Kinnow da dabba
This can aptly be dubbed a “kissa kinnow de dabbean daa”. This mouth-watering delicious citrus fruit, carefully marked “From Badal Farm” has crawled into the kitchens of most of the Union ministers. When Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal visits the national capital with begging bowls, the grand old man makes it a point to gift “kinnow da dabba” to Union ministers before handing over his wish list. During his latest visit to New Delhi in the run-up to the railway and general budgets, Badal called on many Union ministers. And in toe, the grapevine has it, were Punjab cops carrying boxes of kinnow. But during a visit to the office of a high-profile minister in the high-security zone, the Badals’ hangers on were a worried lot as the kinnow box would have failed the security test. So what? A wily official took the vehicle to the official residence of the minister whom Badal was scheduled to meet. But some other faithful officials unaware that the dabba has already been dispatched to the minister’s residence were questioning cops: “Kaka dabba kithe hega?”
Board (BBMB) chairman AB Agrawal, who is on extension till the new incumbent arrives, feels he is doing a high-risk job and is constantly under threat. He made the claim at a specially-convened press conference the other day, referring to the killing of board chairman major-general DN Kumar in 1988 by terrorists. Agrawal cited another incident where he was heckled by villagers around the Bhakra dam at Nangal in 2011. While there was no immediate provocation, the chairman’s recounting of these incidents had his subordinates awestruck. And the scribes were dumbstruck. Unable to bear his monologue, a veteran journalist perhaps gave away the reason by asking: “Sir, when is your extension due?” As he had no answer, Agrawal quickly rattled off some figures of water level of dam reservoirs at Bhakra and Pong – information journalists usually take over phone from his juniors – and ended the press conference.
Missing out on limelight
Punjab-based leaders of almost all political parties (barring the Bharatiya Janata Party) took turns recently to speak against the present dispensation at the Centre for taking a U-turn on the Swaminathan Commission report. A fortnight ago, the Centre had told the apex court that the commission report cannot be implemented. However, one person who felt that he missed out on the limelight is farmers’ leader Satnam Singh Behru, president of consortium of the Indian Farmers’ Association. “I am the petitioner. Everyone should listen to me, as I have struggled for five years for this case,” he said.
Feeling left out
Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal’s Right to Service Act seems to be quiet a hit with the public. The bureaucrats, who are implementing the act, are, however, feeling left out. A senior bureaucrat suggested that a similar act be enacted for the civil servants to ensure that their promotions, pay hikes, reimbursements and pension are given by the government in a time-bound manner.
Punjab IAS officer VK Janjua, who was trapped in a bribery case over four years ago, has not hired a lawyer in his defence even once, choosing to contest his case himself, thanks to his law degree. When asked, Janjua said he was himself defending his case and not relying on any lawyer. The officer said he had almost attained “PhD in law” now with his experience in courts during this period.
Friends or foes?
They have been colleagues for a long time, but not been on good terms in recent years. When Congress leader Capt Ajay Singh Yadav planned a protest against the Land Acquisition Amendment Bill in Rewari on March 2, everyone was curious to know whether he would call former chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. The former power minister has invited Congress general secretary (in-charge of party affairs in the state) Shakeel Ahmed, Haryana Congress chief Ashok Tanwar and Congress legislature party leader Kiran Choudhry, but ignored his ex-boss. “He is just an MLA. If I call him, I would have to invite all other party legislators in the state also,” said the former Rewari MLA, who blames Hooda’s “regional bias” for the party’s drubbing in the parliamentary and assembly polls in the state. While the party seems to be in tatters, a quick patch-up between the two leaders is unlikely.
Yoga brand ambassador
The Union government’s move to appoint yoga guru Ramdev as its brand ambassador for yoga and ayurveda may not have gone down well with many, but there is no rethink in the government. Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar has expressed gratitude to “shradhey (honourable) Swami Ramdev” for accepting the state government’s request to become its brand ambassador. “I am very excited about the thought of developing Haryana as the world capital for yoga and ayurveda, setting up an international-level yoga and naturopathy institute in Panchkula and establishing a herbal forest in the state under your guidance,” the CM wrote to Ramdev following his health minister Anil Vij’s detailed discussions with the yoga guru on the subject. While Vij and some state officials had met Ramdev on January 15, there was delay in official approval to his appointment as the brand ambassador. Of course, the mercurial health minister was not happy and made sure his announcement was implemented. When Khattar wrote the letter, he gleefully tweeted about it.
No CM’s suite for Vij
Haryana health minister Anil Vij seems to have a knack of remaining in the limelight. Known to blow hot and cold, he recently put officials in a tight spot. Vij, who was in Delhi for the assembly poll campaigning, directed the officials to open the chief minister’s suite in the state government guest house at Chanakyapuri. Much to his chagrin, he was politely refused by the officials handling the accommodation at the state guest house. The minister’s argument was that when the CM never uses his suite at the guest house, why it cannot be thrown open for ministers? He should know that protocol prohibits anyone to reside in CM’s suite unless the latter himself agrees to it.
Boosting govt’s image
Image management is expected to be the Manohar Lal Khattar government’s strong suit, given the experience the bureaucratic top brass has in public relations. Chief secretary Depinder Singh Dhesi and principal secretary to the chief minister Sanjeev Kaushal have headed the public relation department in the past. Now, Rajesh Kumar Khullar, the newest entrant to the chief minister’s office (CMO), is set to lend more strength in the area. Khullar, posted as special officer in the CMO for monitoring national programmes and principal secretary, information and public relations, had done two successful stints in the public releations department as the director earlier. The three IAS officers handled the department from 1996 to 2002 in succession. And, all three have worked in the chief minister’s office also earlier. At the moment though, the first-time BJP regime appears to be grappling with perception about the pace of its decision-making. While the chief minister and ministers, most of them newbies, are learning on the job as per their own admission, the experienced bureaucratic team is expected to provide the required support.
IT’s time Haryana health minister Anil Vij heard the chirping on his tweets. Sample this: Disapproving of the practice of releasing pigeons at inaugural functions, Vij recently urged chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar to impose a ban on this “cruel” convention. Vij, who himself refused to release pigeons at a function at Ambala, tweeted: “Karyakaramon ke dauran kabutar udana bejuban parindon ke khilaf atyachaar hai, pehle pakadana, bukha qaid mein rakhna, phir VIP ke haathon udana apradh hai. (To release pigeons during functions is cruelty against voiceless birds. Catching them, keeping them without food in captivity and getting them released by a VIP is a crime)”. The tweet evoked several responses with many hailing his suggestion. “Kabooter udana chhodiye aur Khattar ji ki help kijiye. Kahin kabooter ki jagah tote na udd jaye sarkar ke’’ (asking Vij to leave pigeons and instead help Khattar lest the government gets shockers) is how one tweet went. Another tweet was: “Ur thoughts reveal ur simplicity and clear vision. Give joining to computer teachers, I request not to make them kabutar, pls (requesting Vij to give joining letters to computer teachers and not to treat them as pigeons).”
No time for daughter’s wedding
Himachal chief minister Virbhadra Singh has been crisscrossing the state, getting little time to oversee the arrangement for his daughter’s wedding. The CM expressed his concern when a journalist asked him about his trip to Delhi the other day. “Baap state mein ghoom raha hai, udhar beti ki shaadi hai,” he replied. Virbhadra’s daughter will tie the knot with Congress leader and former Punjab CM Amarinder Singh’s grandson Angad Singh.
Himachal Pradesh principal secretary (finance) Dr Shrikant Baldi heaved a sigh of relief when the Central government announced a grant of Rs 42,000 crore on the recommendation of the 14th Finance Commission as he was looking for ways to increase resources of the cash-strapped state government. However, his happiness vanished as Union finance minister Arun Jaitely announced to cut 34 Centrally-sponsored schemes. Clearly a case of short-lived happiness.
Contributed by: Pawan Sharma, Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Chitleen Sethi, Prabhjit Singh, Navneet Sharma, Hitender Rao, Rajesh Moudgil and Gaurav Bisht.