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Complaint to Nandan Nilekani – Harassment of workers in UIDAI, RO, Lucknow

The following email I got in my inbox

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Dear Sir

This is about how harassment of private-sector workforce is rampant in
UIDAI/Aadhaar-the “game-changer” initiative of the Congress-led UPA
Government at the center . Even Mr seems least
bothered about this, as probably he is focusing more on his political
aspirations ahead of the Lok Sabha polls 2014, where he is reportedly
contesting the elections on a Congress ticket.

And Sir, this is no ordinary story of workplace harassment. This is
UIDAI/Aadhaar, the showcase financial inclusion initiative and one of
the poll planks of the Congress.  This is exposes the underbelly of
Aadhaar and why it pains more than it cures the society. It is
probably because of this pathetic work culture that such a fantastic
initiative is facing an identity crisis and is yet to get public
acceptance. This is about how badly this organization needs a LEADER
and how badly it needs to get rid of the sarkari BOSSES.

There is much more to this story.

And I say all of this out my experience in this organization as an
officer who is also a former journalist. I have been harassed and
cornered, so much so that I preferred being jobless to working in this
organization. Despite being in a vulnerable position as a
professional, I brought all of this to the notice of my superiors, but
to no avail. In fact the assaults on me grew all the more sharper.

I finally got out of this organization after completing my three-year
term with it on December 23, 2013.

I then wrote to Mr Nandan Nilekani, explaining him all of this. In the
light of grassroots realities, I also requested him to take necessary
measures to make this organization a better place to work at, in
larger public interest. But to no avail.

With the Chairman of this organization not bothered about the
appalling realities, I now request you please go through my email
(trailing) to Mr Nilekani to understand the state of affairs and let
the people know what ails “Aadhaar-Aam Aadmi ka Adhikaar (Aadhaar-the
Right of a common man)”

I now end my submission in anticipation of story in larger public interest.

Warmest Regards



———- Forwarded message ———-
From: It’s Nishant <[email protected]>
Date: Thu, Jan 2, 2014 at 9:55 AM
Subject: Re: Harassment of workers in UIDAI, RO, Lucknow
To: [email protected], Nandan Nilekani <[email protected]>

Dear Sir
Perhaps, owing to your busy schedule, you may have missed out on
reading my origiñal email, hence sending it again and anticipating a
Warm Regards
From: “It’s Nishant” <[email protected]>
Date: Thu, 26 Dec 2013 17:01:08 +0530
To: <[email protected]>; <[email protected]>

Dear Sir

Until recently I was a part of your team but I never got to interact
with you. Probably it was the undemocratic setup and my vulnerability
as a private-sector employee that prevented me from getting myself
heard before you.

When I got the interview call for UIDAI, I did not know what Aadhaar
was and it was only when I was told about your association with it, I
immediately agreed to it. I joined as an enthusiastic professional,
brimming with optimism and intent to be part of the nation building
process. With the job profile of Manager IEC Campaign Implementation,
and a PG degree in Science Communication and another in HR Management
under my belt, I obviously assumed that this assignment would give a
major push to my career.

As part of the Project Management Unit (PMU) I was made to believe
that I would be managing the project implementation with the help of
administrative machinery. I assumed that as the organization is being
led by a professional like you, my presence too would be acknowledged
and my role, no matter how small, would be appreciated.

But all of these thoughts came crashing down soon after joining this
“job”. Yes, it turned out to be a job and not a good phase of my
career.  Within a couple of months I had two major realizations:

I was jobless
I was from the private sector

Even after spending three years in this organization, I practically
had no work to do as my boss just did not seem interested in getting
any IEC activity done in the two States that come under the Lucknow
office. You can very well get this confirmed from your office. The
amount of IEC activities done in this region, as compared to other
regions, is almost zilch. Several reasons were cited and
administrative justifications were given to prove that India’s most
populous State can do without IEC. But till today, I stand firm with
my professional observation that the demand-supply gap for
Aadhaar-related awareness is only growing in this region.

I also realized that the biggest fault of mine was the fact that I was
from the private sector. This “private-waalah” tag virtually made a
pariah in this office. It started with me being served tea in a
disposable cup while the purely government employees being served the
same tea in proper and decent ceramic cups. Being a rational and
secular individual, I immediately expressed my displeasure over this
discriminatory mindset and thankfully it was rectified immediately in
order to avoid any further embarrassment. And from then, almost each
and every day it was a struggle to ensure that I was treated equally.
I did not want any special perks and privileges; I simply wanted to be
treated equally.

And as if all of this at the workplace was not enough, I also had to
deal with NISG, my employer, which hires professionals for various
Government departments. I joined on Dec 24, 2010 and left this
organization on Dec 23, 2013, and never in these three years, I got to
meet my employers. All their promises of a good workplace had already
fallen flat. It took them months to clear bills. It took them weeks to
respond to emails and phone calls, if they ever chose to. Later the
biggest revelation happened. The PMU members were expected to work on
the same salary forever. Yes. Later I was told by NISG people that
they pushed hard and finally made UIDAI give us a hike after putting
in two years of service. I too got a hike after putting in two years
of service, but the hike was not even ten percent. I was financially
set back. When the government-sector people were getting regular DA
and other hikes as a matter of routine, I was expected to work on the
same salary for two years. I fail to understand the logic behind a
salary hike after two years of service. Either there should be no hike
at all during the stint or there should be a hike on an annual basis.

Sir, there is much to write to highlight the deplorable work
conditions in the organization, but I would not waste your valuable
time with that.

I would rather fast forward it all to 2013, my last year in this
organization, which has been nothing short of hell.

I was mentally harassed by my boss, the ADG and when I shared my
plight with the DDG, he too gave a cold shoulder.

Sir, I was virtually cornered. No work was assigned to me, files were
removed from my possession, I was humiliated and was deprived of basic
and necessary perks of working as an officer in this office. I asked
for a proper chair, it was denied. I was told “proper office furniture
has been purchased only for the Government employees” and that I need
to settle with whatever I have been provided with. Rooms of all the
government employees were marked with proper signage, but the room
used by me, had no identity, despite that fact that probably my room
had the maximum visitors, owing to my job profile. Again, the logic
was same.

Ever since I joined the UIDAI, I was advised by Mr AK Pandey, the then
ADG (Media) and OSD to the then DG, to maintain good relations with
the media fraternity to ensure proper messages emanate from this
office. I was advised by him that I must meet media people on a
regular basis and I followed the instructions. Thankfully my efforts
resulted in good media relations and proper coverage of UIDAI, as and
when required. I am sure Mr AK Pandey would vouch for this. It was
probably for this reason that he used to assign me with HQ related
tasks as well. He reposed faith in me and this was one of the reasons
why my boss, Mr CS Mishra, ADG, started feeling offended. He started
looking for reasons to “cut me to size”. His ego was being hurt
because I was getting tasks from the HQ.

As soon as he realized that Mr RS Sharma the then DG and his OSD, Mr
AK Pandey would be exiting the organization, Mr CS Mishra had a plan
on his mind. He wanted to cut me to size and he also knew that he
could not point a finger at my professional efficiency so he began
with the usual administrative traps. It started with the issue of

Owing to my outdoor profile where I was encouraged to meet press
people, most of the times, I had to meet them as per their
convenience, but I was expected to be in office by 9:30 am and not
leave office before 6:00 pm. I was also directed that in case I need
to meet media people, I better call them to office within office
timings. He forgot that media people are not my subjects whom I can
call at my convenience. This is not how media relations work.

Interestingly, among officers, it was only me who was expected to be
in office at 9:30 am and leave at 6:00 pm. None of the other officials
were accountable to be in office as per this timing, despite most of
them having job profiles that did not expect them to be outdoors.

Nevertheless, he began with marking me LATE on the attendance
register, which incidentally was in place only for the PRIVATE SECTOR
people (PMU, peons, sweepers etc) and Group C government staff.

I told him that I get late in reaching office because I am working for
the office. I told him that I need to meet media people and others as
per their convenience and not mine. This is how PR works. He did not
agree to it. I found it pointless to meddle with him as by then I knew
that he was a Boss not a Leader.

Incidentally I had a word with Mr Pandey that day and he asked me how
everything in office was. I told him this development. He probably
called up Mr Mishra to advise him to encourage media interactions.

Mr Mishra then slyly made me submit a letter explaining the situation,
so that, in his words “people in Lucknow office do not object to my
movements”. Trusting him, I did so. But by then he had trapped me. He
got me an OM issued by the DDG. He presented that letter before the
DDG as a request from me to be allowed to attend office at my free
will. The DDG, through that OM, obviously directed me to attend office
as per the office timings and refrain media interactions. I was
surprised and taken aback by this act of deceit and betrayal.

Sadly, there has been no full-time DDG for this office and being the
ADG(HQ) Mr Mishra call the shots here. The current DDG, Mr AP Singh,
also has not been able to visit this office much. Three times I guess
in his current stint as DDG, Lucknow office.

I was obviously disturbed but that was of no use. I then began
attending office from 9:30 am till 6:00 pm. I then talked to Mr Mishra
asking him to assign me some work. He didn’t. I then started
submitting proposals so that he may consider them and give me some
work, but again he didn’t.

Sadly, other ADGs too knew my plight but chose to restrict to mere
sympathy with me. None of them bothered to make office life better for
me. They are not to be blamed I guess. It is the bureaucratic mindset
that prevented them from taking a stand for someone. All they could
give to me was sympathy.

Meanwhile, Mr Mishra chucked out five Data Quality operators from
office. These boys approached the media and their story was published.
They were probably sacked arbitrarily. Later one of them, who,
happened to be a Dalit, moved the National Commission for the
Scheduled Castes (NCSC) accusing Mr Mishra, Dr Ashutosh Ojha, ADG and
Mr Abhishek Mishra, Assistant of harassing him because he was a Dalit.
The NCSC took cognizance of the complaint and sought an explanation
from the accused UIDAI officials. Probably the matter is still pending
with the Commission. Now this was a big issue and the news got
published in the Times of India and ever since then Mr Mishra and the
co-accused took offence against me.

They assumed that it was me who got the story published. I was the
obvious target as I am a former journalist and I was already on their
hit list. Life was made hell for me thereafter.

The entire administrative machinery of RO, Lucknow unleashed its power
to suffocate me in office. Mr Mishra and his close confidant Mr
Abhishek Mishra, Assistant, along with Dr Ojha, ADG, used all they
could to harass me mentally. I was marked as late even if I was late
by say 15 minutes. I was made to sign the attendance register
alongside secretarial staff and peons and sweepers. The call bell from
my room was removed, the peons were probably told to not acknowledge
my presence, the direct phone line from my room was already removed,
later the STD facility in the extension line was also removed, and the
printer attached to my computer was also removed. There were so many
things that were done to harass me. Most of it was intangible. People
in office were told to stay away from me and an eye was kept on office
staff who met me.

Later, my performance appraisal was ruined by Mr CS Mishra. Last year
when I got a rating of 5/5 this year, he got it degraded to 3/5
without assigning a reason. He never gave me a warning for depleting
performance, if at all it did. But he arbitrarily chose to ruin my
prospects. The rating is linked to disbursal of bonus and Mr Mishra
had hit my finances. I informed the DDG via an email, but he did not

The worst was when someone tried to get my phone call records
retrieved. I immediately lodged a police complaint with the Gomtinagar
police Station. After a police probe, this October, I was told by S-I
Arvind, the investigating officer, that it was done at the behest of
Mr Abhishek Mishra, Assistant, UIDAI, RO, Lucknow. I immediately
informed DDG, Mr AP Singh, but he gave me a cold shoulder. He was
unfazed by the gross misconduct of Mr Abhishek Mishra who committed a
crime by misusing his official position to get impersonation done and
get my call records retrieved. The police told me that the motive was
to establish a link between me and the Dalit boy. It was also reported
in the Times of India that the Dalit boy feared for his life from
Abhishek Mishra as one of the sacked data quality operators submitted
an affidavit before the NCSC disclosing the nefarious designs of Mr
Abhishek Mishra.

I chose to not initiate a police action against Mr Abhishek Mishra as
I did not want to ruin his career and I also could make out that an
Assistant would not be the only one behind this and this would have
been done at the behest of someone else. For how else he would have
thought of misusing my official documents and using them to fool
Vodafone into sharing my call details. Thankfully technology prevented
that from happening and I got to know about this attempt in time.

Mr Abhishek Mishra even sent a letter to the Times of India accusing
the reporter of colluding with me to get the “false” news published. I
told Mr AP Singh about this also, but he was unfazed.

This case of Dalit atrocity and harassment at workplace is not new in
this office. Earlier, Mr Ashutosh Kumar, former SSA, UIDAI, RO,
Lucknow was also forced to quit the organization after he was harassed
by Mr CS Mishra and Mr Abhishek Mishra. He told me that he mentioned
Mr CS Mishra and Abhishek Mishra’s caste based discrimination in his
resignation letter to the DDG, Mr AP Singh.

And the ill-treatment was not merely restricted to me. Mr CS Mishra,
technically being the “head of office” and in absence of a DDG, even
troubled other senior government officials in this office. The way in
which Mr Alok Chopra, the then ADG and the officer who setup the
Lucknow office, was treated at the time of his exit was extremely sad.
No one bothered to bid him farewell and he had to exit unnoticed. I
visited his room out of courtesy to bid him farewell, hours before his
exit on his last day in UIDAI. It was then when he, while recollecting
his memories of the Lucknow office, said how much he was humiliated in
this office due to the treatment meted out to him by Mr CS Mishra and
Dr Ashotosh Ojha, ADG. He even rued the fact that the attitude of Mr
Mishra not just affected him mentally, it even affected the project.
Mr Chopra said that owing to the office atmosphere, he had lost
interest in the project and despite his desire to work for UIDAI and
despite being promoted he chose to get rid of this office.

Coming back to my case, I was told by NISG that three months prior to
completion of my three-year term with UIDAI, I would be asked if I was
interested in continuing here. But it did not happen. Mr CS Mishra did
not seek my views and arbitrarily decided to not extend my term with
UIDAI and was adamant to see that my services were not extended at
all. I have not been told the reason for not extending my services. I
am surprised that Mr AP Singh, DDG, also did not question Mr Mishra as
to why the services of IEC Manager were not required any more,
especially when the project is at a crucial juncture and the
organization needs to educate people about Aadhaar/DBT/etc in Uttar
Pradesh. Elections are round the corner and a proper and professional
communication campaign is a must to make Aadhaar a success. People are
confused and Mr Mishra chose to move ahead without a professional,
much against the essence of having the PMU in the organization.

I was told about this non-extension of tenure just a fortnight back. I
was given merely 2 weeks or so to look for a new job. Is this
professionalism? Is this not harassment.

And in his signature style, Mr Mishra raised several unjustified
issues at the time of my exit, just a couple of days prior to the term
end, clearly proving his deep desires to harass me once again. He
wanted to inflict maximum pain to me. And I am sure, now when I have
left, he would not make it easy for me to settle my dues with NISG.

Thankfully I was not interested in working in such environment. I do
not have a job in hand while I am writing this email to you but I am
extremely happy that I do not have to visit the UIDAI office.

Sir, workplace harassment is nothing new in this office and with
officials choosing to ignore the plight of PMU, it is extremely sad.
And Sir, I am not the only one who feels discriminated. The PMU
members across UIDAI would acknowledge that they have been
discriminated against for being from the private sector.  But I would
talk about myself and I am not responsible for the plight of others. I
hope you would take a serious view of my email and make this
organization a better place to work at. This organization needs

Having said that, Sir, in case you find any merit in my case, I would
want you to look into the case with the following focal points:

Denial of equal opportunity at work
Not assigning any work to an officer with a clear intent to harass and torture
Not treating an officer like an officer
Misuse of official documents to commit a criminal offence of seeking
phone call records of an official.

Also, Sir, please note that neither am I seeking any undue favour from
you through this letter, nor do I wish to be associated with the
organization in such an environment and under the stewardship of a
person like Mr CS Mishra and his aides like Mr Abhishek Mishra. I
merely want things to be set right, the guilty must be punished,
misuse of power/position and facilities provided by the government be
stopped immediately to achieve the noble objective of this

You may consider this letter as a complaint/feedback or whatever, till
the time it improves the state of affairs of UIDAI. Sir, I feel pained
to see what is ailing UIDAI—Government’s ambitious endeavor to improve
the life of an average Indian resident.

Warmest Regards


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