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

Hindus to be 'sent' to Kashmir? Despite Israeli settlements, peace eludes the region

By Anand K Sahay*
Curfew, news and communications blackout, transportation shut-down... News reports from Kashmir are worrying. So are the views relayed through the media, especially television. Old-fashioned repression seems to be consorting comfortably with expressions of concern “for our Kashmiri brethren”. We are looking at Orwell’s 1984 in the making.

Savarkar 'opposed' Bhagat Singh's, Netaji's dream of India, supported British war efforts

By Shamsul Islam*
In a shocking development, the student wing of the RSS put the busts of martyrs Bhagat Singh and Subhash Chandra Bose with Savarkar's on one pedestal at the University of Delhi late in the night on August 20, 2019. Bhagat Singh sacrificed his life for a socialist-democratic-secular republic and Netaji raised Azad Hind Fauj (INA) consisting of people of all religions and regions for armed liberation of India.

Dholera 'inundated': Gujarat govt tries selling low lying area as top smart city site

Counterview Desk
Even as the Dholera Special Investment Region Regional Development Authority (DSIRDA) of the Gujarat government was busy organising a junket for Gujarat-based journalists for the area sought to be sold as an ideal special investment region (SIR) for industrialists, well-known farmers' activist Sagar Rabari has wondered why no investor has so far agreed to put in money in an area situated in Ahmedabad district along the Gulf of Khambhat.

UN experts object to GoI move to 'reinforce' trend of prosecution, eviction of tribals

Counterview Desk
In a report sent to the Government of India, three United Nations (UN) special rapporteurs, expressing "concerns" over the failure to ensure "adequate" implementation of the India Forest Rights Act (FRA), have regretted that the Government of India has not cared to reply their previous communications on this.

Modi's Gujarati mind? Why govt move to 'sell-off' defence PSUs isn't in national interest

By Sandeep Pandey*
The Standing Committee on Defence, 2017-18, of the 16th Lok Sabha highlights the idea of Buy Indian-IDDM (Indigenously Designed Developed and Manufactured). The Committee expressed concern over the import content of equipments produced and developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Ordnance Factories (OFs) and defence Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) because of the dependence it creates for military hardware on foreign suppliers.

As submergence stares Narmada valley, Patkar says: With powerful in throne, we're helpless

Counterview Desk
Well-known anti-dam organization, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), plans to begin its “Resist Illegal Submergence in Narmada Valley” satyagraha on August 21 at Jantar Mantar, Delhi, amidst news that the situation in the valley is “critical”, with two persons having already died in flood-related incidents in the upstream of the Sardar Sarovar dam.

RTI Act holy cow for Govt of India? Official insists, don't ask why, when, what, where

By Pankti Jog*
The Government of India appears to have begun treating the Right to Information (RTI) Act as a holy cow. Its officials seem to believe that the Act is a sacred law, under which people shouldn't be questioning its functioning. One recalls what Prime Minister Narendra Modi said while addressing an RTI convention in 2015: “Why should government wait for people to ask information, we will have all information out in the domain, we have nothing to hide."

Strategy for united struggle against Hindutva 'fascism': Ideological silence is 'no option'

By Dr Bhabani Shankar Nayak*
Electoral alliance and opportunism of national and regional political parties, neoliberal economic marginalisation and soft secular Hindutva line pandering to Hindu majoritarianism laid the foundation of Hindutva fascism in post-colonial India.

Can't go to court with RTI information, rule Ahmedabad authorities: Kankaria accident

By Pankti Jog*
In a shocking reply to an application filed by me, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) authorities have said that the information provided under the Right to Information (RT) Act should be used in court or in a judicial process. The Act is known to be a major tool that enables citizens to seek certified copies of documents, records from any public authority of state and Central government within 30 days, as per provisions of the Act.

Kashmirisation of India? Ayodhya communal harmony meet: Activists stopped, detained

Counterview Desk
In a joint statement, three civil rights organizations, Rihai Manch, National Alliance of People's Movements and Lok Rajniti Manch, and Socialist Party (India), have taken strong exception to the Uttar Pradesh government taking "preventive" steps against those seeking to hold a meeting on communal harmony at Ayodhya.