Call it Gestapo or the prying big brother; call it whatever you will. But the fact is that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is walking his talk on a crusade against corruption, which he publicly reiterated in his Kargil rally on 12 August when he said: 'na khaoonga, na khane doonga (won't take bribe, won't let others take)'.
He has already unleashed the cat among the pigeons, so to say, by making it clear to all his ministers, bureaucrats and government servants alike that his supreme template of governance is zero tolerance on corruption.
Here is a pithy compendium of Modi’s latest diktats and moves, most of which you would perhaps be getting to know for the first time.
* CCTVs in Ministries
The Modi government has embarked upon a never-before move of installing closed circuit televisions (CCTVs) in major central ministries. The first in the line is the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, the cash-rich ministry where deals, orders and contracts worth billions are commonplace.
The proposal to install CCTVs in the petroleum ministry’s headquarters in New Delhi’s Shastri Bhavan has just been cleared and it will be a matter of days or weeks until all the CCTVs are in place. And this is an informal pilot project. More ministries will have such CCTVs in future. The Defence ministry should also be in this list.
* Ministries to Make Cabinet Notes Under PMO Directions
Another unprecedented decision that the Modi government is quietly pushing is that the union ministries will no longer prepare cabinet notes about their future plans on their own. Rather, under the new scheme of things, the ministries will be required to consult the Prime Minister’s Office and wait for PMO instructions for drafting cabinet notes about their functioning and future plans. Thus far, the ministries have been routinely preparing cabinet notes for consideration by the union cabinet. Henceforth, the ministries will be divested on this privilege and micro-managed by the PMO, even on the issue of preparation of cabinet notes.
* DAVP’s Advertisements to Newspapers in Last Ten Years Under Scanner
The Information and Broadcasting ministry’s Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity (DAVP) has also come under the PMO’s scrutiny. The DAVP has been told to submit to the PMO, all information and data about the advertisements it has given to media outfits in the past ten years. The PMO wants to know how much government money was pumped into which media outfits in the past decade (read the UPA tenure).
The idea is to regulate the pumping of government money in media outfits by way of advertisements which has kept these entities financially afloat. This is bad news for media outfits, including several major mainline newspapers, which have survived mainly on account of government doles in the form of advertisements. At least two major English dailies would be directly affected and may face closure if government advertisements were to dry up for these. One of the affected newspapers is a prominent English daily which has been pro-BJP in its editorial orientation and patronized by a tall leader of the BJP who is no longer in Modi’s scheme of things.
* Ministers Are Constantly Under Watch
Union ministers are constantly under the watch of PM Modi. More importantly, they have been given rude jolts from time to time to remind them that they are under watch.
Consider these two examples.
One minister was breaking bread in a five star hotel in New Delhi with a top industrial magnate who is known to be very close to PM Modi. During the course of his meal, the minister gets a call from the PM himself, inquiring whether the meal was over. It was a brief call and no directions were issued But the message was driven home and the minister quickly wrapped up his meeting and headed back to office.
Another minister was happily going to the Indira Gandhi International airport for his maiden foreign trip a couple of months ago, dressed in jeans. He had barely driven for about a kilometer and a half when he got a call on his mobile from the PM himself. The PM casually inquired where he was headed to and the minister gently reminded him about his foreign trip which had been duly cleared by the government. But he was flabbergasted when Modi chided him for wearing jeans and told him that as a public servant he would be under people’s gaze in India as well as abroad and may be criticized for his choice. As the line went dead, the befuddled minister ordered his driver to take the car back to his residence where he quickly changed into the traditional kurta-pyjama and proceeded with his foreign trip.
In fact, such is the mortal fear of PM Modi that ministers and top bureaucrats have stopped using their personal mobile phones for their very private conversations. Instead, they have started using the phones of their drivers and aides for such conversations as these phones are ‘safe’.
*The writer is FirstPost Consulting Editor who tweets @Kishkindha.