The IIT grad ‘outsider’ at Punjab govt meetings who is raising Opp, Governor hackles

    KNOWN in government circles as Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s “eyes and ears on the ground” in Punjab, an IIT alumni, Nawal Agrawal, who was recently appointed as senior consultant, Governance Reforms Department, is in the news for Governor Banwarilal Purohit asking Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann as to what he was doing at official meetings.

    Agrawal has been seen sitting in at official meetings chaired by Chief Secretary Vijay Kumar Janjua for some time, even before he held any official position in the Punjab government.

    Leader of Opposition Partap Singh Bajwa had earlier shot off a letter to Purohit, seeking action.

    A B.Tech and M.Tech degree holder from IIT-Kharagpur (Kejriwal’s alma mater) in chemical engineering, and a post-graduate diploma holder from Ashoka University, Agrawal operates from the Governance Cell on the eighth floor of the Punjab Secretariat, sources said. Government files are often known to be taken to him before final decisions on matters are taken.

    As per Punjab government sources, Agrawal has been sitting at the Secretariat almost since the time the Aam Aadmi Party government came to power last year. Two months ago, he posted on his LinkedIn, “Announcing the launch of the Punjab Good Governance Fellowship Programme (PGGFP), a unique collaboration between the Government of Punjab and the Indian School of Business (ISB). Over 50 fellows will be hired and placed across districts, municipal corporations, and departments of the Government of Punjab, and ISB being the knowledge partner will invest in their capacity development. It’s an incredible opportunity to drive social impact.”

    Incidentally, Agrawal was earlier tipped to be OSD to the CM. Sources said Mann, however, refused to take him in the Chief Minister’s Office, and shot down a proposal to post him as OSD to Governance Reforms Minister Aman Arora either. Finally, at a meeting of the Punjab State e-Governance Society on February 6, Chief Secretary Janjua announced his appointment as a senior consultant with the department. This was subsequently cleared by the Finance Department.

    A government statement after the meeting stated, “The executive committee of the society also decided to engage the services of a consultant on outsourcing basis for bringing reforms in government processes for ease of citizens as well as to work on reduction of compliance burden, in line with directions given by Government of India.”

    Sources said Agrawal was entitled to emoluments given to similar outside consultants.

    AAP chief spokesperson Malwinder Singh Kang said, “What is anybody’s problem if the government wants to utilise the services of an expert, who can help the government? Former chief ministers Parkash Singh Badal and Amarinder Singh both hired consultants and advisers. Why has it become such a controversy? Everything is for the betterment of the state.”

    Raising a flag over “outsiders” attending official meetings chaired by the Chief Secretary, Congress leader Bajwa had called it a “violation” of the oath of secrecy taken by the state government as well as worrisome for national security, and urged Governor Purohit to take action.

    Attaching two photographs showing Agrawal at such official meetings, the Leader of Opposition wrote: “Officers allowing unidentified outsiders at state-level meetings, particularly in the absence of any clarification by the chief secretary or the CM, warrants an impartial probe by the NIA… I am sure, as constitutional head of the state, you would intervene in this sensitive matter.”

    Following Bajwa’s letter, Governor Purohit, who has had a series of run-ins with the state government, wrote to Mann. In his most recent letter to the CM, Purohit reminded him of the missive sent by him on January 4 regarding Agrawal being present at official meetings, where sensitive and confidential matters of security of the country were discussed.

    The AAP government in Punjab has been fighting charges that it is remote-controlled by the party’s Delhi leadership. During his Bharat Jodo Yatra, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also mentioned the same. Lately, Mann has been seen as trying to assert his authority.

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