If there is one thing that the United Progressive Alliance was an expert at, it was in finding ways to do graft in just about every deal. Purchase of security printing paper (SPP) from the British supplier De La Rue and the associated scams refuse to go away. And it involves Mr. P Chidambaram (PC), Ashok Chawla (named in the Aircel-Maxis charge sheet, against whom Sanction for Prosecution was given) and Arvind Mayaram.
Will this government act against PC and officials criminally, who have compromised the security of the country? Should this case not be given priority over other corruption cases involving PC?
It all began in 2005. At that time, Arvind Mayaram was a Joint Secretary and Ashok Chawla an Additional Secretary in the Finance Ministry. A part of the ministry was hived and a new company, titled Security Printing & Minting Corporation of India Ltd. (SPMCIL), was created in 2006. The founding Managing Director was Arvind Mayaram and the founding Chairman was Ashok Chawla.
MD, Chairman appointed without ACC
Appointments of this nature require approval from the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC). But surprisingly, these two appointments were never put up before the ACC and they started functioning. The Bharatiya Reserve Bank Note Mudran Private Limited (BRBNMPL) was tasked by Chawla and Mayaram with the job of finding an SPP supplier, with the help of SPMCIL. This is a favored tactic by the UPA government – at the slightest hint of a scarcity, decide to import and skim off money by over-invoicing the import. Is this what happened? We will get to this later.
De La Rue was in breach of Security Contract
The government keeps changing the features on a rupee note periodically to deter counterfeiters. Typical features that get changed are the Metallic thread, Intaglio ink, Watermark text etc. This is routine stuff that happens with any country’s currency. A committee headed by Shilabadra Banerjee was formed in 2009 to decide on what changes were going to be effected.
De La Rue came out with a stunning revelation in 2010 that the quality of the security printing paper was falsified by some employees of the company. They were in breach of Security contract with the Indian Government on the supply of SPP, after which the Indian government decided to blacklist De La Rue. This was done by Chidambaram in consultation with the Home Ministry. Pranab Mukherjee became the Finance Minister immediately thereafter. However, India continued to get SPP from them on an ad-hoc basis.
By 2011-12, the government was ready to float an e-tender to find a new SPP supplier. By Aug 1 2012, Mayaram had become the Secretary of Economic Affairs under Chidambaram.
Now the mischief
Arvind Mayaram knowing full well that De La Rue was blacklisted, continued to source SPP from them. De La Rue held a patent for the currency thread, and this too was bought from De La Rue, despite the blacklisting. Mayaram wanted to continue import of SPP from De La Rue despite the e-tender floated under Shilabadra Banerjee committee findings. So he decided to write to Home Ministry on his own, seeking permission from HM to permit import of SPP from De La Rue for a period of three years. This file was not shown to Chidambaram despite the fact that whenever the Finance Ministry wrote to the HM on De La Rue, they always sought the Finance Minister’s approval. This is hard to believe as PC is known to micro-manage his ministry.
Change of Government
When the NDA came to power in 2014, it was brought to the attention of the new Home Minister Rajnath Singh that India was continuing to buy SPP from De La Rue. This decision was promptly reversed and by 2015, India started getting SPP from other sources. The price in 2015 was significantly less than the price in 2005! It is alleged that at least three individuals, including Karti were on the take.
Mayaram’s conduct was brought to the attention of the Prime Minister’s Office, which took a serious view and ordered an inquiry by the Office of the Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC). Rajiv was the CVC at that time and the Office of CVC asked for the files from the Finance Ministry/ Dept. of Economic Affairs (DEA).
DEA, under Jaitley did not reply promptly nor did they give any papers. After this matter came to the notice of the Prime Minister, CVC got the files. By that time the CVC changed and K V Chowdary had become the CVC. It should be borne in mind that Chowdary is known to be close to PC and Arun Jaitley and has a history of own skullduggery.
Charges being framed
The latest information is that charges are being framed against Mayaram by the CVC and the CBI. Sourcing the SPP from the same company that also sold to Pakistan made it easy for them to counterfeit Indian currency.
Whatever the crime, the charges must be pursued and the concerned officials must be prosecuted to the full extent of law. Officials along with PC must be prosecuted besides administrative action.
ACC approval for Mayaram in 2008
Mayaram’s appointment as the MD of SPMCIL was finally approved by the ACC in 2008. It is interesting to note here that Chawla’s position as the Chairman was never approved by the ACC!
Will this government act against PC and officials criminally, who have compromised the security of the country? Should this case not be given priority over other corruption cases involving PC? Mr. Modi, please act.
 CVC meeting minutes expose how CVC selected Asthana over the CBI Director’s objections – Nov 25, 2017, PGurus.com