods MEA on China
The ministry of external affairs (MEA) is usually guarded in its pronouncements, so naturally, it is apprehensive about the United States identifying the McMahon Line as the international border between Arunachal Pradesh and China in a recent bipartisan Senate resolution. The resolution went further and denounced Chinese aggression and provocations, including China trying to use force to alter the status quo along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The US take on India’s feud with China came after senior US State Department officials spoke similarly.
It appears that the US is trying to nudge the MEA and external affairs minister S. Jaishankar into raising the ante on China’s belligerent actions along the border. The MEA spokesperson, Arindam Bagchi, did not respond to the US move, claiming that the ministry had not ‘heard about the resolution yet". Still, the US is taking a deep interest in the issue as part of its broader policy to contain China. Barely days after the Senate resolution, it finally announced its new ambassador to India. Eric Garcetti, a former Los Angeles mayor, got the job over two-and-a-half years after his name was first nominated for the post. A Joe Biden loyalist, he is expected to work closely with Jaishankar on dealing with China, among his other tasks.
But will the MEA diplomats led by foreign secretary Vinay Kumar Kwatra take a more proactive stance to protect India’s territorial integrity and strategic interests, given their concerns about the potential consequences of an escalation?