RTI Investigation (part 5): PSUs are an easy pool of money for politicians to dip into

MPs across party lines have made it a habit to ask for funds for their pet causes and organisations with which they are associated.

WrittenBy:Sandeep Pai
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In the first four articles of this Right to Information (RTI) investigation series, it was detailed how Members of Parliament and ministers in the current as well as the former government milked public sector undertakings (PSUs) for ads, sponsorships and their pet causes. RTI responses also detailed allegations of corruption against a Bharatiya Janata Party and a Congress MP.

In this part, RTI responses show how many MPs -- current as well as former -- across parties have made it a routine practice to write letters to Chairmen and Managing Directors of PSUs seeking funds and sponsorships.In a majority of these cases, these MPs were asking for funds for newspapers and non-government organisations with which they are directly associated.

Prasanna Kumar Patasani

Lok Sabha MP of the Biju Janata Dal (BJD)

Patasani, five-time BJD MP from Bhubaneswar, dons the hat of both an MP and a marketing manager for Vishwamukti Publications, of which he is the chief editor as well as chairman. Patasani writes almost habitually to different PSUs for sponsorships; he also attaches tariffs and gives suggestions on the various sponsorship options PSUs can opt for.

In last three years, Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) sanctioned Rs 12 lakh after his requests. Apart from GAIL, Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (PGCIL), National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) and National Hydroelectric Power Corporation National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) sanctioned 15 lakh, 10.5 lakh and 6 lakh, respectively to this BJD MP, according to RTI responses.

More than 50 of his letters (on his letterhead to different PSUs) seeking funds for either advertisement in the magazine run by Vishwamukti, or some event organised by them were assessed through RTI queries. In one case, he asked for sponsorship of a book published by Vishwamukti.

In a letter to NTPC Chief, he described the book being published and said, “... I would request your good self that the publication of the above book (5000 copies) in hindi be sponsored by NTPC Ltd, GOI... Necessary orders may be given to your concerned office for issuing sponsorship of Rs 2 lakhs in favour of Vishwamukti...”

In another letter to NTPC Chief, Patasani writes to CMD of Central Coalfields Limited (CCL) on January 18, 2013 saying, “...Please recall our discussion OL meeting at Chennai on 17.01.2013 regarding the above cited subject [Release an Advt for Rajbhasha & Tourism Special (Hindi)]...I am closely associated with the institution [Vishwamukti] since its inception as chairman and chief editor...You are requested to release an advert [Tariff enclosed] for Rajbhasha & Tourism...”Our calls and mails to Patasani went unanswered.

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Captain Jai Narayan Prasad Nishad

Former MP from Muzaffarpur, Bihar

Captain Jai Narayan Prasad Nishad (former MP) and his son Ajay Nishad (a BJP MP from Muzaffarpur) have been seeking funds from PSUs for organisations such as Society for Social Empowerment and Research and Analysis Commission for empowerment. The father-son duo had also written numerous letters, some of them angry, for promoting Journal Politico, which is owned by Society for Social Empowerment.

According to RTI documents, these organisations have been cumulatively given more than Rs 3 lakh by three PSUs -- NTPC, NHPC and GAIL.On October 28, 2013, Captain Nishad wrote to GAIL’s CMD saying, “The editor of “News Ideology” Namely Arjun Singh is a very eligible person and journalist. Arjun Singh is very close to me. He is going to publish an edition on Public Sector & Government Sector. I personally request you to provide an advertisement for this fortnightly magazine. This help by you to this fortnightly will be like the help by you to me.” GAIL sanctioned Rs 44,000 to News Ideology.

On July 31, 2013, Captain Nishad wrote to Jyotiraditya Scindia, the then Minister of State for Power, saying, “I am forwarding a letter of Sh Dinkar Sharma, Secretary General of the organising committee on 5th National Exhibition and Conference on Science – Tech/ food processing... I shall be greatful, if you could kindly arrange to instruct your officials for participating in this national level exhibition through myriad pavilion/ stall from ministers/ department ...”

Interestingly, the glossy annexure mentions that Captain Nishad is the patron of the organisation.Our mails and calls to Ajay Nishad went unanswered.

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Sakuntala Laguri

BJD Lok Sabha MP from Keonjhar, Odisha

Sakuntala Laguri, the BJP MP from Keonjhar in Odisha, and her husband Yashbant Narayan Singh Laguri (who was an MP from Keonjhar during 2009-14), seem to write to every PSU every month for advertisements for a magazine called Sandesh Bureau, which they run from 171, North Avenue, New Delhi. This is very close to their official address of 176, North Avenue.The Laguris have managed more Rs 5 lakh of funding as advertisements for Sandesh Bureau from many PSUs such as NTPC Ltd, Mahanadi Coalfields Limited, PGCIL, NHPC Ltd, Central Coalfields Limited and many others.We reached out to Laguir for her comment and she directed us to speak to her PS Parveen Verma. He denied any conflict of interest in Laguri asking for advertisements.

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Dr Arvind Sharma

Former Congress MP from Haryana

Dr Arvind Sharma, former MP from Karnal, Haryana, has written numerous letters to PSU chiefs for ads for the newspapers, Yuva Natritva Jyoti, which is run by Dr Narender Kumar, a close associate.

In his letter to CMD, Rural Electrification Corporation (REC), Dr Sharma as for a sponsorship of Rs 80,000 and said, “We would like to request you to pl.help & recommend one full page for the above publication [Yuva Natritva Jyoti Hindi Paper] for support. In this regard many requests are pending which are strongly recommended by us... So please give the order to concerned officer for release One full page advt pf REC and sent to the mail of editorynj@gmail.com cc to tejnupmanyu@gmail.com & call my close associates Dr Narendra Kumar...”

Our calls to Sharma went unanswered.

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Additional reporting: Manisha Pande and Arunabh Saikia

The first of the five-part RTI investigation series reveals how MPs used PSUs as cash-vending machines. Part two of the series detailed how a Congress MP used his official capacity to get ads for his media conglomerate. Part three detalied how ministers write to PSU chief for funds and part four of the series reported on allegations against a BJP MP and PSU chief for embezzling funds in the name of CSR.


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