Montek Singh Ahluwalia gets a Padma for what?

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: Unlike the Padma awards last year which had the media doing cartwheels over the inclusion of the controversial New York hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal for the Padma Bhushan, the 2011 roll of honour has barely created any bubbles in the champagne glasses.

The silence of even a committed partypooper like P. Sainath might make it seem as if the scam and scandal-tainted Manmohan Singh government has finally got something right. But has it?

Au contraire, we present item No.7 on the list of the 13 awardees chosen for the nation’s second highest civilian honour, the Padma Vibhushan.

No. 7: Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

Discipline: public affairs.

Stranger things have happened in India id est Bharat, of course, but it’s strange that the inclusion of a serving bureaucrat who is the serving deputy chairman of the planning commission should go uncommented upon in the business press that is currently lying in the lap of neo-liberal luxury in Davos.

Question #1: Is it a good idea for a serving babu to be elevated to the exalted status of a Padma Vibhushan?

A diligent user of Wikipedia will be able to see if pen-pushers have been similarly provided a “service lift” before sadda Montek, but that is not our beef with the career-bureaucrat”s selection. It is more primal. It’s like WTF is his contribution to humankind to deserve the Padma Vibhushan?

WTF, as in What’s The Funda, yaar.

Generally but not always, the preferred method of picking up a Padma Vibhushan is to carefully pick up a Padma Sri first and then even more carefully pick up a Padma Bhushan.

Take Azim Premji. The Wipro boss, who has provided employment to a few thousand people, got a Padma Bhushan in 2005 and had to wait till 2011 for get his Padma Vibhushan. Or take the actor Akkineni Nageshwara Rao (ANR), who has provided pleasure to a few million people, who went through the long route.

But our brilliant babu gets fast-tracked to Padma Vibhushan just like that—sans a Padma Sri, sans a Padma Bhushan—in fact his name preceding Premji’s, who’s ninth on the list? WTF.

WTF, as in Who’s The Fu Manchu, yaar.

Question #2: Are Montek Singh Ahluwalia’s qualifications so immense, his achievements so mammoth, and his contributions to his countrymen and women so extraordinary that he deserves nothing but the second best award the nation can give straightaway?

Even a cursory glance at Montek’s Wikipedia page tells you that there is nothing particularly out-of-this-world in the man.

Words and letters like DPS, Bishop Cotton’s, St. Stephen’s, Oxford, BA, MA, MPhil are littered all over. He apparently picked up one half of his strange accent as the youngest “division chief” in the much-abhorred World Bank; and the other half as a director in the even more abhorred international monetary fund (IMF).

But that’s typically the trajectory of most high-achieving climbers—creepers as some call them—and for that we decorate him with a Padma Vibhushan?

WTF, as in Wisconsin Tourism Federation, yaar.

Question #3: Is Montek Singh Ahluwalia the only officer among the 5,159 IAS officers in the country doing yeoman service in the year of the lord 2011?

However, it is the timing of Montek Singh Ahluwalia’s choice, given his record past and present, that is most baffling.

Montek’s role in the Enron scandal in fixing sky-high anti-consumer electricity charges that ultimately turned the Dabhol Power Company belly-up is much documented to be retold again.

As the advocate Prashant Bhushan wrote in 2004:

Jyoti Basu called him a “World Bank man”…. As revenue secretary and then finance secretary through most of the 1990s, Ahluwalia spearheaded the neo-liberal economic policies in India, exactly according to the prescriptions of the WB/IMF. But his enthusiasm for privatisation went beyond the most basic financial prudence that even the World Bank observed.”

In suddenly awarding the Padma Vibhushan at this juncture it is as if Manmohan Singh—the father of LPG: liberalisation, privatisation, globalisation—is fobbing off his blue-eyed boy with a piece of chikki having failed in accommodating him in the reshuffled ministry a couple of weeks ago.

(Montek recently figured in the Niira Radia tapes, courtesy his kinsman N.K. Singh, as eyeing a ministerial portfolio.)

And then there is the ultimate irony of it all.

When food inflation and fuel inflation are screwing the aam admi, when Maoist violence is shining a light on planning in the tribal areas, when farmer suicides are going on unabated, when bureaucratic redtape has made India the worst business destination in Asia, the nation decides to decorate the deputy chairman of the planning commission with a Padma Vibhushan!

For what, pursuing growth at all costs?

Question #4: By rewarding a fellow-traveller, has Manmohan Singh sent the clearest signal yet that he may not be around as prime minister this time next year to do the needful?

History might not give a rat’s posterior to the Padma Vibhushan, but it will surely remember neo-liberal Montek’s neo-conservative George W. Bush moment last week.

Just like the US former president blamed the global food crisis in 2007 on hungry Indians eating more, Montek observed that “the high inflation number points towards people eating healthier food, better lifestyles“.

As the food expert, Devinder Sharma writes:

“Montek Singh Ahluwalia has been at the helm of India’s planning process for quite some time now. It is during his tenure as the deputy chairman of the planning commission that India has been pushed deeper and deeper into the quagmire of poverty. With the largest population of hungry in the world, the Global Hunger Index 2010 has placed India in the pit.

“I wasn’t therefore shocked when I read Ahluwalia blame the hungry for the rise in food inflation. From someone who literally lives in the ivory tower of the Yojana Bhawan, anything can be expected. But what, of course, surprised me was the audacity with which he blamed the poor and hungry in the rural countryside for the rising inflation.”

And for this Marie Antoinette-esque moment, we decorate the deputy chairman of the planning commission with a Padma Vibhushan? WTF.

WTF, as in Who The Fuck is Alice, yaar.

Question #5: By goofing up with Sant Singh Chatwal one year and Montek Singh Ahluwalia the next, surely something is rotten in the Singh Parivar?

Of course, similar questions can be asked about some of the other business choices on the 2011 list: like, is there some rule that everybody on the Infosys board should get a Padma honour (as evidenced by the choice of “Kris Gopalakrishnan, for what?) Or, what really is ICICI bank chief Chanda Kochhar‘s stellar contribution?

It’s just that Montek Singh Ahluwalia gets our goat nicely, thank you.

Also read: A Padma Bhushan for K.V. Kamath?

A Padma Bhushan for the BGS swamiji?

Why Rajdeep Sardesai, Barkha Dutt must decline Padma Sri

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31 Responses to “Montek Singh Ahluwalia gets a Padma for what?”

  1. deplanningbhai Says:

    One hopes he will be able to drive this without falling into a ditch similar to what he is doing in the Planning job… .If that happens God save people from the number of theories he will propound as to how he effectively guided the vehicle in to the ditch..

  2. div Says:

    These awards are another piece to make India a laughing stock.
    Both Rajiv Gandhi and Idira Gandhi (for imposing emergency?) have got Bharatha Ratna. BJP wanted to give this award to Atal Behari vajapayee!

    If I ever get one of these government awards any day for whatever reason (though very unlikely), I am going to say “no thanks” until I have some respect about the Indian state.

  3. Bhamy V Shenoy Says:

    Why has churumuri decided to publish an article on the pros and cons of giving Padma to PM’s friend and not on why he failed to keep his promise of stopping the pilferage of PDS kerosene? It is true that PM made a promise to the nation after the murder of Manjunath in 2005 and we cannot expect Churumuri to follow all the promises made by the PM which are dime a dozen. But when another honest officer like Sonawane was brutally murdered I would have thought that Churumuri would try to remind us of PM’s solemn words.

  4. maisuru Says:

    Montek got Padama Vibhushan as he is Sirdar like PM !

  5. VithaRamabai Says:

    The atmosphere of the country has become so stinking and the mood of the people so cynical that we don’t even want to say WTF who cares for Padma awards. They are like any other pieces of rotten grains that the govt throws in front of its bootlickers and apologists, and these scum are so shameless that they will not even accept them but even flaunt them as their achievements. The most damning cooption is by awarding journalists..the New Indian Express carried the names of TV news anchors and print journalists who didn’t make it who simply make a living by writing and presenting and who have no other achievement other than rise in the organisation’s hierarchy. To take only two names and, let me clarify, I don’t even know these guys personally, Sachidananda Murthy of Malayala Manorama and Vikram Chandra of NDTV. It is high time that at least press/media adopted a code to avoid all lollipops proffered by the govt. Bureaucrats are so deeply embroiled in everything corrupt that we are at a loss to suggest any kind of reformation

  6. Lavanya Says:

    Integrity of these awards are fading fast! (or has already been lost forever) They give Bharat Ratna to Indira Gandhi in 1971 and Ambedkar in 1990!? What, it took 30+ years to realize his contribution? And was Indira Gandhi’s contribution and work(were there any?) better off than the Father of the Indian Constitution? & Rajiv Gandhi gets it for Bofors I suppose. We should not be surprised if one fine day Rahul Gandhi gets it too – for his newly found two-India concept!
    Also, some gems are just recognized because they get global recognition first. Ex – Amartya Sen wins Nobel Prize in 1998 and bingo! he gets Bharat Ratna the very next year! – Is the Indian government not capable of recognizing its “Ratna” without global intervention?

  7. Manish Says:

    You can’t please everybody.

  8. Murthy Says:

    Actually Montek was instrumental in controlling the states….

  9. Narayana Says:

    Not only Montek is in idiot in a raghead he also has dour to cock a snook at citizens of his country by commenting as below.
    quoting media reports

    “Yes it is true that milk and vegetable prices are high. You know some of this is a reflection of economic prosperity and purchasing power,” he(Montek) told reporters here in New Delhi.

    After Manmohan now Montek will walk up and down the Delhi Corridor claiming exalted economist status.

  10. poli huduga Says:

    WTF (Why the Fuss, Yaar?)

    Everyone knows these honours are a meaningless charade. Exhibit 847: Sant Singh Chatwal.

    May be we should put them up for sale as a way of raising money – say 20 Cr for PVB, 15 Cr for PB, PS only 7.5 Cr (special sale). Can easily raise 700-1000 Cr to help the starving millions struggling without food in our country.

  11. the colonel Says:

    dear maisuru: if he was montek KHAN ahluwalia or montek SINGHANIA ahluwalia; he would still get the award.

    and what is there in the award, the award itself is meaningless.

    i was watching beating of the retreat, a pure services function; and a matter of great pride for us soldiers: And Lo BEHOLD the supreme commander was seated in a BULLET-proof enclosure with the rear open!!!!

    why the enclosure; personal vanity????????

    please do not bring in logic, it does not exist WHERE IT MATTERS.

  12. twistleton Says:

    Loved the post, specially the commited party pooper a.k.a P.Sainath and Wisconsin Tourism Federation parts :D ROTFL. Subtle.

  13. DailyBread Says:

    Jaswant, Yashwant, Shourie, Jaitley team was the original all time great “dream team”.

  14. Ramesh Says:

    This award is sponsored by World Bank.


    Why Chand Kochhar got Padma ? read links
    1.Farmer’s suicide leads to protest in front of ICICI Bank

  15. Deepak Says:

    Congress Damn!.

    Leave Padma awards, just have a look into Bharat ratna awardees,

    1. Jawaharlal Nehru – Who was responsible for many many bluders. One such blunder is 1962 war against China. Pls read Himalayan Blunder.

    2. Indira gandhi – Responsible for Emergency. Many non congress govt in India under Inira gandhi rule were dismissed for no reasons and next president rule was imposed.

    3. M.G Ramachandran: I dont know why an actor turned politician is given Bharat ratna. WTF.

    4.Rajiv Gandhi – A normal PM but dont know what spl he has done for India. Also supported 1984 sikh riots immediatley after his mother’s assasination

    Upcoming candidates in Congress Govt Bharat Ratna project,

    1. Sonia Gandhi(Can be treated as Indira) – Obviously because of Nehru kingdom dynasty

    2. Rahul Gandhi(Can be treated as Rajeev)- To Continue the dynast policy of getting Bharat ratna.

    3. Rahul’s son/Daughter

    4. Rahul’s Son/Daughters/ Son/Daughter

    etc etc etc

    Already Bharat Ratna has been awarded for 3 of them within Nehru family. How can expect something fair in these Padma and ratna awards?

    Seriosuly WTF – F Stands for F*** ONLY.

  16. Vaidehi Says:

    DailyBread :

    Jaswant, Yashwant, Shourie, Jaitley team was the original all time great “dream team”.

    Why Oh dear Why? Whose dream? Whose team? What’s their claim to glory on the tangible side? Or again is it a partisan statement of perception?

    The only dream guy was B C Khanduri who did a splendid job of laying thousands of kms of highways. Then he had his comeuppance in the state of Uttaranchal.

  17. Nastika Says:

    MSA is telling that inflation is due to supply constraint

    I wonder why nobody asked him what he is doing to tackle this type of inflation.

  18. mounaprasad Says:

    Montek singh Ahluwalia, is a World Bank and IMF guy who tries to peddle the policies and programs of World Bank and IMF very subtly. There was a very good article on this in India Today way back, which shows where Monty’s heart lies. But WTF, everybody and their uncle is getting this Bharat Ratna, why not him. When on the subject what happened to our own Karnataka Ratna awards, is it still being awarded?

  19. DailyBread Says:


    >Why Oh dear Why? Whose dream? Whose team? What’s their claim to glory on the tangible side? Or again is it a partisan statement of perception?

    A nation which does not know how to respect its talent, deserves only Yediyurappas.

    My kitchen & 5 million other kitchens in this country are dependent on the income from Telecom Industry. If we remove our ideological blinkers we can see the contribution from Shourie.

    There is a book written by Strobe Talbott called Engaging India, Democracy & Bomb, please read & find out what Jaswant did for India.

    Jaitley earns a place in my dream team because of his interactions with Pascal Lamy. Yashwant was the best Finance Minister this country ever had.

    Cheddys always had ideological problems with these gentlemen, and on the other side pink cheddys hate them because they are not your typical Sardesaish liberals.

  20. twistleton Says:

    which means the corporate lobby still pulls considerable weight.

  21. Vaidehi Says:

    Dailybread :

    Are they the only swapnakumaras of India or have you tried to remove your ideological blinkers and looked further ever?

  22. DailyBread Says:


    One has to have an open mind to recognize talent. I can name hundreds….

    Raghuvansh Prasad, Gulam Nabi, Dayanidhi Maran, SM Krishna, Jaipal Reddy, Sachin Pilot, Siddaramaih, Chandra Babu Naidu, Mayawati, Navin Patniak, Stalin, Nitish Kumar, Ajit Pawar, Ajay Maken, Budda Deb, etc…..

  23. nitin ghatkar Says:

    it is worse to take name of Ajit Pawar in above list. He doesn’t deserve it….
    And other comments… fabulous!

  24. Gaby Says:

    Daily Bread, if you name hundreds does it mean all are on your dream team!! BTW what are the talents of S M Krishna and Stalin ( the Chennai variety and not the Gulag man I imagine)?

  25. twistleton Says:


    Which industry/ies are the remaining 186,963,935 kitchens dependent on, assuming we take the total number of households to be 191, 963, 935 as quoted by the 2001 census; and assuming that each have a kitchen thus discounting the homeless?

    To break it down 5 million and one (yours included) is barely 3% of total number of households. And why kitchens? Are other industries also similarly productive in the kitchen? Can you kindly explain further?

  26. DailyBread Says:


    >if you name hundreds

    I was trying to tell Vaidehi that I am not a Swapnadoshi.

    S.M. Krishna: During his regime we had decent governance in Karanataka(unfortunately the good governance does not fetch you votes). I think right now his talent is being wasted in MEA.

    Stalin : My friends in Chennai tell me that he virtually runs the TN govt, and the quality of governance in TN is not as bad it is in Karantaka, AP & Kerala.



    Ok Sir. Thank you for feedback.

  27. DailyBread Says:


    >To break it down 5 million and one (yours included) is barely 3% of total number of households.And why kitchens? Are other industries also similarly productive in the kitchen? Can you kindly explain further?

    You limousine liberals can only ask questions :-). If we did not have right telecom policies in place, the 5 million could have been only 1 million or less. Thank all the telecom ministers of the last decade for the fire in 4 million more kitchens. This nation should be particularly grateful to Shourie & Dayanidhi Maran.

  28. twistleton Says:

    @ Daily

    Forgive me for being slow on the uptake. I still don’t see the connection between telecom and fire in the kitchens. :D I really am curious.

    You don’t like questions, too bad. :) I just wanted you to elaborate on your theory. I might even quote it as an example if i find it holds any water. It is not enough to say I’m wrong. You seem to presume that my questions will only be leftist in nature. I might take a rightist stand and still be acccused of being a jholawala because of your blinding prejudice. :)

    Try for some reason. Who knows, I might be convinced and even champion your arguments.

  29. DailyBread Says:


    Here is the deal, I am ready to fund you if you are willing to conduct a study on the impact of policies in telecom industry on livelihood of families (just focus on folks who are employed directly & indirectly by telecom industry, lets keep the overall impact on productivity, GDP growth etc. out of the scope of this study). Are you game or you will just make one more long winded comment which will help you to get closer to that coveted prize for ’eminent’ social scientists.

  30. twistleton Says:


    I’ll have to decline regretfully. Maybe if i was part of a researh institution i would have jumped at the opportunity. But i can only afford to theorize just like you :D. Cheers.

  31. barun Says:

    First of all I am not speaking on behalf or for any institution or individual, I speak for my self and what I feel as an Indian citizen.

    Sovereignty of this nation has started fading away, look at the state of retail. 51% of it is now going to be FDI. Planning commission deputy chair person Montek Singh is proposing 100% FDI in Pharma, and this guy is a civil servant although not a member of Indian Civil Services who just happens to be a member of a powerful US financial advisory committee and a co-incidentally a past employee in US and European Mega Fraud Institutions like the World Bank and IMF and after all that jazz the guy gets awarded with a friggin padma vibhushan. So days of honesty in any sphere of govt or society is now fading.

    Either way we common masses and simple folks are all doomed. But don’t take us as idiots because we all understand how the dirty bureaucracy, divide and rule and politics works. People are waking up.

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