04 Nov 2017
Alleged conflict of interest in Ajit Doval's son Shaurya's think-tank
In an exclusive article, the Wire has alleged that a think-tank run by National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval's son Shaurya Doval reeks of conflict of interest.
His think-tank 'India Foundation', which was founded in 2014, has witnessed a meteoric rise. It also lists defense minister Nirmala Sitharaman, commerce minister Suresh Prabhu and MoS' Jayant Sinha and MJ Akbar as its directors.
Who is Shaurya Doval?
Shaurya, a CA by profession, was founder of private equity firm, Zeus Capital.
He merged his company with Gemini Financial Services (GFS) in 2016. GFS' chairman is Prince Mishaal bin Abdullah of the Saudi royal family.
GFS specializes in facilitating "transactions and capital flows between OECD countries and emerging Asian economies."
Shaurya is also India Foundation's executive director.
Why is Shaurya's involvement problematic?
So, Shaurya, the NSA's son, is associated with a firm backed by a Saudi prince.
He also heads a think-tank that allows corporates and businessmen to interact with ministers for discussing government policies. Further, it receives sponsorship from private and government establishments whose names are not made public.
If we connect the two, Shaurya's foundation wields power to influence government contracts and policy decisions.
Why are accusations of conflict of interest being raised?
An example can explain the conflict of interest.
The CBI is presently pursuing a case against civil aviation company Boeing for selling passenger planes at inflated prices, causing the government a loss.
Now, Boeing also sponsored an India foundation event that has MoS civil aviation Jayant Sinha as a director.
This raises suspicion about the likelihood of the investigation being influenced in Boeing's favor.
Exactly how powerful is the think-tank?
How powerful the think-tank is - can be gauged from the fact that some of its major proposals have been accepted by the government.
Examples are "dramatically" opening up the defense sector for the private players, constructing bullet trains between metros and linking national population register, census and electoral rolls to Aadhaar.
Some of its suggestions are being considered by the government.
Now, where does the foundation get its funds from?
Since it is a trust, India foundation is not obliged to make its funding sources public.
It claims to receive its funding from conferences, advertisements and journal subscriptions.
Apparently, it also relies heavily on foreign money to sustain its activities.
As it is a trust, its foreign contributions come under the Foreign Contributions Regulation Act (FCRA).
Its FCRA certificate was "renewed" in June, 2017.
Why does its FCRA certificate raise questions?
As per Wire's investigation, the foundation has a new FCRA serial number raising questions about how it received foreign funds until now.
There are two possibilities of receiving funds: "prior permission" and "commercial service contracts." But, India Foundation denies receiving funds through these routes.
As Modi government hounds NGOs for flouting FCRA rules, why is India Foundation, whose financial sources are unknown, not questioned?
What is the implication of this investigation?
Further, the other members of the foundation are drawn from BJP's inner circle. It includes BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav and RS member Swapan Dasgupta among others.
Shaurya acknowledges that the foundation works in close co-operation with BJP for "policy formulation."
So is the government's policy being formulated with foreign funds? Exactly how much power does India Foundation wield? The questions remain unanswered.