Off the record

Babus on expert panel

Formation of expert groups in the government is routine. But an expert group formed by the Planning Commission last week to suggest strategies to move on to a low carbon economy has raised eyebrows in the capital.

The convenor of the 26-member panel is Arunish Chawla, an IAS officer from Haryana cadre — who is the personal secretary to Planning Commission deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia. One of the members of the panel is Varad Pandey, an officer on special duty to the Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh.

None are known to have any particular expertise on energy issues. Chawla in his last appointment worked in the pay revision committee in the finance department of Bihar government whereas Pandey was a member of the Congress war room in the last general election.

Expert groups are generally convened by the concerned director or joint secretary depending on the terms of reference of the group. Generally the PS or OSD to ministers are not accommodated in these panels that recommends the government on the best path forward in various issues.

That’s why the million dollar question doing the rounds is what would be the real purpose of including the duo in the panel.

Kalyan Ray, New Delhi

Case of missing calendar

One can’t just ignore the annual calendar published by the Centre, saying it is useless. The issue created a flutter in the ministry of rural development recently.

The ministry printed calendars for 2010 with the photographs of Rural Development Minister C P Joshi and two other ministers of state Pradeep Jain (Congress) and Agatha Sangma (NCP). Photo of another Minister of State Sisir Adhikari (Trinamool Congress) was left out.

Upset Adhikari complained to his boss Joshi, who said it was too late as enough calendars had been printed and distributed.

But to soothe Adhikari’s hurt ego, the ministry decided to print some more calendars with his photograph and distribute them only in West Bengal, his home state.

Interestingly, the missing photograph was not noticed by Adhikari, but an alert official in Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s office.

Indeed, Joshi can’t ignore his colleague Adhikari as the latter belongs to Trinamool Congress, which provides crucial support to the UPA government.

Ajith Athrady, New Delhi

Lalu’s mantra for ticket

Virtually decimated in the state, which he ruled for 15 uninterrupted years, RJD chief Lalu Prasad is now trying to infuse a new lease of life into his moribund organisation.

After all, Assembly elections are slated later this year, and could provide him one last opportunity to get a toehold, sorry foothold, in the state which he ‘ruined’.

So one fine morning, he gave a clarion call for Bihar bundh on January 28 to protest against the “food price rise and failure of Nitish regime on all fronts”.

Asking his partymen to maintain the fighting spirit, Lalu exhorted them to take to the streets and go to jail. “All those who will submit jail certificates to me will be entitled to get RJD ticket for the ensuing Assembly poll,” announced Lalu, adding that this year he won’t charge any money or ask for applications from prospective candidates.

“Just go to jail,” he again roared, and, to make things lighter, he added, “If imprisoned, you will also get free medicines, clothes, quilts, blankets and clean bed to sleep on.”

The RJD supremo’s panacea was heard with rapt attention. After all, who knows all these things better than Lalu who was jailed twice in the fodder scam.

Abhay Kumar, Patna

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