Union Power, Agriculture Secretaries at the crossroads

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New Delhi: Union Power Secretary Alok Kumar and Agriculture Secretary Sanjay Agarwal are at a crossroads in their careers, with the CBI seeking permission to investigate them in connection with a Rs 2,268 crore Provident Fund scam.

Both top bureaucrats are IAS officers from the Uttar Pradesh cadre. Agriculture Secretary Sanjay Agarwal is a 1984 batch officer who will retire next month, and Power Secretary Alok Kumar is a 1988 batch officer. Alok also served on central deputation in the Power Ministry from 2008 to 2010. He holds a civil engineering degree, whereas Agriculture Secretary Sanjay Agarwal holds an electrical engineering degree.

The CBI is seeking to sanction the two officers to investigate illegally investing the provident funds of UPPCL employees in a private company, Dewan Housing Finance Ltd (DHFL), which was later accused of siphoning off more than Rs 31,000 crore of bank loans through a network of shell companies.

While frantic discussions are taking place through various channels to resolve the issue and create an escape route for the senior bureaucrats to avoid the CBI investigation, the PMO wants the entire focus shifted to the state by repatriating them to their parent cadre to face the CBI probe.

UPPCL invested a total of Rs 4,122 crore in DHFL’s short-term fixed deposit schemes, of which Rs 1,854 crore was repaid when the FDs matured, but Rs 2,268 crore has yet to be repaid.

Sanjay Agarwal was the chairman of UPPCL from 2013 to 2017, and a portion of UPPCL employees’ PF money was invested in DHFL during this time. The investment in DHFL was in violation of government guidelines, which stated explicitly that PF funds should not be invested in any financial institution that is not a scheduled bank. Alok Kumar took over as CEO of UPPCL after Agarwal, and he continued to invest in DHFL. Kumar was the CEO of UPPCL for nearly two years, according to reports.

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