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Intel agency R&AW is at war with itself, not terror

Monday, 1 December 2008 - 4:41am IST | Agency: dna
Even as the country battles an unprecedented wave of terror, the Research & Analysis Wing, the country’s prime counter-intelligence agency, has sunk to a new low

Tales of corruption, nepotism and misuse of power abound at R&AW under Ashok Chaturvedi

NEW DELHI: Even as the country battles an unprecedented wave of terror, the Research & Analysis Wing, the country’s prime counter-intelligence agency, has sunk to a new low in terms of corruption, nepotism, and misuse of its vast secret funds. Officials in the agency, far from helping the country fight its enemies outside, are busy fighting among themselves, further eroding its competence.

At the centre of the rot is R&AW chief Ashok Chaturvedi, who is seen by many agency insiders as building his own coterie at the cost of its overall objectives. There is a subterranean battle for supremacy going on between officers of R&AW and those deputed to the agency from the Indian Police Service (IPS).

According to a DNA investigation, within days of taking over as R&AW chief, Chaturvedi ordered the agency to hire his own private flat in Noida, on Delhi’s outskirts, as a safe house. Over the years, R&AW has used an internal order to hire its own employees’ houses for official use, after carrying out expensive renovations. A former R&AW chief’s house in South Delhi and a Jammu house belonging to an employee who is part of Chaturvedi’s inner circle are now R&AW safe houses using this logic. Another bungalow belonging to Chaturvedi, again in Noida, is presently under renovation with the agency’s assistance. It is protected by R&AW personnel.

As R&AW chief, Chaturvedi has almost autonomous control of over the agency’s annual budget of over Rs1,000 crore.

Sources spoken to by DNA said that R&AW may also have provided financial assistance to Chaturvedi’s son based in Europe from discretionary funds meant for intelligence operations, but no documentary evidence on this was available. However, other sources confirmed this allegation.

The decay at the agency is best symbolised by how a lower-level functionary, JC Kapoor, Chaturvedi’s personal secretary, has managed to get his daughters into the agency without a whimper of protest. All of Kapoor’s four daughters are employed with R&AW, and two of them — Simple and Dimple — are reportedly waiting for foreign postings after brief spells in Punjab to fulfill the “field” posting requirement. R&AW officials have to do field work before they get posted abroad.

The eldest daughter, Soni Shukla, is in Delhi doing a foreign language course, possibly in expectations of another foreign posting. The youngest of the siblings joined the Aviation Research Centre in Delhi some time ago.

Chaturvedi’s detractors also talk of the R&AW chief’s house being staffed by over two dozen agency personnel. Among them: staff to look after his dogs, two cooks, almost half a dozen telephone operators and four gardeners.

Perhaps symptomatic of Chaturvedi’s priorities, on September 27 he was watching a movie when the Delhi blasts happened.

There are no reports that the movie buff rushed to action on hearing about the attacks.
Senior officials also complain that they no longer have direct access to him, and instead have to deal with his inner circle. The intra-agency feuding has been worsened by an open dogfight between IPS officers, who have come on deputation to R&AW, and officers of the directly-recruited Research & Analysis Service (RAS). It is an open secret that RAS has sometimes been used to recruit the relatives of powerful bureaucrats without any transparency. Many who got into RAS in a similar fashion are now in senior positions, further contributing to the open fight.

The fierce infighting between the IPS and RAS lobbies has also resulted in some shocking instances of misuse of authority. Two different sources confirmed to DNA that an RAS officer, who was forced to quit the agency after Chaturvedi took over, had in the past been caught illegally tapping the telephones of senior IPS officers, including the then chief of the agency.

During DNA’s course of investigations, each lobby was hurling the worst allegations against the other. And it was clear that lack of cohesion at the highest levels of R&AW is an issue of national urgency that needs addressing.

(DNA reporters across India and in foreign bureaus contributed to this investigation)




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