An energy firm floated by the Private Secretary to Union Minister Nitin Gadkari has been receiving government grants, in possible violation of rules governing the conduct of civil servants, reports The Hindu.
Vaibhav Dange—who earlier worked as an RSS functionary and is an old Gadkari loyalist—was appointed PS to the Minister of Road Transport, Highways and Shipping on 8 August 2014.
On 9 October 2014, Dange floated the Indian Federation of Green Energy (IFGE) along with one Motiram Kisanrao Patil. Both hold 50% shares each.
The company is registered under Section 8 of the Companies Act 2013, which means it is supposed to operate for “charitable” or “not-for-profit” purposes. IFGE lists Gadkari and Suresh Prabhu, Union Minister of Commerce and Industry, among its patrons.
However, Rule 12 of the Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules states:
“No Government servant shall, except with the previous sanction of the Government or of the prescribed authority, ask for or accept contributions to, or otherwise associate himself with the raising of, any funds or other collections in cash or in kind in pursuance of any object whatsoever.”
Although Dange denied that he had violated any rule, documents from the Registrar of Companies (RoC), as per The Hindu, show that IFGE has either raised or invited funds, including from government departments and state-owned entities.
At the end of FY 2015, the company’s balance sheet showed Rs 74 lakh as cash in hand, while declaring Rs 73 lakh as ‘corpus grant in trust’.
In 2015-16 financial year, the balance sheet showed a corpus grant of Rs 1.33 crore.
In the same balance sheet, the company said: “Treatment of Grant in Aid has been made in the accounts as per AS-12 Accounting for Government Grants.”
Considering that the filing is declared to be in conformity with the accounting standard required for government grants suggests that the IFGE indeed received a grant-in-aid from the government.
It appears that IFGE has not only been raising funds but also organising events with support from the government, especially from Gadkari’s ministry — even though Dange denied that Gadkari’s ministry had allotted any money to the company.
The website of IFGE shows it has been involved in organising conferences and seminars in partnership with departments and PSUs under Gadkari, who was earlier national president of the BJP.
For example, IFGE was part of the “steering committee” of the ‘Global Bamboo Summit’ held in April 2016 at Indore, Madhya Pradesh. The event was supported by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
In May 2017, the IFGE and the Ministry of Shipping organised a ‘Conclave on Green Ports & Oil Spill Management’ in Mumbai. It was supported by Indian Ports Association and Mumbai Port Trust—among other organisations associated with the Ministry, such as the Sagarmala project—and inaugurated by Gadkari.
The conclave’s brochure said a port could become a sponsor of the event by contributing between Rs 3 lakh and Rs 15 lakh.
However, Dange told The Hindu in a written statement: “I categorically and emphatically state that I have not violated any central civil services (conduct) rules or any other service rules in any manner whatsoever ever since I have joined the government service.”
What raises more questions is the curious fact that nine days after The Hindu sent a questionnaire to Dange (on November 7), IFGE filed documents on November 16 showing that Dange had resigned as its director. In fact, the resignation letter filed with the Registrar of Companies states that Dange resigned on 13 September 2017.
When the newspaper questioned Dange on his resignation from IFGE, he said:
“It may be noted that I was involved in setting up IFGE when I was not part of the Government and after joining the Government I took steps to resign from IFGE even though it is open even for full-time, career government officials to undertake any work of literary, scientific or charitable nature.”
Dange claimed that IFGE was started on 30 November 2013, before he became PS to Gadkari.
“The IFGE, an independent organisation, was started on 30th November 2013 (application to RoC) when I was a private individual and not part of the Government,” he said.
But this contradicts what the RoC documents show, that IFGE was incorporated on 9 October 2014, two months after Dange was appointed PS to Gadkari.
Dange also stressed the fact that IFGE was a “not for profit” organisation.
Meanwhile, the newspaper clarified that Union Ministers and IFGE patrons Gadkari and Prabhu were not available for comment.
Usually, IAS officers are appointed to the post of Private Secretary to Union Ministers. Dange, according to this India Today report, was organising secretary of the RSS-backed ABVP in Maharashtra’s Vidharbha region between 1996 and 1999. Later, he was part of the ‘swadeshi movement’ of RSS and worked for its unit called the Centre for Bharatiya Marketing Development in Delhi, until 2006.
Between 2006 and 2010, Dange worked with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).