Thursday, December 11, 2014

'Conversions' by Christian missionaries: targeting children and treating them with 'love'

As the issue of "religious conversions" "rocked" parliament on Thursday, according to media reports, I looked through the reportage for stuff that might have transcended the silly 'communal-secular' binary many a journalists use to convey their ignorance.

And I did find some nuggets of bon sense, such as the following.

"Conversion activities directed towards children would, therefore, not survive scrutiny even by a liberal who accepts the right to choose one’s religion. The state can certainly intervene in well-documented cases of “child evangelism”: an orphaned or vulnerable child converted to Christianity through social services cannot be said to be making a free choice in any meaningful sense," writes Rupa Subramanya in Firstpost in an article headlined, 'Ghar vapasi in Agra: The unlevel field in Muslim, Christian, Hindu conversion'.

http://www.firstpost.com/india/ghar-vapasi-in-agra-the-unlevel-field-in-muslim-christian-hindu-conversion-1845031.html

I posted the following comment to Rupa Subramanya's article, but don't think Firstpost has carried it.

(Wonder why. My comment juxtaposes targeting of children by Christian missionaries with the abuse of children by Christian clergy, and so does provide an insight into the issue flagged by Subramanya in the excerpt cited above.)
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"If our obedience to Jesus includes making ‘disciples of all nations’, then how do our current attitudes and actions towards children and youth propel us towards this great task? This question is critical for global mission, especially given that almost half of the population of the world is less than 25 years of age and a third of the population is children under 15 years," says an article titled 'Evangelism Among Children' on the website of the 'Lausanne Movement'.

http://www.lausanne.org/networks/issues/evangelism-among-children

'Lausanne Movement' is a global movement that mobilizes evangelical leaders to collaborate for world evangelization; the stated vision is "the whole church taking the whole gospel to the whole world", according to the Wikipedia.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lausanne_Committee_for_World_Evangelization

"The Lausanne Evangelism among Children issue network seeks to serve the church with open source resources for discipleship and mission thinking, while spreading the values of kingdom partnerships, and finding new and innovative strategies of evangelism and discipleship among children," adds the article on the 'Lausanne Movement' site.

Isn't it open and worldwide child abuse and criminality to be targeting children with "strategies of evangelism and discipleship" - even by the standards of hard-core criminality, fraud, gangsterism, imperialism, and ethnocide practised by the Christian churches and missions???

Of course not.

It's because it's Christianity. No crime, however evil, is a crime as long as it's committed in the name of Christianity.

Christianity, we must try hard to understand, actually treats children with so much 'love', it's almost 'touching', as excerpts of some of the reportage cited below bear out. (Even Mother Teresa lent a helping hand in this very Christian 'loving' and 'touching'.)

(a) "The Catholic sex abuse cases are a series of allegations, investigations, trials and convictions of child sexual abuse crimes committed by Catholic priests, nuns and members of Roman Catholic orders against children as young as three years old with the majority between the ages of 11 and 14."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_sex_abuse_cases

(b) Sex, Priests, and Secret Codes: The Catholic Church's 2,000-Year Paper Trail of Sexual Abuse (Hardcover), by Thomas P. Doyle, A. W. R. Sipe, Patrick J. Wall, (Bonus Books, 2006) ISBN: 1566252652.

"Sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults by Catholic clergy burst onto the American scene in 1984. Revelations about such abuse since then have confirmed that this tragedy is not limited to the U.S. Catholic Church, nor is it a new phenomenon that grew out of so called secularizing trends of the late twentieth century. The Doyle-Sipe-Wall report clearly demonstrates a deep seated problem that spans the Church's history. This collection of documents from official and unofficial sources begins its survey in 60 CE and concludes with the contemporary scandal. It reveals an institution that has tried to come to grips with this devastating internal problem from its earliest years."

http://www.snapnetwork.org/recommended_reading

(c) "Marcial Maciel Degollado (Mar 1920 – Jan 2008) was a Mexican-born Roman Catholic priest who founded the Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi movement. Late in his life, he was revealed to have abused boys and maintained relationships with at least two women, fathering up to six children, two of whom he allegedly abused as well."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcial_Maciel

(d) Money paved way for Maciel's influence in the Vatican
(National Catholic Reporter)

http://ncronline.org/news/accountability/money-paved-way-maciels-influence-vatican

(e) UN child rights group demands Vatican detail its response to abuse scandals
(The Telegraph, 13 July 2013)

http://life.nationalpost.com/2013/07/13/un-child-rights-group-demands-vatican-detail-its-response-to-abuse-scandals/

(f) Tainted Saint: Mother Teresa Defended Pedophile Priest
(SF Weekly; by Peter Jamison; 11 Jan 2012)

http://www.sfweekly.com/2012-01-11/news/mother-teresa-catholic-church-john-hardon-donald-mcguire-child-abuse-jesuits/
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Saturday, May 10, 2014

Ever expanding market, built on increasingly comminuted lives

Markets are built on fragmentation and taking away of social functions that make us human, as Jeremy Seabrook explains so thoughtfully in this old article that I discovered recently.
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http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2009/aug/04/knowledge-market-economy

A false economy of knowledge
The minute division of labour in a market economy takes away our competencies and sells them back to us.

(Jeremy Seabrook, The Guardian, 04 August 2009)

The division of labour in rich societies is so minute and particular that an individual's specialised knowledge is often sealed off from that of other people. It isn't my field. I'm not an expert. I didn't cover that period. That isn't my responsibility. It's not my department. I know nothing about that. These are some of the phrases with which people explain a narrowing apprehension of the world.

As a consequence many basic common human competences lapse. A concentration on the specific is accompanied by the loss of other forms of knowing, which come to appear archaic in the modern world. 

Abandoning basic skills may seem like liberation, especially at first – forgetting how to grow, or even to prepare, our own food, how to make the simplest garments, how to provide ourselves with shelter: to pass over such tasks to others is to set aside a great burden.

But once lost, these simple accomplishments become irrecoverable; and other, precious human powers also fall into decay as they become someone else's labour: knowing what to do in times of want, sickness and death, how to behave in the presence of suffering; but also how to celebrate our own lives through our own stories, songs and poetry – all this is forfeit in the interests of an ever more elaborate partitioning of social function.

This gives a clue to why there is much debate over whether a new generation is becoming more clever or less instructed than those that went before. On the one hand, there is dumbing down, simplifying, losing abilities formerly taken for granted, being cut off from knowledge of history and literature; on the other, improving examination results, greater "awareness", different forms of consciousness, the acquisition of new skills – the hand-eye co-ordination of the computer game, the dexterity and sharpness of youth. The argument is inconclusive. Perhaps in what looks like a contradiction, both sides contain a measure of truth; and young people can become simultaneously more and less capable.

The only thing you need to know in "advanced" or "developed" societies in the throes of perpetual reform and modernisation is how to get, acquire, earn or make money, because with that you can get everything. The range of verbs is significant, for it covers both licit and forbidden methods of coming by it. Since the great majority of us rely on a wage or salary to maximise income, we have to know a good deal about something. But in acquiring and intensifying the particular knowledge, the more likely it becomes that mastery of other capabilities will sink into oblivion. The complexity of the division of labour is accompanied by a reduction in areas of active competence.

This is how money both empowers and depowers: it permits us to buy in all that is necessary for a full and creative life; but it also divorces us increasingly from what Ivan Illich called "our native capacities for healing, consoling, moving, learning, building our houses and burying our dead"; the work of those who now service our needs were once common property, but are now jealously guarded professional qualifications. In this way, ignorance co-exists with highly specialised knowledges. In a sense, we are all existential sub-contractors, like the character in Villiers de l'Isle Adam's drama, Axel, who said "as for living, our servants will do that for us".

This social and economic mechanism is itself the generator of the real dependency culture. It is fragile and easily disrupted: all it takes to throw it into disorder is a strike of deliveries to supermarkets, an interruption to the power system, a natural calamity that blocks the delicate yet cumbersome process by which our daily bread comes to us. The image of empty supermarket shelves, a breakdown in the petrol supply, a blank TV screen are frightening reminders of our dependency on a system that takes from us as much as, or more than, it yields, but which must be kept going at any cost.

This subjection is the opposite of the freedoms of which our society is supposed to be the supreme embodiment. The choice, democracy and liberty we enjoy are highly conditional upon others; yet these easily vanish, since our social and economic purpose appears detached from theirs – our own needs are foregrounded, our own indispensability in the labour structure, and above all, that most private of all our relationships (no longer love or even sex) but the secret, sacred communion that subsists between ourselves and our money.

Outside our own sphere of knowledge, we are a nation of gilded incompetents; since in the unfamiliar world of other people's expertise, we grope in ignorance and helplessness.

This is what the apparently benign phenomenon of "the market economy" actually means. For its growth and expansion, it must appropriate more areas of human proficiency, reshape them and sell them back. It involves a relentless mining, not so much of human needs as of human competences. It robs us of abilities and markets the results of that larceny in a new shape. 

If we are constantly fascinated by whatever novelties appear on sale in the showcases of the world, this is because, more often than not, they embody the predations of lightning raids on our internal resources; and indeed, parallel the pillage of their material counterparts. Shopping, in this context, becomes not so much addiction or therapy as a desperate effort to recuperate some of the lost capacities and aptitudes through the conjuring power of money.


It is a truism that we now occupy a "knowledge economy". This is an ambiguous terms, for it suggests also an economy of knowledge, that sparingness that makes it a scarce commodity; and one for which we pay dearly and doubly, since not only is it removed from our hands, heads and hearts, but also can only be regained by paying for it. 

It is not, as some moralists have claimed, that "artificial wants" or unnecessary needs are created by consumerism and the expanding market; it is, rather, that something vital is always being taken away, which can never be compensated adequately by the buyback scheme that is global retailing, since it lies, inert, captured and stored in the growing array of things set before us. If they beguile and enchant, this is because they belonged to us in the first place.
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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Montek Singh Ahluwalia: "a finger in every pie"

Seema Sapra, a New Delhi-based lawyer, writes on her blog-site that she has filed a petition against General Electric Company at the Delhi High Court, detailing corruption, fraud and forgery committed by the American multinational in connection with two Indian Railways tenders for projects - together worth over Rs 1270 billion - to set up diesel and electric locomotive factories at Marhowra and Madhepura (both in Bihar), respectively.

The link to her blog-site is pasted below.

http://seemasapra.blogspot.in/2013/08/dossier-on-montek-singh-ahluwalia-filed.html

Her Writ Petition (Civil) 1280/ 2012 includes a complaint against Montek Singh Ahluwalia (Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission) for acting as an informer and agent for the Americans within the Government of India; she says she has filed some Wikileaks revelations in support of this complaint.

Accompanying her petition is a dossier on Montek Singh Ahluwalia that highlights the “conflict of Interests and corruption involving Ahluwalia” – including links with McKinsey & Co. and Rajat Gupta, an Indian-American convicted fraudster and a well-known crony of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The following are the contents of the dossier on Montek Singh Ahluwalia that Seema Sapra has posted on her blog-site.

1. Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia is the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission and sits in all Cabinet meetings and is invited to all Government of India Committee meetings on economic and financial policy matters. He issues press/ public statements everyday on almost every economic policy matter of the Central Government. 

He has been charged with having a finger in every pie. A study of his press statements and news reports about the Planning Commission discloses the latter’s interference in government matters of several ministries. 

The Planning Commission is de-facto interfering in government matters, processes and decisions that fall within the domain of Central government ministries. Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia’a statements on government policy and on executive decisions are capable of and in fact affect stock prices of firms listed in India and overseas. 

2.  Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia’s elder son, Mr. Pavan Ahluwalia, has worked with McKinsey, and later with a Hedge Fund (Old Lane) established by Mr Vikram Pandit and subsequently taken over by Citigroup.

3.  Mr Pavan Ahluwalia presently manages an India based/ focused hedge/investment fund (Laburnum Capital) that is registered with SEBI as a portfolio manager. This hedge fund was established in 2009 with assets under management (AUM) exceeding Rs. 100 crore. The assets under present management with Laburnum Capital are most likely significantly higher than Rs. 100 crore.

4.  Laburnum Capital operates in complete secrecy with no public disclosure of the source or destination of the large amounts of funds moving in and out of its accounts. The website of Laburnum Capital claims that it manages investments for several high-net worth Indians, business houses, corporate and business families.  

5.  A court document filed for Mr  Rajat Gupta’s sentencing hearing before the United States District Court refers to an admission by Mr Pavan Ahluwalia of his close relationship with his former boss at McKinsey (Rajat Gupta) who has also invested funds with Mr Pavan Ahluwalia in Laburnum Capital.

6.  Mr. Pavan Ahluwalia’s entire career has placed him in conflict of interest situations with his father, Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia’s career and role in the Indian government. After graduating from Princeton, Mr. Pavan Ahluwalia appears to have worked with McKinsey both in New York and in India. The time period includes the late 1990s and the first half of the 2000s. At this time, Mr Pavan Ahluwalia possessed a basic economic degree. During this time, Rajat Gupta was heading McKinsey and McKinsey made significant inroads into Indian policymaking with government engagements at both the Central and State levels and with significant private business engagements focused on India. (Rajat Gupta left McKinsey in 2007.) 

There are documented reports that during this period, Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia was a strong supporter of McKinsey in India and actively recommended McKinsey’s highly priced consulting services to several government departments/ ministries (see Deccan Herald report dated September 24, 2004). Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia had even appointed McKinsey on official Planning Commission committees in 2004 for a mid-term appraisal of the 10th plan. During this time, Mr Pavan Ahluwalia was employed by McKinsey and received a lucrative salary.

7.  McKinsey’s private clients at any given time are kept confidential.

8.  During the time that Mr Pavan Ahluwalia worked for McKinsey, Mr Rajat Gupta developed and enjoyed unrestricted access to top Indian government functionaries including to the Prime Minister, Mr Manmohan Singh. 

9.  In 2005, Mr. Pavan Ahluwalia obtained a graduate degree from Harvard Business School after leaving McKinsey.

10.  A document in Rajat Gupta’s sentencing hearing (Case 1:11-cr-00907-JSR Document 123 Filed 10/17/12) contains the following statement from Mr Pavan Ahluwalia:

“Pavan Ahluwalia, who in 2006 was being recruited to return to McKinsey from graduate school, writes that “[a]t the insistence of [a] McKinsey partner, I had a telephone conversation with Rajat, expecting to have to defend my reasons for not returning to the firm. To my considerable surprise, he listened intently, understood why I was making the decision I was making [not to return], and told me that he objectively thought it was the correct decision for me. Rather than try to ‘sell’ his firm, or score a point in the recruiting process . . . he was able to put my own concerns front and center and evaluate the decision from my perspective.
“Over the years that followed . . . I found him to be and incredibly generous and wise mentor. . . . [H]e went out of his way to introduce me to people, and when I decided to start my own investment firm, he became one of my first investors, as he had been for several young McKinsey alumni starting off on their own.
“Rajat never once mentioned money or wealth creation while discussing either his own involvement in principal investing or my career choices.”

11.  This statement shows that Mr. Rajat Gupta continued to be “incredibly generous in helping Mr. Pavan Ahluwalia’s career even after the latter left McKinsey by introducing him to important people and by even investing funds with Mr. Pavan Ahluwalia’s investment firm, Laburnum Capital.

12.  In 2006, after graduate school, Mr. Pavan Ahluwalia joined Old Lane, a hedge fund launched by Mr. Vikram Pandit, who would later head Citigroup. Old Lane was subsequently acquired by Citigroup.

13.  Old Lane had substantial India focused investments/ activities during the time that Mr. Pavan Ahluwalia was employed by Old Lane.

14.  One significant investment by Old Lane in India was in the Maytas group, a group affiliated to the scam ridden Satyam group. Maytas won the lucrative contract for the Hyderabad metro soon after Old Lane’s investment in Maytas. The contract for the Hyderbad metro awarded to Maytas was later disclosed as a scam and Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia’s role in the formulation and award of this contract has been highlighted in his lack of adequate response to Mr. E Sreedharan’s letter highlighting serious concerns with this contract. A document filed in Writ Petition No 18483 of 2008 in the Andhra Pradesh High Court challenging this contract refers to a letter dated 25 July 2008 written by Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia to the Prime Minister (Dr. Manmohan Singh) that disclosed that Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia anticipated the award of the contract to Maytas even before the successful bidder was formally announced.

15.  Old Lane also invested in the KVK group of companies (KVK Energy and Infrastructure) which was awarded the 1,200Mw KVK Nilachal power project in Orissa. Old Lane funds were also used by Hyderabad-based KVK Energy and Infrastructure Ltd (KEIL) to buy back all the Rs 45 crore equity (25.5%) held by the troubled Maytas Infra in KVK Nilachal Power Ltd after concerns were raised about Maytas stake in the power project. KVK raised Rs 106 crore from Old Lane India Opportunities Fund in October 2007 and later raised an additional US$20 million from Old Lane (approximately Rs 100 crore).

16.  KVK Nilachal first signed an MoU with the Orissa state government on September 26, 2006 for 600 MW, which was enhanced to 1200 MW through the supplementary MoU signed on October 17, 2008 for setting up the power plant at Rahangol village in Cuttack district at a cost of Rs 5,000 crore. KVK Nilachal was to finally set up three units of 350 MW coal-fired power plant at a total cost of Rs 4,500 crore. Mr Hari Aiyer was appointed as nominee director on the Board of KVK Energy. He was a Founder-Member of Old Lane Partners, and also Chairman & Advisor, India Opportunities Advisors Pvt. Ltd., and the Indian Advisor for Old Lane India Opportunities Fund.

17.  Mr Hari Aiyar is also the Managing Partner of Build India Capital Advisors (BIC). Citi’s joint venture India infrastructure business, was according to its website, established to seek long-term capital growth potential within India’s Infrastructure sector by managing the risks particular to greenfield/brownfield development infrastructure projects. The website of Build India Capital Advisors states: “Driven by high demand, financing shortages and implementation constraints, BIC’s investment team, which possesses extensive investment expertise in major sub-sectors such as power, roads, ports/logistics, airports, development of land and real estate infrastructure, believes there is a unique opportunity for investments within India’s burgeoning private sector.”

18.  Old Lane had special Indian focussed funds including the Old Lane India Opportunities Fund, established in July 2006, and sized at $518 million with a 10-year life. This fund was dedicated for long-term investment opportunities in India, primarily in the infrastructure and real estate sectors. There was an Old Lane Mauritius fund for investments into India.

19.  There is no transparency about whose money was being invested in India by Old Lane and also about what contributions and deals resulted from Mr. Pavan Ahluwalia’s employment at Old Lane. There is also no transparency about the compensation that Mr. Pavan Ahluwalia earned from Old Lane during his time there.

20.  Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia has been a significant and very vocal proponent of private investment in Indian infrastructure in his capacity as a policymaker and as participant in important infrastructure related executive decisions for the government of India. Yet for the last seven years, he has been in direct conflict of interest situations on account of his son, Mr. Pavan Ahluwalia roles at Old Lane and later at Laburnum Capital.

21.  Old Lane (which was set up in 2006) was acquired by Citigroup in 2007 and if Mr. Pavan Ahluwalia worked for Old Lane between 2007 and 2009 (as it appears he did), then Pavan Ahluwalia was, during this period, a Citigroup employee.

22.  In 2007, Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia was appointed to the Group of 30. (Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia has since then left this group.) Established in 1978, the Group of Thirty is a “private, nonprofit, international body composed of very senior representatives of the private and public sectors and academia.” Its stated aim is “deepen understanding of international economic and financial issues, to explore the international repercussions of decisions taken in the public and private sectors, and to examine the choices available to market practitioners and policymakers.” The groups website describes its influence as impacting “the current and future structure of the global financial system by delivering actionable recommendations directly to the private and public policymaking communities.” This association with the Group of 30 by Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia also raises conflict of interest concerns.

24.  A January 4, 2007 Asian Age news report reported that Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia at that time was also a member of the Commission on Growth and Development set up by the World Bank and the Institute of International Finance (The Global Association of Financial Institutions). According to the Asian Age report the “Institute of International Finance has included Dr. Ahluwalia in the group of trustees for overseeing the "principles for stable capital flows and fair debt restructuring in emerging markets". The Commission on Growth and Development (informally known as the Growth Commission) is described on the website of the World Bank in the following terms:

“Launched in April 2006, the Commission on Growth and Development brings together twenty-two leading practitioners from government, business and the policymaking arenas, mostly from the developing world. The Commission is chaired by Nobel Laureate Michael Spence, former Dean of the Stanford Graduate Business School, and Danny Leipziger, former Vice-President, World Bank, is the Commission's Vice-Chair.
Over a period of four years the Commission sought to gather the best understanding there was about the policies and strategies that underlay rapid and sustained economic growth and poverty reduction. The Commission's audience is the leaders of developing countries.
The Commission was supported by the Governments of Australia, Sweden, the Netherlands, and United Kingdom, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the World Bank.
Motivation

The Commission has been brought together by the belief that the world's challenges - poverty, environment, misunderstandings within and between nations, vast differences in living standards within and across countries - are best met in conditions of rising and sustained prosperity, and expanding economic opportunities.
The Commission was established "to take stock of the state of theoretical and empirical knowledge on economic growth with a view to drawing implications for policy for the current and next generation of policymakers."
The Commission was funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the governemnts of Australia, Netherlands, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, and the World Bank.”

25.  While Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia’s participation in the Commission on Growth and Development raises certain questions about whether he obtained prior Government authorisation and whether his participation was in his personal capacity or as a representative of the Government of India, Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia’s association with the Institute of International Finance was clearly a case of conflict of interest and more so, because his son – Mr. Pavan Ahluwalia, was at that time employed by Vikram Pandit/ Citigroup. 

26.  The mission statement of the Institute of International Finance (of which Citigroup would be a constituent) reads:

The Institute of International Finance, Inc. (IIF), is the world’s only global association of financial institutions. Created in 1983 in response to the international debt crisis, the IIF has evolved to meet the changing needs of the financial community. Members include most of the world’s largest commercial banks and investment banks, as well as a growing number of insurance companies and investment management firms. Among the Institute’s members are commercial and investment banks, sovereign wealth funds, asset managers, hedge funds, insurance companies, multinational corporations, law firms, export credit agencies, multilateral agencies, development banks, and other organizations providing products and services to financial services community. The Institute currently has over 450 members headquartered in more than 70 countries in Africa, the Middle East, North and South America, Europe, and Asia.

Mission
The Institute of International Finance is committed to being the most influential global association of financial institutions. We strive to sustain and enhance our distinctive role on the basis of the professional excellence of our research, the unmatched breadth of our membership, our extensive relationships with policymakers and regulators, and the strength of our governance.
Our mission is to support the financial industry in prudently managing risks, including sovereign risk; in developing best practices and standards; and in advocating regulatory, financial, and economic policies that are in the broad interest of our members and foster global financial stability.

Main Activities
In fulfilling this mission, the IIF’s main activities are to:

* Provide high-quality, timely, and impartial analysis and research to our members on emerging markets and other central issues in global finance.

* Systematically identify, analyze, and shape regulatory, financial, and economic policy issues of relevance to our members globally or regionally.

27.  The Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) is another example of unsavoury and undesirable links between McKinsey and Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia. There are several controversies surrounding the PHFI which are not covered by this note. 

PHFI’s bank account is with Citibank. PHFI’s status as a public authority or a private entity is in doubt. The CIC has called PHFI a public authority and stated that a contrary opinion would cast doubt on the integrity of public officials on the PHFI board like Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia. The PHFI itself contended that Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia was part of PHFI in his private capacity. The constitution of PHFI raises many conflict of interest questions quite apart from Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

28.  According to its website, PHFI’s legal status is as follows:

“The Public Health Foundation of India (“PHFI”/ “the Foundation”) was registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 vide registration certificate number 54840 dated 8 February 2006.
PHFI has been granted an exemption under section 12A of the Income Tax Act, 1961, vide letter number DIT(E)/12A/2005-06/P-1044/05/313 dated 16 June 2006. The Foundation has also obtained exemption u/s 80G(5)(vi) of the Income Tax Act, 1961.
The Foundation has been registered under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 1976 for carrying out activities of social nature with registration number 231660927 dated 26 September 2008.
PHFI has been registered as a Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (SIRO) by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research under the Scheme on Recognition of Scientific and Industrial Research Organisations (SIROs), 1988 Vide No. 14/482/2008-TU-V dated 23 April, 2011 for the period from 1 April 2011 to 31 March 2014.”

29.  OECD guidelines titled “Managing Conflict of Interest in the Public Service” dated 2003, recognize that family interests can create a potential conflict of interest situation for public officials. Reproduced below are extracts from these OECD guidelines:

A “conflict of interest” is:
A conflict between the public duty and private interests of public officials, in which public officials have private-capacity interests which could improperly influence the performance of their official duties and responsibilities.

A sound conflict-of-interest policy pays particular attention to:

● Policy-makers and public office holders working in the most senior positions.

The financial or pecuniary interests of officials are generally considered as the principal causes of conflict of interest. However, a forward-looking policy should also describe examples of other causes, such as related-party business undertakings, personal relationships and non-financial personal interests that can be relevant in a very complex public sector environment. In addition, affiliations with for-profit or non-profit organisations, or with political or professional organisations, can also give rise to new and difficult examples of conflict. Public organisations have the primary responsibility to define particular situations and activities that are incompatible with their public function.

Organisational procedures should enable public officials to identify and disclose relevant private interests that potentially conflict with their official duties. Such procedures should make public officials aware that they must promptly disclose all relevant information about a conflict when taking up office (initial disclosure), and later, when relevant circumstances change (in-service disclosure). An effective disclosure process ensures that the responsibility for providing sufficient details on the conflicting interest rests with individual officials, and this requirement is explicitly communicated in employment and appointment arrangements and contracts.

Organisations need to consider reviewing existing management arrangements on a regular basis, to assess whether they remain adequate in recognizing potential risk areas. Changing practices and expectations, for example in areas such as additional employment and “outside” appointments, post-public employment, use of “inside” information, public contracts, new forms of gifts and other benefits, and different family and community expectations in a multicultural context, can generate new forms of risk.

New forms of relationship have developed between the public sector and the business and non-profit sectors, giving rise for example to increasingly close forms of collaboration such as public/private partnerships, self-regulation, interchanges of personnel, and sponsorships. New forms of employment in the public sector have also emerged with potential for changes to traditional employment obligations and loyalties. In consequence, there is clearly an emerging potential for new forms of conflict of interest involving an individual official’s private interests and public duties, and growing public concern has put pressure on governments to ensure that the integrity of official decision-making is not compromised.

While a conflict of interest is not ipso facto corruption, there is increasing recognition that conflicts between the private interests and public duties of public officials, if inadequately managed, can result in corruption. The proper objective of an effective conflict-of-interest policy is not the simple prohibition of all private-capacity interests on the part of public officials, even if such an approach were conceivable. The immediate objective should be to maintain the integrity of official policy and administrative decisions and of public management generally, recognising that an unresolved conflict of interest may result in abuse of public office.

This objective can generally be achieved by ensuring that public bodies possess and implement relevant policy standards for promoting integrity, effective processes for identifying risk and dealing with emergent conflicts of interest, appropriate external and internal accountability mechanisms, and management approaches – including sanctions – that aim to ensure that public officials take personal responsibility for complying with both the letter and the spirit of such standards.

A “conflict of interest” involves a conflict between the public duty and private interests of a public official, in which the public official has private-capacity interests which could improperly influence the performance of their official duties and responsibilities.
           
Where a private interest has in fact compromised the proper performance of a public official’s duties, that specific situation is better regarded as an instance of misconduct or “abuse of office”, or even an instance of corruption, rather than as a “conflict of interest”.

In this definition, “private interests” are not limited to financial or pecuniary interests, or those interests which generate a direct personal benefit to the public official. A conflict of interest may involve otherwise legitimate private-capacity activity, personal affiliations and associations, and family interests, if those interests could reasonably be considered likely to influence improperly the official’s performance of their duties. A special case is constituted by the matter of post-public office employment for a public official: the negotiation of future employment by a public official prior to leaving public office is widely regarded as a conflict-of-interest situation.

Public officials should avoid private-capacity action which could derive an improper advantage from “inside information” obtained in the course of official duties, where the information is not generally available to the public, and are required not to misuse their position and government resources for private gain.

Supporting transparency and scrutiny
● Public officials and public organisations are expected to act in a manner that will bear the closest public scrutiny. This obligation is not fully discharged simply by acting within the letter of the law; it also entails respecting broader public service values such as disinterestedness, impartiality and integrity.
● Public officials’ private interests and affiliations that could compromise the disinterested performance of public duties should be disclosed appropriately, to enable adequate control and management of a resolution.
● Public organisations and officials should ensure consistency and an appropriate degree of openness in the process of resolving or managing a conflict-of-interest situation.
● Public officials and public organisations should promote scrutiny of their management of conflict-of-interest situations, within the applicable legal framework.

More focused examples of unacceptable conduct and relationships should be provided for those groups that are working in at-risk areas, such as the public-private sector interface, government procurement, regulatory and inspectorial functions, and government contracting. Specific attention needs to be given to functions which are subject to close public scrutiny or media attention.

Review “at-risk” areas for potential conflict-of-interest situations

a) Additional employment – Define the circumstances, including the required authorisation procedures, under which public officials may engage in ancillary (“outside”) employment while retaining their official position.

b) “Inside” information – Make sure that information collected or held by public organisations which is not in the public domain, or information obtained in confidence in the course of official functions, is understood to be privileged, and is effectively protected from improper use or disclosure.

c) Contracts – Consider the circumstances in which the preparation, negotiation, management, or enforcement of a contract involving the public organisation could be compromised by a conflict of interest on the part of a public official within the public organisation.

d) Gifts and other forms of benefit – Consider whether the organisation’s current policy is adequate in recognising conflicts of interest arising from traditional and new forms of gifts or benefits.

e) Family and community expectations – Consider whether the organisation’s current policy is adequate in recognising conflicts of interest arising from expectations placed on public officials by their family and community, especially in a multicultural context.

f) “Outside” appointments – Define the circumstances, including the required authorisation procedures, under which a public official may undertake an appointment on the board or controlling body of, for example, a community group, an NGO, a professional or political organisation, another government entity, a government-owned corporation, or a commercial organization which is involved in a contractual, regulatory, partnership, or sponsorship arrangement with their employing organisation.

g) Activity after leaving public office – Define the circumstances, including the required authorisation procedures, under which a public official who is about to leave public office may negotiate an appointment or employment or other activity, where there is potential for a conflict of interest involving the organisation.”

“Where an official has failed to declare a relevant interest situation, or has allowed a conflict-of-interest situation to continue unresolved, or has in fact allowed a private-capacity interest to improperly influence the performance of their duties, the definition provided by the Guidelines encourages clarification of what is actually at stake. For example, where the official concerned has failed to declare a relevant interest, the draft Guidelines suggest that such a situation would be better regarded as an instance of misconduct, and not as a simple “conflict of interest”. By contrast, where an official has acted improperly or corruptly so as to receive a bribe or to give an illegitimate advantage to a family member (etc.), it would be preferable to treat the matter as “abuse of office”, or as corruption (depending on the specific circumstances), rather than as a conflict-of interest situation, even though a conflict of interest was fundamental to the corrupt conduct.

In this definition, “private interests” are not limited to financial or pecuniary interests, or those of direct personal benefit to the official. Personal affiliations or relationships, debts and other obligations, religious or ethnic associations, professional and party-political alignments, and family interests, may come within the scope of the definition if those interests could reasonably be considered as likely to influence improperly the official’s performance of their duties.

30. Several OCED countries also include extra-occupational activities within the definition of a potential conflict of interest.

31. Another example of conflict of interest involves Dr. Isher Ahluwalia who is married to Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia. Dr Isher Ahluwalia was appointed Chairperson of a government committee constituted in May 2008 called the High Powered Expert Committee for estimating the investment requirements for urban infrastructure services. The final report was released in March 2011. 

The McKinsey Global Institute published a report in April 2010 titled “India’s urban awakening: building exclusive cities, sustaining economic growth”. This report was described as the result of a study also commenced by McKinsey in 2008 The McKinsey report thanked members of McKinsey’s academic advisory committee for this project which included Dr. Isher Ahluwalia and three others. The McKinsey report attracted a lot of publicity for McKinsey and presumably resulted in several new business engagements. 

Dr. Isher Ahluwalia’s contemporaneous association with and advice to McKinsey’s project on urban development while she was Chairperson of a High Powered Government of India Expert Committee for estimating the investment requirements for urban infrastructure services was a clear case of conflict of interest.

32.  Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia’s younger son, Mr. Aman Ahluwalia is a lawyer practicing in Delhi. Mr. Aman Ahluwalia’s wife, Ms Shilpa Mankar, is also a lawyer and is a partner in the Banking practice at the law-firm, Amarchand Mangaldas. This family connection again raises a conflict of interest concern regarding Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia as he plays a key role in formulating and implementing banking and financial policies in the Government of India.

33.  Even more curious is Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia’s association with the International Center for Alternative Dispute Resolution (ICADR). ICADR functions under the Ministry of Law & Justice, Department of Legal Affairs, Government of India. The ICADR website introduces the organization as follows:

“The justice dispensing system in India has come under great stress for several reasons, chief of them being the huge pendency of cases in courts underlining the need for Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) methods. The Government of India thought it necessary to provide a new forum and procedure for resolving international and domestic commercial disputes quickly.

The ICADR is an autonomous organization working under the aegis of the Ministry of Law & Justice, Govt. of India with its headquarters at New Delhi and Regional Centres at Hyderabad and Bengaluru. The Regional Centres of ICADR are fully funded and supported by the respective State Governments.

The Chief Justice of India is the Patron of ICADR. At the regional level, the Chief Justice of the concerned High Court is the Patron of the Regional Centre of ICADR. Dr. H.R.Bhardwaj, Former Union Minister for Law & Justice, Government of India is the Chairman of ICADR. The Governing Council of ICADR comprises of several eminent personalities drawn from various fields.”


34.   The Governing Council of ICADR comprises of a long list of persons including Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia, some well-known and influential lawyers, and the law Secretary. Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia’s presence in the governing council of ICADR is very surprising. It appears that Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia is extending his influence into legal circles in order to help his son, Mr Aman Ahluwalia’s career as a lawyer.

35.  Even a cursory survey of news reports about Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia (who incidentally garners more press coverage than any of his colleagues in the Government of India including the Prime Minister) shows that Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia routinely comments on/ lobbies for government policy issues and government decisions that do not fall within his domain as Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission. Several of such interjections by Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia raise conflict of interest concerns. 

36.  Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia uses official government resources for his extra-occupational activities and for his private interests including those of his immediate family.

37.  As an example, during a trip to the United States in June 2009 (around the time that Mr Pavan Ahluwalia was engaged in transitioning from Old Lane to his own investment firm, Laburnum Capital), Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia addressed investors in New York as part of a USIBC meeting (See Business Standard article dated June 29, 2009).  Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia had travelled to Washington DC to participate in a meeting of the High Level Commission on the Modernization of World Bank Group Governance. Addressing investors and asking them to invest in India is not the job of the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission. It would be relevant to determine how many of the investors addressed by Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia during this trip invested in his son, Mr. Pavan Ahluwalia’s hedge fund.

38.  Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia’s role in approving the Enron Dabhol project (for which act of corruption the Indian exchequer continues to pay the price) has already been highlighted.

39.  The Government of India and Indian citizens should note that while Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia touts private investment in Indian infrastructure, his own son, Mr Pavan Ahluwalia is the direct beneficiary of such investment opportunities for the private sector in Indian infrastructure. The Planning Commission under Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia set up a High Level Committee on Financing Infrastructure. This Committee proposed that private equity funds and venture capitalists could be permitted to be part of bidding consortia for infrastructure projects. Again Mr Pavan Ahluwalia runs such a private equity fund and Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia’s role involves clear conflict of interest and corruption.

40.  Even Mr Pavan Ahluwalia’s engagement under a World Bank funded Project on privatization of water supply in Delhi several years ago was the subject of conflict of interest concerns because of Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia’s connections to the World Bank.

41.  Mr Montek Singh Ahluwalia has throughout his career displayed a brazen attitude towards and has openly flouted basic principles of good governance and conflict of interest. His conduct would never have been tolerated in an OECD country with their strict laws about conflict of interest and public officials. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Centre for Science and Environment's links with Public Health Fraud of India (PHFI)

This is my open letter - mailed Thursday 27 March 2014 - to Anumita Roy Chowdhury of Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) who is participating tomorrow in the "foundation-day" function of Public Health Fraud of India (PHFI).

Dear Ms Anumita Roy Chowdhury,
Executive Director (research and advocacy)
Centre for Science and Environment (CSE)
New Delhi

It's interesting to find your name on the list of participants in Public Health Foundation of India's foundation-day celebrations on Friday, 28 March 2014 – not surprising though given A.K. Shiva Kumar’s presence on the boards of both CSE and PHFI.

Your and CSE's work on air pollution is a bit of a contrast to Anand Mahindra-chaired PHFI. It can't be easy avoiding Big Business these days.

Mukesh Ambani - from whom India buys a lot of 'gas' for American dollars - used to be one of the members of PHFI governing board. I am sure his affairs at PHFI board are now being looked after well by R.A. Mashelkar, former Director General of CSIR and now a member of the Board of Directors of Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL). 

Mashelkar is, of course, a versatile and hard-working personality. How does he manage to juggle Ambani's job with also being a Director at Tata Motors, Hindustan Unilever, Thermax Ltd, KPIT Cummins Infosystems, IKP Knowledge Park, Piramal Enterprises (formerly Piramal Healthcare) and several private limited companies I cannot begin to imagine.

He is even a Director of Reliance Gene Medix Plc., a company incorporated outside India. 

I am sure Mashelkar -- like other capable members of the PHFI board (such as Shiva Kumar, who’s been on your CSE, Sonia Gandhi’s National Advisory Council and Rajat Gupta’s ISB, Harpal Singh of private hospital chain Fortis, and N.R. Narayana Murthy of Infosys who is 'PE'-invested into Wellspring Healthcare and Manipal Global) - has a supremely delicate understanding of avoidance of conflict of interests.

Not very long ago, former McKinsey head Rajat Gupta gave a demonstration of that delicate understanding. He resigned from the chairmanship of PHFI even before he was arrested by the FBI on charges of securities fraud. He knew his interests as a securities fraud accused could conflict with his responsibilities as chairman of PHFI board, filled as it has been with such Cabinet-rank eminences as Montek Singh Ahluwalia (Deputy Chair of the Planning Commission) and T.K.A. Nair (Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Principal Secretary).

And Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was very careful to take as long as a few weeks after "launching" PHFI on 28 March 2006 on behalf of worthies led by Rajat Gupta to plough into this "public health" club his government's whole-hearted support, starting with Rs 65 crore 'grant-in-aid' from the public treasury.

It's like a luscious cherry on a rich (Bill) Gateau - baked lovingly by Ashok Alexander who's been loyally serving Microsoft founder on the board of PHFI ever since joining Rajat Gupta in putting together this exclusive club. (A "friend, mentor and occasional coach” is how Alexander described Gupta - now going to jail - at the trial of the latter in Galleon insider trading case.)

The rest, as they say, is glorious history of hundreds of crores of more public “grants-in-aid”, lucrative unbid contracts, generous giveaways of parcels of land, approvals, authorizations, ‘research’ institute status from DSIR,  stewardship/membership of each of the crucial health policy committees, a cart blanche to recast India's "public health".... leading up to the auspicious day on 28 March 2014 when you will rub shoulders with the likes of Prof. Michael Greenstone of MIT at the panel discussion on "air pollution and public health".

Talking about Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, it’s but an insignificant detail that he and his government consistently used falsehood and fraud in turning a private club into an enormously privileged "public health" body by claiming, according to their convenience, to the Parliament and the citizens that PHFI was a ‘Public-Private Partnership’ or an ‘autonomous body’ (even “autonomous PPP”) while it was (and is) neither.

I understand fully that it’s rather difficult to improve "public health" without engaging in falsehood and fraud.

I'd be remiss if I fail to point out here the role that McKinsey & Co. -- whose men, now Gautam Kumra and Prashanth Vasu, continue to be an inalienable part of PHFI board right from the very beginning -- has been playing in improving the "public health" of various countries, such as the United Kingdom.

The Daily Mail reported in February 2012, for instance, that McKinsey played a key role in Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s "reforms" to recast UK's National Health Service (NHS).

"The firm that hijacked the NHS: MoS investigation reveals extraordinary extent of international management consultant's role in Lansley's health reforms," the Daily Mail headlined.

The British newspaper used the Freedom of Information Act to reveal McKinsey’s myriad links to the "reforms". For instance, proposals were drawn up by McKinsey and included in the reform legislation wholesale. "One document says the firm has used its privileged access to ‘share information’ with its corporate clients – which include the world’s biggest private hospital firms – who are now set to bid for health service work."

"The company is already benefiting from contracts worth undisclosed millions with GPs arising from the Bill."


Having been writing about PHFI since March 2011 (when I published my first article, titled, 'Manmohan Singh's Public-Private Partnership with Rajat Gupta'), I should also point out that K. Srinath Reddy, with whom you'd share the dais tomorrow, has been so enthusiastic a "president" that he doesn't hesitate to forge documents and send them to information seekers under the RTI Act, like he did with me. ('Annexure B' in the files attached with mail is Srinath Reddy's work of art in forgery.)

It’s also a mere fact that PHFI cocked a snook at the RTI law for six years before the Central Information Commission indicted and fined this private club scrounging off public money for non-compliance and expressed its "dismay" that "the highest levels of public servants in India” – i.e. Manmohan, Montek and the rest – “did not accept the citizen’s enforceable right to information in PHFI, despite the government substantially funding it and exercising some control".

(The CIC decision of 14 February 2012 is attached with this mail.)

I feel almost embarrassed to be expanding "PHFI" to "Public Health Fraud of India" in my most recent article (published 24 March 2014) and finding out in my investigations that it's an organization wholly fraudulent in its conception, formation and operation.


Embarrassed, because these are mere facts while "public health" improvement takes no less than falsehood and fraud.

By the way, the first two key articles of mine in the series on PHFI can be read on the links pasted below.



I'd sent letters about PHFI's deeds - such as fraud and forgery - to the health ministry and several members of the board of this private club, including Amartya Sen, the venerable "Nobel Laureate". My complaint to the health ministry elicited only an acknowledgement, no action. None of the board members, Amartya Sen and SEWA's Mirai Chatterjee included, chose to acknowledge my letter. A copy of the letter to the health ministry is attached with this mail and a copy of the email sent to Sen is pasted at the bottom.

Also attached with this mail is a PDF containing information obtained through RTI -- forwarded to me by Dr. Arun Gupta of IBFAN (breastfeeding network) and AACI (Alliance Against Conflict of Interest) -- on PHFI's links with Pfizer, Merck Sharp & Dohme Pharmaceuticals, and Johnson & Johnson.  

An early article on PHFI's formation and objectives authored by Prof. C. Sathyamala, a well-known Indian public health activist (who wrote 'Taking Sides', a book that critically evaluates the problems with the Indian health care system), is attached with this mail.

More of my articles on this "public health" club can be read on the following links.




Regards,
Kapil Bajaj
------

Monday, March 24, 2014

Public Health Fraud of India (PHFI): Here’s why Manmohan Singh deserves the fate of his crony Rajat Gupta

This article - which I wrote in October 2012 and is still incomplete - is a sequel to two articles I'd published in March 2011 and September 2012 whose links are pasted below.

http://kbforyou.blogspot.in/2011/03/manmohan-singhs-public-private.html

http://kbforyou.blogspot.in/2012/09/with-phfi-falsification-is-truth.html

This series of articles explains what I call the 'Public Health Fraud of India' or PHFI whose foremost perpetrator is Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. 

As I noted above, this article was written in October 2012, but could not be completed then or subsequently taken up for completion, for various reasons. It's, however, quite substantial in its current form and is an important part of the painful research I'd done on PHFI, which must be shared with those who need this information now. Several public health-related people have been requesting me to publish this article at the earliest.

So, rather than waiting more for the time when I'd be able to take it to its final form, I am publishing the article in its current incomplete form and hope to publish supplementary material in my succeeding posts.

The article pasted below explains that Public Health Foundation of India (or PHFI whose 'F' should always be read as 'fraud' rather than 'foundation') is neither a 'public-private partnership' (PPP) nor an 'autonomous body', as the Manmohan Singh government claimed repeatedly.

That is, PHFI's formation and existence had nothing, whatsoever, to do with the PPP rules notified by the finance ministry. And PHFI's supposed status as an 'autonomous body' has nothing to do with the General Financial Rules (GFR), 2005, which apply to the formation of 'autonomous bodies'.

Manmohan Singh government falsely claimed alternatively, within and outside Parliament, that PHFI is a "PPP" or "autonomous body" or "autonomous PPP", thus committing a gargantuan fraud on the people as well as the Parliament - the latter being a fraudulent breach of Parliamentary privilege.

Equally massive is the falsehood and fraud that Manmohan Singh and his government used in first posing PHFI as an organization that was to engage only in education, research and career-building and then expanding its remit to include anything and everything that can be pushed under the rubric of "public health", including policy making and legislation drafting. 

PHFI is now 'the government' vastly more powerful than the central ministry of health and family welfare. This private club, which sponges on hundreds of crore of grants and other public support, has come to be an unelected and unlawful 'government', accountable only to a coterie of business owners who control it. 

Manmohan Singh, who's personally responsible for creating and supporting PHFI, is liable for prosecution for fraud and corruption, under various sections of various statutes, and should go to jail.

A full investigation will reveal the full scale of this massive fraud and many subordinate frauds, such as the illegalities in the formation/registration of PHFI society and the large number of lucrative contracts and other benefits that have been granted to this illegal and fraudulent organization without following the rules of public procurement.

Since I published my first article in March 2011, there has been huge pressure from the PMO on the mainstream media to prevent them from investigating further.

I had given some of the contours of the fraud to a senior journalist from DNA, an award-winning scam buster who had contacted me in the middle of 2012, but nothing came out of that.
-----

New Delhi (October 2012): Last June, when a US court held Rajat Gupta, the former head of McKinsey & Co, guilty of securities fraud, the sword of justice also brushed past Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself.

Being the conviction of a wheeler-dealer who has long had an “open door” to the PMO, the verdict of the 12-member jury represented a much closer encounter that Manmohan Singh or any of his associates has had so far with penal justice; it was closer, in terms of establishment of guilt, than the arrest and indictment of former telecom minister A. Raja − who’s since been freed on bail − in 2G spectrum scam case.

The verdict was also a reminder that if justice had indeed been allowed to run its course in India, many of the high and mighty would find themselves in jail.

An RBI investigation revealed, for instance, that Rajat Gupta, a US citizen since 1984, colluded with other foreign investors in making an illicit purchase of shares in Tamilnad Mercantile Bank and transferred his shares to another foreign investor in violation of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA).

Manmohan Singh, to take another example, has been abusing the prime ministerial office and public resources to promote and support Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), a private club put together by Gupta, as a policy making body under the wholly fraudulent cover of a ‘public-private partnership’ (PPP).

While the Enforcement Directorate continues to “look into” Gupta’s alleged wrongdoing more than two years after it was reported by the RBI, Manmohan Singh being an Indian Prime Minister is virtually protected from any suggestion of an independent inquiry of his misconduct, let alone an inquiry itself.

Gupta has a record of more dubious dealings in India. And even without an inquiry a lot more is plainly evident in Prime Minister’s dubious dealings with the businessman, who is set to be sentenced on October 17, and his commercial network.

PHFI: an elaborate fraud
The most interesting manifestation of Manmohan Singh’s association with Rajat Gupta is Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), an organization wholly fraudulent in its conception, formation, objectives and operation. It is dominated by Big Business, but has been allowed to thrive on hundreds of crores of public money.

PHFI has also been advertised, fraudulently, as a “public-private partnership” in order to be given the privileges of a governmental authority with no public accountability. In over six years of its existence, PHFI has gone far in building its illegal empire and exercising its baleful influence on public health policy and administration with enormous costs to the citizens.

Based on information available in the public domain and obtained through RTI, this article explains why PHFI is an outright fraud on the citizens of India and a new low in the degradation of the concept of democratic accountability that has taken place under Manmohan Singh government. It shows how the government has been using terms like ‘PPP’ and ‘autonomous PPP’ to hoodwink the public and the Parliament about PHFI’s formation, identity, privileges, area of work and influence.

The intent behind this fraud has been to give powerful business interests a back-door entry into government, so that they are able to shape public health policy to serve their narrow private interests and gain control over public resources.

The establishment of PHFI also betrays the contempt with which the current regime has treated public health of over a billion people.

The illegal beginnings
The role of the government in conceiving and planning PHFI remains a mystery with no attempt by the official channels to explain how this organization was conjured up in early 2006.

(The morning after the “launch” of PHFI by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Indian Express reported: “The PHFI initiative has been collaboratively developed over the last two years under the leadership of Rajat Gupta of McKinsey, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Srinath Reddy, head of the Department of Cardiology at AIIMS.”)

According to the information – which is not free from dubiousness – released by PHFI under RTI Act, it was registered as a society (under the Societies Registration Act of 1860) on 08 February 2006 in Delhi by the following eight men who also formed its first governing body.

(a)    Rajat Gupta, then a senior partner in McKinsey. He was the prime mover in the creation of PHFI and became the chairman of the governing board within weeks of the registration of the organization. Gupta was compelled to relinquish the post in March 2011 after being charged in the US with involvement in Galleon insider trading ring.
(b)   Gautam Kumra of McKinsey. He has been a member of PHFI’s governing body from the very beginning.
(c)    Prashanth Vasu of McKinsey.
(d)   Ashok Alexander, country director of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which he joined in 2003 after 16 years at McKinsey. Alexander has also been a member of PHFI’s governing body from the very beginning. He described Rajat Gupta as a “friend, mentor and occasional coach” at the trial of the latter in Galleon insider trading case.
(e)    K Srinath Reddy, then a cardiologist at AIIMS. He has been heading Manmohan’s official medical panel and been Gupta’s right hand man in all matters PHFI. He used his access to the Prime Minister to wangle an unlawful five-year “deputation” to be made the president of PHFI. Having taken voluntary retirement from AIIMS after the five-year term, he continues full time as PHFI president at a salary of Rs 60 lakh per annum plus perks.
(f)    RA Mashelkar, then Director-General of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). He has been associated with American India Foundation and Indian School of Business, both of which organizations list Gupta as one of their founders. He has also been a member of the board of PHFI since its inception.
(g)   Ajay Bahl of law firm AZB & Partners.
(h)   Raman Sharma of law firm AZB & Partners.

Two of the eight ‘main objects’ that PHFI’s memorandum of association lists are setting up public health institutes and “driving” research and consultancy for “shaping public health policies” through the help of central and state governments, corporate houses and other agencies.

PHFI claims its governing body enlarged itself to 24 members − who were drawn primarily from Big Business, corporate-funded international foundations (like Gates Foundation) and the central government − on 27 March 2006, i.e. a day before the organization was “launched”. 

The enlarged board, shows the information released by PHFI, had four officials of the ministry of health and family welfare: Prasanna Hota, Secretary, Nirmal Ganguly, Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research, RK Srivastava, Director General, Health Services, and K Sujatha Rao, DG, National AIDS Control Organization.

That takes, together with Reddy and Mashelkar, government officials on PHFI board to six.

In comes the Prime Minister
Manmohan “launched” PHFI on 28 March 2006 in a function attended by his ministerial colleagues (Anbumani Ramadoss, Panabaka Lakshmi, Kapil Sibal), top bureaucrats, K. Srinath Reddy (then senior cardiologist at AIIMS), Rajat Gupta (head of McKinsey & Co.), Barry R. Bloom (Dean of Harvard School of Public Health), Amartya Sen (the Nobel laureate whose presence on the PHFI board has played its part in camouflaging the real identity of the organization) and other worthies.

In his 1732-words speech, the Prime Minister referred twice to PHFI as a “public-private partnership” without ever naming any of the public partner(s) or the private partner(s). He made no reference to any contractual arrangement between the two sides nor outlined the contribution of any party to the purported PPP. He, however, did thank “all donors” including “the corporates who have contributed to this laudable effort” and “several international academic institutions of high repute”.

(No one is better placed than Manmohan Singh to know the specific meaning that the Government of India attaches to “public-private partnerships”, including the ones in the ‘social sector’. At the time of his speech, he was the chairman of the Committee on Infrastructure, the highest decision-making body on PPP policy matters then.)

He also said, “The setting up of the PHFI presents a unique opportunity to develop innovative models of public-private partnership in major social sector programmes.”

Speaking of the need for “managers of health and not just of diseases”, Manmohan commended the 7-weeks-old organization (whose fuller governing body came into existence the previous day) “in taking this initiative to bridge a critical gap in health education and in blazing a trail by setting up a series of public health schools”. He congratulated Rajat Gupta “for the efforts that he has made to give concrete shape to this idea”.

The Prime Minister also set PHFI sweeping objectives, calling on it “to develop an Indian agenda both in academics and research,” and hoping that it “will invest in capacity-building in existing public health institutions across the country” and “our state governments will find it beneficial to partner your initiative”.

Unexplained largesse
On 6 July 2006, i.e. 14 weeks after Manmohan conjured up PHFI out of thin air, the government announced that the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (chaired by the PM) had approved a “one time contribution of Rs 65 crore to the initial Rs 200 crore corpus of PHFI”.

A notification issued by the CCEA said: “The PHFI basically aims to improve the public health human resource capacity and advocacy in India” by doing the following (seven items under three headings).

(i) Strengthening Education in Public Health: (a) Building new world class institutions of public health in India, (b) Strengthening existing such institutions, both within the government and outside, (c) Creating a critical mass of high quality faculty in the field of public health.

(ii) Setting Standards in Public Health Education: Improving quality of public health education, by clearly defining academic standards in public health education.

(iii) Strengthening Research and Policy in Public Health: (a) Conducting high impact, India relevant research in public health, (b) Using the research to empower national programme and enable appropriate policy formulation, (c) Working with the governments (central and state), as also the private sector, to create meaningful career tracks for public health professionals.

Interestingly, the notification of 06 July 2006 contains no descriptor for PHFI. The organization is neither described as a “public-private partnership” nor is there a mention of any agreement between the public and private partners that a PPP would require.

There is also no explanation as to the nature of the “one time contribution” of Rs 65 crore. What justified this expenditure of public money? Why was this “one time contribution” needed to be made? What made PHFI deserving of this governmental support? Who asked for it, on what grounds, in what form of proposal? What did that proposal, if any, contain? What were the terms and conditions governing this “one time contribution”?

None of these questions is addressed in the notification, which adds that the rest of the corpus “is being generated” from Gates Foundation (Rs 65 crore) and “approximately Rs 80-90 crore is being generated from an assortment of high net worth of Indians from all over the world”.

The to-do list is also very interesting, containing as it does only those items that are related to education, research and careers in public health, and nothing else.

It would indeed be a stretch to interpret any of the seven listed items to mean that PHFI was to directly participate in policy formulation or enjoy the privilege of being awarded government projects without competition or receive foreign aid as part of the agreements that the Government of India has signed with the foreign governments – though that is what has actually transpired.

Money first, plan later
On 28 July 2006, the ministry of health and family welfare issued a letter to K Srinath Reddy, President of PHFI, informing him that the “competent authority has approved the proposal for one time grant of Rs 65 crore to the PHFI corpus”.

The letter asked for the following seven items of information to be furnished “in order to facilitate the release of funds”: (a) Roadmap for the activities, (b) Progress achieved in receipt of fund from abroad and within India as indicated during the launch on 28 March 2006 for the corpus, (c) Status of getting possession of land and plan to start the first school, (d) The decision on the number of schools to be built, (e) Action plan for curriculum design and development, (f) Action plan for strengthening the collaborative arrangements with the existing Indian institutions engaged in public health education, (g) Action plan for demand survey in states for public health professionals passing out of PHFI schools.

What is immediately noticeable in this letter is the introduction of the word “proposal” for the planned financial support for PHFI, without an explanation as to when and where it originated and what it contained. And “one time grant” has replaced the earlier usage, “one time contribution.”

Obviously, the government was determined to pour public funds into PHFI anyhow and decided in just 22 days since the 06 July notification that the “one time contribution” would have to be clothed as a grant-in-aid.

Positioning the largesse as grant-in-aid would mean that PHFI would now have to be described as an “autonomous body” in order for the government support to pass muster.

The descriptor “public-private partnership” would be toned down for a while after which it would be used together with “autonomous body” – as a new term invented especially for PHFI – or interchangeably.

The 28 July letter also reveals the absurdity of the situation − in PM-headed CCEA and then the “competent authority” approving a large public investment in a non-entity even before ascertaining basic facts such as its “roadmap of activities” and “action plans”. This charade only serves to betray the larger game of the creation of PHFI as a front for a network of corporate interests, which then waits to be legitimized and propped up by the government with public money and other kinds of support.

Also revealing is PHFI being asked to furnish information on “progress achieved in receipt of fund from abroad and within India as indicated during the launch on 28 March 2006 for the corpus” − four months after the Prime Minister “launched” the organization and thanked “all donors who have graciously contributed to this noble effort”. 

It is noteworthy that the seven items of information contained in the 28 July letter also deal with only education, research and careers in public health, and nothing else. 

Misleading the Parliament
On 24 November 2006, in reply to a query, Panabaka Lakshmi, the then minister of state for health, informed the Rajya Sabha of the decision of the government to support PHFI.

“The Government has decided to support the PHFI in setting up of world class Institutes of Public Health in India. PHFI is an autonomous body. The Government of India proposes to contribute as one-time grant up to Rs 65 crore only to the initial Rs 200 crore PHFI corpus. PHFI initially proposes to set up two schools. The locations have yet to be decided by PHFI,” an official press release quoted Lakshmi as informing the Rajya Sabha.

Two obvious points to note in this statement are that PHFI has once again been described as an organization that will engage only in education-related work and the descriptor “autonomous body” has been introduced with no mention of “public-private partnership”.

Did the minister mean that PHFI was an “autonomous body” as Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is an autonomous body under the ministry of health?

Neither the ministry, however, has ever listed PHFI as an “autonomous body” on its website nor has PHFI − with top-most health ministry officials on its board − ever described itself as an autonomous body under the ministry.

ICMR, National Institute of Health and Family Welfare (NIHFW) and several other organizations describe themselves as autonomous bodies under the jurisdiction of the ministry and are subject to CAG audit and the RTI Act 2005.

PHFI has neither been asked to submit to regular public audits nor to meet the statutory requirements for transparency, though it was compelled by an order of the Central Information Commission (CIC), passed on 14 February 2012, to start complying with the RTI Act.

Further, in the matter of setting up of autonomous bodies, the very first principle that General Financial Rules 2005 require the central government to adhere to reads: “No new autonomous institutions should be created by ministries or departments without the approval of the Cabinet”.

The GFR 2005 say: “Stringent criteria should be followed for setting up of new autonomous organizations and the type of activities to be undertaken by them. The Ministry or Department should examine in detail; (a) whether the activities proposed to be taken up are necessary at all; (b) whether these activities, if necessary, need to be undertaken by setting up an autonomous organisation only or whether these could be performed by the concerned government agency or any other organisation already existing.”

These rules also say that autonomous bodies with a budgetary support of more than Rs five crores per annum should be required to enter into an MoU with the ministry or department, spelling out the “output targets” and “input requirements”.

No Cabinet approval
There is nothing in the public domain to show that Cabinet approval was taken for setting up PHFI. Indeed, the government would have us believe that it had no role to play in bringing together the eight men who registered PHFI as a society on 8 February 2006.

The CCEA decision to give Rs 65 crore to PHFI came nearly five months after the registration with no mention of any Cabinet approval or use of the descriptor “autonomous body”.

Nor is any “stringent criterion” evident in CCEA deciding to make a contribution of Rs 65 crore to an organization registered few weeks ago by a bunch of manipulators and front men feigning an interest in improving India’s public health without any expertise or experience in this vital area of public policy and administration.

There is no publicly available proof of any ministry having signed an MoU with PHFI to make the latter spell out its “output targets” and “input requirements” in line with GFR 2005.

Lying to the Parliamentary panel
Considering the demand for grants (2006-07), the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare “cautioned” the government – in relation to PHFI which the department concerned described as a “Public-Private Partnership” – that “the track record of private sector participation in health sector has not been very helpful so far as public at large is concerned”. A number of corporate hospitals had failed “miserably” to provide free treatment to the poor after having received land from the government at cheap rates, said the panel and pointed out that the “so called public-private sector” had penetrated the state health systems also.

“The committee is not much convinced by the contention of the department that this experiment will be confined to the area of public (medical) education only. The committee would like to be apprised about the full details of this initiative.”           

The government responded by saying that “PHFI is created for capacity building in public health education, training and research”.

Here the government is clearly assuring the parliamentary panel that PHFI would only engage in educational and research work and that’s all there was to the “experiment”.

That was a patently false assurance as PHFI has been engaged directly in formulation of public health policy by being given membership of all important committees of the government.

For example, PHFI acted – at full public cost – as the secretariat for the High Level Expert Group on Universal Health Coverage that was chaired by its president K Srinath Reddy and whose report is currently being considered by the government.
Belying its assurance, the government has also been granting lucrative assignments to PHFI without any competitive bidding.

For instance, PHFI charged the government more than Rs 1.68 crore for developing healthy-india.org website which gives vitally useful health tips, such as the benefits of eating home-cooked food, washing hands after using the toilet, and keeping the nails short and clean.

More falsification
The government told the Parliamentary standing committee that PHFI was managed by an “independent governing board” that had three representatives of the health ministry. It added: “TKA Nair, Principal Secretary to Prime Minister; MS Ahluwalia, Vice Chairman, Planning Commission; Sujata Rao, AS&PD, NACO (National AIDS Control Organization); Dr. Mashelkar, DG of CSIR, are also members of the governing board. The presence of the officials from government would ensure that the decisions taken in PHFI are in consonance with the objectives for which PHFI has been supported by Government of India”.

That assurance is also based on falsehood. The rules and regulations of PHFI have ensured that the government has never had anything more than a cosmetic role to play in decisions made by the organization.

The rules not only limit the number of government representatives on PHFI board to a meagre proportion of the total membership, but also give non-government members (read Big Business) the super-majority to decide who would be considered a “government representative” and, generally, who should simply be thrown out of the governing body.

Until 28 October 2011, when rules were tweaked, persons affiliated with the government (centre and states) could form no more than one third of the members of the governing body “either in an individual or ex officio capacity as determined by the governing body”. The actual government representation has always been too paltry to be anywhere near one third.

“MS Ahluwalia is a member of the PHFI board as MS Ahluwalia, not as deputy chair of the Planning Commission,” a counsel for PHFI explained “individual capacity” to the CIC on 24 January 2012 at a hearing that this writer attended. That makes “ex officio capacity” the only government representation on PHFI board.

Since the rules require a majority vote of 51 per cent of the membership of the governing body for decisions not amenable to consensus, the government representatives stand no chance of ever influencing any decision if enough non-government representatives don’t cooperate. A government representative (or any other member) in the governing body can just be stripped of their membership anytime by a simple majority of the members present and voting.

Further eroding the ability of the government representatives to play any meaningful role in PHFI’s decision making, the changes effected in the rules on 28 October 2011 turned the executive committee – its current strength being 15 – into the most powerful body within the organization, with just one ex officio position for the government.

Again, as a foolproof safeguard against government influence, the members of the executive committee who are affiliated with central or state governments cannot be more than one third of the total membership. As for the governing body whose current strength is 30, the changes of 28 October gave just four ex officio positions to the government officials (i.e. less than one seventh of the total membership).

While making the dubious claim that seven of its officials were on the PHFI board, the government omitted, cleverly, to apprise the Parliamentary panel of the important distinction between “ex officio” members (which it had no more than three) and “individual capacity” members who by very definition are not government representatives.

The Parliamentary panel was also assured, “It is expected that all members of the governing board would ensure the functioning of the Foundation as a professional organization and with complete transparency” − more humbug.

Ahluwalia, TKA Nair (both of Minister of State rank and nominated directly by Manmohan) and other government officials on PHFI board have instead allowed PHFI to cock a snook at even basic canons of transparency while continuing to scrounge off public resources and exert its sinister influence on public health policy.

PHFI remained non-compliant with the RTI Act 2005 for over six years of its existence until a CIC order insisted on compliance from 15 March 2012. In its order, information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi noted “with dismay that the highest levels of public servants in India did not accept the citizen’s enforceable right to information in PHFI, despite the government substantially funding it and exercising some control”.

PHFI was broached again in Rajya Sabha on 31 August 2007. This time Panabaka Lakshmi, the minister of state for health, described it as an “autonomous public-private partnership.”

The Minister said: “It (PHFI) will not only train health professionals, but will also assist in strengthening the existing institutions in the public health sector, create a pool of excellent faculty, act as a think tank for the Government providing inputs for policy initiatives and set standards for public health education. The research programmes of PHFI would be geared to facilitate policy and programme development in public health through inter-disciplinary studies.”

While the Minister described PHFI as a “Public-Private Partnership”, neither the PPP agreement, if any, has ever been made public nor has there been a mention of how the private partner of this PPP was selected in conformity with the elaborate rules and regulations governing PPPs.

(To be completed through succeeding posts.)



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