The IAS officer’ s dismissal and reinstatement as head of this apex agricultural procurement agency turned the spotlight on the rampant corruption within.
Last week, senior civil servant C V Ananda Bose found himself in the news for the wrong reasons. He was sacked as managing director of National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation (Nafed) on the pretext of misusing funds.
Earlier this week, he was back in the headlines, this time for the right reasons: the agriculture ministry dismissed the allegations as baseless and clarified that the Nafed board could request the ministry to replace Bose but it could not remove him.
Between the two incidents lies a bizarre story of vested interests that does little credit to this apex government agency for procuring non-cereal grain. Bose’s contention was that by sacking him the board was trying to stop the crusade he led against some corrupt officials, primarily politicians. The cause célèbre was a 2003 tie-up between Nafed and certain companies for an import venture. Under this, Nafed provided a bank guarantee of Rs 3,900 crore to 29 private companies, most of which defaulted, and left Nafed with a loss of Rs 1,600 crore. Bose had raised allegations of corruption against some Nafed officials and was planning to take against certain others. In 2009, Nafed’s 23-member board, mainly comprising politicians like Bijender Singh (a Congress MLA in the Delhi Legislative Assembly) and Chander Pal Singh Yadav (a former MP) proposed an arbitrary one-time settlement scheme with defaulters. Bose opposed this saying the government had stipulated that dues could not be settled without a transparent structure.
The incident was eyebrow-raising for two reasons. First, the board decided to sack Bose even though his objections essentially conveyed the views of the ministry under which Nafed operates. Second, Bose, who was an additional secretary in the agriculture ministry and took charge of Nafed in September 2009, has succeeded in getting this troubled cooperative back on even keel. “He was getting Nafed back in shape,” said a Nafed official on condition of anonymity. For instance, just two months after he joined Bose managed to arrange a Rs 200 crore working capital loan for the cooperative. “He also renegotiated interest rates on earlier loans and helped the cooperative save Rs 20-25 crore a year,” the official added.
In February, when retail sugar prices were hovering at Rs 50 per kg, Nafed offered to sell sugar at Rs 41 per kg through its retail outlets and mobile vans. Under him, Nafed also launched a “Farmgate to Homegate” (Khet Se Ghar Tak) initiative that involved procuring essential commodities directly from farmers (instead of through middlemen) and making them available to consumers at prices considerably below market rates. This scheme led to a significant jump in Nafed’s turnover of Rs 4,800 crore. He also came up with the idea of finding an export market for Kerala-specific products to West Asia, which has a sizeable Keralite population.
A ministry official who has worked with Bose said the 59-year-old civil servant had been appointed to head Nafed with the explicit mandate of purging the organisation of corrupt officials. The fact that the government backed him when he did just that was telling enough. Bose himself called the whole episode a “battle of the right against might” and said he would not give in to such “arm twisting”. He was, he said, ready to take “bruises” if his job so demanded. In that spirit, he continued to clear Nafed files from Krishi Bhavan, headquarters of the agriculture ministry, even as the board discussed his removal.
Other than this case, Bose, who also chairs the Coconut Development Board, has had a faultless career as a civil servant. He has been Principal Secretary to K Karunakaran when he was Kerala Chief Minister. A PhD in habitat technology and environment from BITS, Pilani, Bose conceptualised and implemented the Kerala Nirmithi Kendra scheme to promote low-cost housing. His administrative initiatives have won him several awards such as the United Nations Global Best Practice Award and the Singapore Government Award for Urban Green Management Excellence.
Bose is a Keralite but was named after freedom fighter Subhash Chandra Bose by his father Vasudevan Nair, who fought alongside Netaji. He is also a prolific writer. Apart from regular columnist and writer in publications like Malayala Manorama and Deepika, he’s also an award-winning author of fiction, publishing nine books in English and Malayalam. If he’s looking for a subject for his next novel, the events of the past two weeks could provide him good material.