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Home > India > News > Report

Uttarakhand: Khanduri brings a new lease of life

Saharat Pradhan | March 09, 2008 21:12 IST

As he completed one year in office on Saturday, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Major Gen (Redt) B C Khanduri has earned laurels as an able administrator.
He is seen as a chief minister who has brought down the corruption level and infused a new life into the Himalayan state.

Khanduri became the fourth chief minister of the 8-year-old Himalayan state (carved out of Uttar Pradesh) on March 8, 2007 after demolishing a Congress regime led by party stalwart, the octogenarian Narain Dutt Tiwari in the Assembly elections.

But the 'no-nonsense' retired army officer-turned-Bharatiya Janata Party leader is not as popular among politicians, because he is unwilling to make compromises even when political expediency demands it.

His critics, particularly in the Congress, say ever since Khanduri took over all development has gone for a six, investors are pulling out while employment opportunities are being crushed.

However, senior BJP leader Ajay Bhatt gives "full marks to Khanduri for doing what was never thought before".
Praising the chief minister for bringing in greater objectivity, he said, "Khanduri has imposed a stern control on the chief minister's discretionary fund that had become  a major source of corruption and nepotism; unlike the past when its use had ceased to remain need based, its beneficiaries were only genuinely needy people now."

Bhatt told, "For the first time recruitment process has been made absolutely transparent in the state. It was Khanduriji himself who took a landmark decision to not only do away with interviews in all recruitments but also allow applicants to keep a carbon copy of their answer sheets to verify the authenticity of the examination."

Lauding the task, a senior Uttarakhand IAS officer , now serving at the Centre said, "It is really remarkable that the chief minister has successfully managed to ensure a corruption-free recruitment -- at least 10,000 teachers and about 5000 other positions have been filled without inviting any criticism from any quarter."

Bhatt adds, "Another great achievement of the chief minister was to bring about a drastic cut in the number of superfluous positions created during the previous regime only to appease politicians and their aides."

He said, "These positions that had earned the sobriquet of 'red-beacon' culture in this fund-starved state have been brought from 300 to just 44 today ; and even those are not entitled to 'red beacons' anymore."

Clearly, other than the chief minister and his 12 ministers, none is entitled to a red beacon, that had become synonymous with "misuse of government authority".

On the farm front too, Khanduri had taken the initiative to provide insurance cover to apple crop that was the key horticulture produce of the state.

Significantly, the decay in governance over the past has been attributed to corrupt regimes in a report of the Administrative Reforms Commission headed by a highly reputed retired bureaucrat J C Pant.

Pant, who was given the task after his superannuation as secretary to the Union Government, had gone to the extent of terming the state of affairs under the earlier regime "the one without civil governance". 

While he praises the Khanduri government on certain counts, he feels that the present regime had not laid the desired emphasis on e-governance that could "improve efficiency levels, bring down corruption and improve the delivery systems".

Even a Nainital-based political observer feels that despite all his good intentions, Khanduri has not been able to address several issues that merit immediate attention.

"There is still no concrete plan to generate employment in a big way, nor there appears to be any major policy to give tourism industry a boost. Likewise, no self-employment schemes are in the pipeline," said Rajiv Lochan Sah, editor of weekly Nainital Samachar.

Sah also feels, "Khanduri lacks good political skills to deal with his opponents and party dissidents. He was willing to easily give in to localised agitations over trivial issues."

The view is shared by some party insiders.
"On the one hand , he gets influenced by the rhetoric of small pressure groups , but on the other, he has not made himself easily accessible . I have nothing against him except that he has allowed the bureaucracy to become unbridled," said a former Congress minister, seeking anonymity.

Refuting the charge, Bhatt argues, "Even Rome was not built in a day; when you accept that he inherited a lot of dirty baggage, you ought to give him a reasonable time ; and now that things have been put in place in the first year , I am sure, the Uttarakhand will witnesses unprecedented industrial and economic  growth under this chief minister who means only business and nothing else."