Once a socialist, always a socialist. Nobody epitomises this more than Information and Broadcasting Minister Sushma Swaraj.
With her husband, Swaraj Kaushal, a Rajya Sabha member of the Opposition Haryana Vikas Party led by Bansi Lal, flaunting his anti-Sangh Parivar credentials, the I&B minister is furthering either his personal agenda or that of her former Socialist Party colleagues, much to the chagrin of Parivar purists.
Case in point is Sushma's blatant sponsorship of an old socialist from UP as head of the prestigious Indian Institute of Mass Communications.
Umesh Chandra Singh, Sushma's candidate for appointment as IIMC director, is an old socialist who unsuccessfully contested the 1996 UP assembly election from Chandra Shekhar's Samajwadi Janata Party.
The I&B minister told more than one member of the committee set up to recommend a panel of names for appointment as the IIMC director that "Singh was a personal friend, more like a brother to me." She left them in no doubt that she wanted only Singh's name to be sent up for appointment as the IIMC director.
At least one committee member, who was vehemently opposed to Singh's candidature, switched sides after Sushma spoke to him. This particular member is beholden to the BJP-led government in more ways than one and confesses he cannot afford to run counter to the ministerial diktat.
But two committee members, IIMC chairman Tara Sinha and Seshadri Chari, editor of the RSS weekly, Organiser, refused to endorse Singh though the minister spoke to them.
Yet, the committee had no compunction in recommending Singh's name since its chairman was only too eager to oblige the minister.
Though the IIMC subsists almost entirely on the allocation made by the I&B ministry to the tune of nearly Rs 20 crores (Rs 200 million) per annum, its actual contribution in recent years has been negligible. It has a well-appointed campus in the heart of south Delhi and a well-paid faculty, but nothing to show by way of original research or brilliance of its alumni. Indeed, a former IIMC director faces a probe for having misused research and other funds.
The IIMC director's is a much-coveted job for the perks and salary attached. Besides, a plush bungalow on the campus, a respectable five-figure salary and perks like car, driver and a liberal entertainment allowance etc, the IIMC director exercises ample patronage over the appointment of visiting professors and sanctions for research and other projects.
Post-earthquake, several NGOs rushed to Gujarat to help in the rescue and relief work. Though some NGOs did commendable work at the height of the crisis, quite a few busybodies flaunting NGO colours rushed there more to extract personal mileage than to provide succour.
In Bhuj, which bore the burnt of the tremblor on Republic Day, the local authorities had to tick off two NGOs which instead of facilitating R & R operations had virtually become an obstacle. They demanded as a matter of right the monopoly over the distribution of relief material so that the same could be distributed, if at all, under its aegis.
This was akin to a well-known NGO which rushed to West Bengal with four bags of grains at the height of the massive floods a couple of years ago and set up shop there, hogging media coverage.
When those four bags were finished as they would when tens of thousands of people are rendered homeless, it laid claim on the grains being supplied by the state government so that it could dispense the same under its banner.
Small wonder that the local authorities in Bhuj want to see the back of the NGOs at the earliest.
Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh
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