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.
(Ex-COS/Metro Railway, Kolkata)
An ordinary citizen of india.