Governor's NGO: Bold Scheme for Loot in Uttaranchal

THE GOVERNOR of Uttarakhand (Uttaranchal in official language), Sudarshan Agrawal has achieved notoriety, not for political partisanship, as in the case of other Governors, but for running an ingenious NGO from the Governor's seat! He ran an NGO called ‘Himjyoti Foundation' from Governor House, and it is on account of his post that this NGO now has 7.2 crores in its coffers.

This NGO has many heavyweight donors – including the State Government (Rs. 50 lakhs) ONGC (Rs 41 lakhs), Yoga Multinational, Divya Yoga Mandir Trust of Baba Ramdev (Rs. 25 lakhs) and even the notorious J P Company, notorious for constructing the Tehri Dam and responsible for the death of more than a 100 workers in a tunnel due to negligence, (Rs. 11 lakhs). Among the donors is also an IRS Officer against whom a CBI probe is on.

A powerful students' agitation was launched recently against illegal practices by private B. Ed colleges in Uttarakhand. Many of these institutions – Pestle Weed College , Dehradun (1 lakh two thousand), Dolphin Education Society, Dehnradun (28,000) – figure in the list of donors to the Governor's NGO. How can the agitating students expect the Governor to intervene against these illegal institutions, when he is beholden to them for donations? In his capacity as Governor, he is also Chancellor of Garhwal and Kumaon Universities .

The NGO run by the Governor has the strong backing of the State Government at many levels. While the Governor is Chairman of the NGO, secretarial responsibilities lie with the Secretary to the Governor Mr. N. Ravishankar (IAS); the official address of the NGO is Governor House, Uttaranchal; and the NGO shares the official email id of the Governor himself!

Donations to this NGO are tax free, thanks to a hurried process soon after the NGO was registered on 27 February 2003 by the Registrar of Societies of Uttaranchal. On March 4 2003 itself, the Income Tax Commissioner, Finance Ministry, Government of India, made the donations tax free. The Governor's NGO could get this certification in just 5 days – whereas it normally takes 3 years.

Various State Governments departments which claim a fund crunch when people demand developmental work, have been generous in donations to this NGO. The Uttaranchal Tourism Board has donated Rs. 6, 29,250; the Department of Information, Rs. 96, 000; the Utatranchal Power Corporation, Rs. 16, 000 and the Mussoorie Dehradun Authority, Rs. 16, 000.

This NGO has also been quite auspicious for its donors. The Nainital High Court gave a judgement in favour of the workers of Baba Ramdev's Divya Jyoti Factory in Hardwar . Despite this, the Government has taken no action to implement labour laws, and the workers are on the brink of starvation. Two industrialists – executive committee members of the Governor's NGO – Brij Mohan Lal Munjal (owner of Hero Honda Motors) and R, K. Saboo were awarded Honoris Causa Doctorate degrees by the H N B Garhwal University at its Fifth Convocation. Can it be coincidence that B M Munjal has donated Rs. 2, 50, 000 and R K Saboo's Smt. Kamala Devi Saboo Charitable Trust donated Rs. 1 lakh to the Governor's NGO?

Governor Sudarshan Agrawal has given orders allocating 2.023 hectares in Danda Noorivala village of Dehradun to the Himalayan School Society for a ninety-year lease. Apart from this, a further 2.476 hectares were allotted to the same society for non-construction purposes. The Treasurer of this Society is Rakesh Oberoi who has donated Rs. 2, 44, 000 to the Governor's NGO.

The Chairman of the Badrinath Kedarnath Temple Committee Nand Kishore Nautiyal, is well-known for corruption in his 3-year tenure. But he was eventually dismissed because he did not pay up Rs 10 lakh to the Governor's NGO. On 25 October 2004 , Sudarshan Agrawal had written to Nautiyal on his official letterhead, “I shall be happy if you make a generous contribution from the Badri Kedar Temple Committee funds for this initiative. In case you decide to contribute Rs. 10 lakhs, we shall name two scholars in perpetuity as Badri Kedar Scholars.” The Temple Committee offered Rs. 2, 50, 000 only – and the Governor refused to accept; and Nautiyal was denied a second term as BKTC Chairman!

And who receives favours from this “charitable” NGO? The RSS-affiliated institutions, of course, which helped Agrawal to be appointed to the post of Governor in the first place. His NGO gave Rs. 10.75 lakhs to the ‘Information Technology Institute for Tribes in India', located in Dehradun – an institute run by the Editor of the RSS organ Panchjanya, which injects Hindutva communal poison into the youth of the North East.

Three left parties, the CPI(ML), the CPI(M) and the CPI addressed a joint Press Conference and sent a memorandum to the President of India demanding immediate withdrawal of Sudarshan Agrawal. In desperation, Agrawal has decided to vacate the post of Chairman of the NGO, and has appointed J C Pant (Retd. IAS) who heads the State Administration Reform Commission as his successor. This is a veiled way of continuing his fiefdom and escaping punishment. In 2008, Agrawal's term as Governor comes to an end; and he may wind up the NGO too since the registration of the NGO too end in February 26, 2008 .

The Left parties' campaign against this blatant scheme of loot by the Governor has made an impact in the State, and holds out some hope of an alternative to the people of the State, who are beleaguered by the rampant corruption at all levels in the new State.

– Indiresh Maikhuri