With the CBI conducting searches at the house of the former finance secretary Arvind Mayaram, another UPA-era scandal seems to be unravelling.
According to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Mayaram, as finance secretary, granted an illegal three-year extension to an expired contract with the UK-based firm, De La Rue International Ltd, for supplying exclusive colour shift security thread in 2012. It is alleged that he did it without obtaining mandatory security clearance from the home ministry or informing the then-finance minister.
The CBI enquiry also revealed that Anil Raghbeer, signatory of contract agreement from De La Rue, has received Rs 8.2 crore from offshore entities apart from the remuneration paid by De La Rue in 2011.
The company was also blacklisted by the Home Ministry in 2010 for failing to meet the quality parameters. However, even that was brushed aside at the time of extending the contract with the firm.
The agency had registered a preliminary enquiry in 2018 on a complaint from the Chief Vigilance Officer of the Department of Economic Affairs in the Ministry of Finance. Prior to the action, it had filed an FIR in the case in January this year.
Who is Arvind Mayaram?
Mayaram, a 1978-batch Rajasthan cadre IAS officer, is the son of late Indira Mayaram, a senior Congress leader and former minister in Ashok Gehlot-led government between 1998 and 2002.
Mayaram is widely known to enjoy close proximity with the senior leadership of the Congress, especially to former finance minister, P. Chidambaram.
In 2012, he was posted in the Ministry of Finance, when Chidambaram took over as the finance minister. Earlier too, he served in the same Department of Economic Affairs (DEA), when Chidambaram headed the finance ministry from 2005 to 2008.
In the period between 2008 and 2012, he served as additional secretary and then special secretary in the Ministry of Rural Development, and was responsible for managing UPA’s flagship scheme, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. In 2013, he was elevated to the post of Secretary in the Department of Economic Affairs.
After the Modi government took charge, he was shunted from the ministry and given the charge of Tourism Secretary, only to be shifted again to the Ministry of Minority Affairs, within a fortnight.
It is also to be noted that De La Rue has failed to secure any new contracts for supply of currency paper or security threads and security holograms since 2016.
Old-Time Congress Connection
It is widely believed that Mayaram’s deep links with Congress establishment helped the bureaucrat climb the echelons of power.
His mother, Indira Mayaram, was a two-term Congress legislator from Sanganer assembly constituency, Rajasthan.
She was later inducted as minister in the first Ashok Gehlot government, holding an independent charge of finance and taxation. She was also in charge of the Indira Gandhi Nahar Project in the Rajasthan government. Though widely perceived to be Gehlot loyalist, she was axed from the cabinet in 2002 when the party had to quell a rebellion by a section of legislators in the state.
Indira Mayaram also held the positions of President of the Rajasthan Mahila Congress and chairman of the Nehru Youth Board. She was a protege of late Congress leader N.D Tiwari and was nurtured in the party by senior leaders like Uma Shankar Dixit and Govardhana Reddy.
Indira Mayaram's father Jugal Kishore Chaturvedi also served as a minister in Congress government in the 1950's.
Back in 2011, names of both the mother and son had cropped in a land fraud case over a housing complex owned by them in Gurgaon.
Mayaram currently serves as the Economic advisor to the Rajasthan Chief Minister, Ashok Gehlot. He also heads CM’s Rajasthan Economic Transformation Advisory Council as Vice Chairman.
Recently, he took part in the Rajasthan leg of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's 'Bharat Jodo Yatra'. After the CBI action, the Congress has been quick to defend him.
Congress's general secretary in-charge of communications, Jairam Ramesh tweeted, "A former RBI Governor walks in Bharat Jodo Yatra, BJP attacks him. A retired Army Gen does, he's maligned. Now a former Finance Secretary, who joined, is booked by the CBI. Modi's FDI policy-Fear, Defamation & Intimidation- is at work here. This is the mindset of a coward. But BJY will roll on."
However, there may be more to the Congress party's defense of the former bureaucrat than what meets the eye. It could also be an attempt to sheild its own leaders who could be ones calling the shots, even as Mayaram may have only been following orders.
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