Skip to main content

Gujarat's "turnaround man" blames IAS colleagues for failing to act by constitution during 2002 riots

By Rajiv Shah
A Gujarat cadre IAS bureaucrat with impeccable reputation, Alexander K Luke -- termed “turnaround man” by captains of industry across India in mid-2000s for pushing top public sector undertaking (PSU) Gujarat State Fertlizers and Chemicals (GSFC) from the red -- has held the state’s “top administrative level” responsible for failing to act impartially during the “2002 Gujarat bloodbath.”
In a just-released book he has authored, Luke has said, had the police and IAS officials “held firm and did what they were required to do by the constitution”, a collapse of the administration “could have been avoided.” Luke headed GSFC from 2003 to 2006.
Luke was forced to resign from the IAS two years before he was to retire (2008) after he refused to follow an order of to allow concession to a contractor. He recalls in the book how he was humiliated in an official report, and how the then chief minister Narendra Modi accepted his resignation without waiting three-day he had offered him him to “rethink.”
The resignation came despite the fact he was compared by a top industrialist with Lee Iacocca, who had turned around Chrysler. Luke won accolades from Industrial Development Bank of India and Reliance Mutual Fund for his GSFC turnaround, and the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad took up a case study on how he saved GSFC.
In a first-ever account by an IAS bureaucrat of state officialdom’s behaviour during those tumultuous days, Luke in his autobiographical book, “Passport to Gujarat: Hazardous Journeys”, has recalled how three days after the riots hit Gujarat, February 28, 2002, he approached the then Gujarat chief secretary G Subbarao offering his services for the relief camps which were being set-up for the victims of violence.”
Wali Gujarati
Rejecting the proposal, Subbarao “looked mildly amused”, said Luke. He seemed to scoff at Luke’s “naiveté”, giving the impression that “running relief camps was not a high priority for the government.” The book runs in 365 pages, and is dotted with anecdotes about her his personal experiences during the years he was in Gujarat as IAS bureaucrat.
In a second instance, Luke said, on his way back to his residence in Shahibaugh in Ahmedabad from Gandhinagar, he saw the shrine dedicated to the memory of great poet Vali Gujarati had been destroyed.
But what shocked him was “within a week of this act of vandalism, the municipality paved over this area wiping out any traces of the original shrine.” Comments Luke, “This second act of desecration was probably worse than the first which had been carried out by murderous mobs. The Municipal Corporation chief (P Panneervel) was a pleasant and jovial IAS officer.”
In a third instance, Luke said, his IAS colleagues were “scared to even talk about a letter he had written to the IAS Association denouncing the 2002 violence and “the need for officers to make a statement reiterating determination to take strong steps to bring back peace, protect the innocent and punish the guilty.”
Calling upon IAS officials for a meeting of the Association, the letter, he said, especially stressed that the officials should “follow only those orders which were lawful.” He added, he had “faxed” the letter with his signature and after two days he enquired of the IAS Association head as to “what was planned.”
Not only officials were afraid of discussing the letter, he suspects, “My letter could not have remained a secret to the excellent intelligence agencies operating in the state. I continued denouncing the violence to whoever would listen.”
“A politician’s instruction or lack of it cannot ride roughshod over our constitutional duties. Too many officers forgot this as they lost their nerve. The politicians themselves may later blame you for not doing what should have been done regardless of the public mood and their own murderous rhetoric of the moment”, Luke says in the book.
Luke says, Gujarat bloodbath of 2002 “could have been blunted if the top authorities in the government had taken matters into their own hands and re-established law and order without listening to those who were emotionally unbalanced at that time”.
“If they were prevented from doing so by intimidation, they could have threatened to resign. If the Chief Secretary, Home Secretary, DGP and others had done this, then the rightful authority of the state would have been quickly re-established”, he said.
According to Luke, “No chief minister of a state, no matter how angry, would be happy to see murderous disorder on the streets particularly when he had just taken over. Many party functionaries descended to the level of those who had set the train on fire. But that was no reason for the State apparatus to have stood paralysed.”

Comments

TRENDING

Whistle-blowing IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt's wife suspects foul play after truck hits her car

By Nachiketa Desai*
Paranoia has seized Shweta Bhatt, wife of suspended Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Sanjiv Bhatt, after the car she was driving was rammed in broad day light. According to Shweta Bhatt, it was beacon light-flashing truck without registration number plate. The incident took place on January 7, just a day ahead of the Gujarat High Court was scheduled to take up the bail application of Sanjiv Bhatt, arrested last year for "involvement" in a 23-year-old case.

Call to support IIM-Bangalore professor, censured for seeking action against Uniliver

Counterview Desk
Sections of the Indian Institute of Managements (IIMs) across India have strongly reacted to the decision to censure Dr Deepak Malghan, a faulty at IIM-Bangalore. Prabhir Vishnu Poruthiyil, who is faculty at IIM-Tiruchirapalli, has sought wider solidarity with Dr Malghan, saying, "The administration has censured Deepak for merely suggesting a meaningful action against Hindustan Unilever for their abysmal environmental record" by “disinviting” it for campus placement.

99% MGNREGA funds "exhausted", Govt of India makes no additional sanctions: Study

Counterview Desk
A letter, addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and prepared by senior activists led by Aruna Roy on behalf of the Peoples’ Action for Employment Guarantee (PAEG), and signed, among others, by 80 members of Parliament, has regretted that, despite repeated public statements by his government promising employment and job creation that will boost the country’s growth, the country’s only employment guarantee programme, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), “is being systematically undermined.”

Morari Bapu, who has installed new statues of Ram, Laxman, Hanuman without weapons

By Sandeep Pandey*
A saint is one who can give some inner peace by his/her voice. This will happen only when s(he) will talk about love and harmony. Morari Bapu is one saint who has been conveying the message of love, peace, harmony, fraternity, etc. Today when a number of saffron clad figures with aggressive posture, spewing venom, fanning hatred to polarise voters are at the forefront of politics of Hindutva it is a relief to see Morari Bapu in a different mould.

Nuclear reactors sought from French giant "not safe": Letter to Modi on Jaitapur project

Counterview Desk
Amidst reports that the French nuclear giant EDF has submitted a “techno-commercial offer” for the world’s largest nuclear power park proposed in Maharashtra’s Jaitapur nuclear power park in Jaitapur on the Maharashtra coast, Dr EAS Sarma, India’s former Union Secretary in the Minister of Power, and an eminent voice in the civil society, has written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who also heads Department of Atomic Energy (DAE),  protesting the move.

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

Kerala land being acquired using "draconian, anti-people" National Highway Act, 1956

Counterview Desk
In a letter Chief Minister of Kerala Pinarayi Vijayan, senior activists and politicians have insisted that the Kerala government should not agree to "inhuman displacement and buid-operate-transfer (BOT) Toll system", imposed by the Government of India and the National Highway Authority of India, for widening the current National Highway (NH) 66.

Kaiga NPP expansion: Karnataka to get just 400 MW, but lose thick forest, fresh water

Counterview Desk
In an open letter to the chairman and members of the Atomic energy Commission (AEC) on the issue of Kaiga nuclear power plant (NPP) expansion plan in Karnataka, Shankar Sharma, well-known power policy analyst, has argued that that in case of expansion, the site will face “exponential increase in radiation emission risks”, underlining, “Nuclear safety experts identify such a scenario as enhanced risk for NPPs with multiple reactors and shared technical facilities."
Sharma says the questions that also be asked whether Karnataka should lose more than 54 hectares of thick forests and about 152,304 cubic meters of fresh water per day from Kali river for a meager benefit of 400 MW from the Kaiga NPP, for which “there are many benign alternative options available for the state at much lower overall costs to the state.”
Text of the letter: This has reference to the public hearing under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Rule 2006 of Ministry of Environment, Fore…

Uttarakhand High Court: Biodiversity boards can impose fees on Ramdev's Divya Pharmacy

By Mridhu Tandon
In a significant decision, the Uttarakhand High Court on December 21, 2018 has dismissed the writ petition filed by Divya Pharmacy founded by Baba Ramdev and Acharya Balakrishnan, challenging the demand of the Uttarakhand Biodiversity Board (UBB) imposing fees under the provisions of the Fair and Equitable Benefit Sharing (FEBS).

Modi becoming Prime Minister now appears to be an "accident" to the people of India

By Sandeep Pandey*
Anupam Kher's film 'Accidental Prime Minister' has targeted Dr Manmohan Singh who served for two terms and may be again acceptable for the job if his party regains power. But his tormentor Narendra Modi seems to be out of breath even before his first term is over. Disillusionment with him is so widespread and deep that people of India may not bear with him for another term. As the general elections approach again the difference between the two needs to be examined.