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Uttarakhand CM declares war on bureaucratic corruption
December 18, 2007 13:21 IST
"Even my sifarish (recommendation) can't get anybody a government job in the state now," says Uttarakhand Chief Minister Bhuwan Chandra Khanduri.
For any politician, the confession would go down as nothing short of suicidal. For Khanduri, it is small consolation in his nine-month-long fight against bureaucratic corruption and lethargy in the hill state.
Though Uttarakhand has seen a flurry of industrial investments in the last couple of years, its people have for long depended on the government for jobs, healthcare and education. But the delivery mechanism is in tatters. Over the years, corruption in recruitment and absenteeism from schools and hospitals has become the norm in the state.
"The people of the state were frustrated. There were about 40-50 scams going on," says Khanduri. Some bit of it could be political innuendo aimed at his predecessor, the veteran Congressman Narayan Dutt Tewari, but it gave Khanduri an active agenda for his tenure.
Within ten days of taking oath, Khanduri issued directions that all interviews in recruitment for government posts should be stopped. There would be only objective questions and the examinees can take a copy of the answer sheet home to know his performance. The state will just publish the cut-off mark and all those who score above that will be taken in.
So far, the state has recruited about 6,000 people this way. In the earlier Congress regime, two recruitment scams were unearthed � one for the post of patwaris and the other for constables in the state police. Khanduri says his initiative will plug all recruitment scams in the state.
There are other fires Khanduri has lit under the chair of his bureaucrats. Two enquiry commissions have been set up to look into scams and misuse of authority during the five years of Congress rule. During those years, two top police officials were suspended and a district magistrate was removed.
No fewer than 250 cars with beacon lights and 350 policemen have been withdrawn from VIP duty.
All officers now travel to Delhi from Dehradun by train. Khanduri himself has cut his entourage of cars down from eight to three and takes the overnight train to Delhi. The savings might not be huge, but it has brought about the much-needed discipline amongst Uttarakhand bureaucrats. "We are not nawabs, we are servants of the people," says Khanduri.
Pressure has been mounted on teachers, doctors and others to report on duty wherever they were posted. Khanduri has threatened to cancel their appointment letters if they do not budge.
Six weeks ago, Khanduri ordered that every file would have a slip tracking its movement � officials will have to enter when they received and cleared it.
A top Khanduri aide discloses that talks are going on with three reputed institutes in the state and in Delhi to audit all centre- and state-administered expenditure to ensure there is minimal pilferage.
Obviously, the bureaucrats are uncomfortable and not too pleased. "It is not an easy task. The problem is not fully solved," admits Khanduri.