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Millennium Post

Clean Augean’s stable

Union home minister Rajnath Singh has insisted that the government files bearing the lion capital emblem should also be accompanied by the quote ‘Satyamev Jayate’ which means truth alone triumphs. However, it’s important that truth should prevail not just in words but also in spirit.

The Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has inherited a legacy of corruption in high places from its predecessor, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. The Modi government has promised to clean the Augean’s stable left behind by Dr Manmohan Singh and his ministers and it’s time that it started to deliver on the promises.

One of the first steps in that direction could be to review appointments made by the lame duck UPA government especially on the boards of the public sector undertakings especially the banks in the government sector in months, days and hours before it demitted office. It has been reported in media how rules were tweaked to accommodate ineligible candidates, first to appear before the interview boards, and then finally get the appointment letter. That these appointments were made for reasons other than merit is beyond doubt.

The distrust about these appointments only got strengthened when the chairman of the Syndicate Bank was found involved in a bribery scandal. Probe into the case suggests that the annual confidential reports (ACRs) and interviews ‘were managed’ and some middlemen also played a role in the appointment of the present incumbent, now under suspension and in judicial custody. He was appointed despite having poor ACRs. The investigating agency has suggested a scrutiny of the appointment process.

Finance minister Arun Jaitley is believed to have written to Reserve Bank of India governor Raghuram Rajan, following the probe, and cabinet secretary Ajit Seth to have a relook at the appointments made to the top positions of the public sector banks. Such initiatives should not be limited to just the public sector banks under Jaitley’s ministry.

The government as a matter of policy should take up for review of all the appointments made to the boards and other important positions in all the public sector undertakings across all ministries and find out if rules were tweaked and interviews managed to accommodate favourites, not for reasons of merit but following other considerations. The public sector undertakings, be they from the financial sector or the industrial sector, are custodians of the nation’s wealth. The best person, for the reasons of merit, should be at the helm of affairs in these organsisations and not by the force of lucre.

On this Independence Day, the prime minister should rise to the challenge and take up the gauntlet to cleanse the public sector companies’ boards.

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