Former IAS officer Santosh Babu, who retired voluntarily from public service in August this year, joined actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan's Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) on Tuesday. The 1995-batch Tamil Nadu cadre IAS officer, who was known for his integrity, admitted that he applied for VRS after problems arose in the Rs 2000-crore BharatNet project, which was floated by the Tamil Nadu Fiber Net Corporation (TANFINET), when he was Principal Secretary to the government in the Department of Information Technology.
In the press conference where Kamal Haasan officially welcomed the former bureaucrat to the party, he mentioned that Santosh Babu considered his offer for six months before deciding to join MNM. Expanding on his stance, the former IAS officer, explained that he had received an offer from the Prime Minister's office to become the Chief Executive Officer of the MyGov platform, meant for citizen engagement. But the officer refused the offer as he was keen on developing internet connectivity in Tamil Nadu through the Bharatnet project and other projects.
"I was focussing on the block chain backbone, predictive governance and Bharatnet. In predictive governance, from birth to death, you don't have to apply for any certificate. I was also keen on introducing high speed internet in every village. That is why I didn't go (to the Centre). But tender issues arose and I realised I couldn't follow my dream nor go to the Centre," he told the media.
Shortly after the tender for the Rs 2000 crore project was floated, he was shunted out of the Department of Information Technology. Months later, Chennai-based anti-corruption NGO Arappor Iyakkam alleged irregularities in the tender and stated that it favoured a few companies. They flagged the issue to the Union government and alleged that the state was changing tender criteria making it nearly impossible for several companies to bid. The tender was then cancelled and the Union government directed the state to issue a fresh tender. The project aims at connecting around 2500 village panchayats in Tamil Nadu using fiber optic cable.
Santosh Babu is now expected to contest in the Assembly Election in 2021. After inducting the former bureaucrat into the party, Kamal also addressed the farmer protests in the capital.
“You can't play the violin now, when Rome is aflame," the MNM leader said referring to the common expression ‘Nero played the fiddle while Rome was burning’. "All he (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) has to do is pan and look at the farmers. You must have a dialogue," he added.
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