Haryana dept’s horse sense
Blame it on their casual working or horse sense. When the general administration department in Haryana circulated two amended property return forms last week, asking all the administrative secretaries and heads of departments to make sure government officials and employees of Class 1 to Class 3 filed their annual returns in the revised forms, there were smiles all over. Besides seeking details of immovable property held by officials and their family members, the employees were asked to disclose details of cash, jewellery, shares, securities, loans, advances, debentures etc. But what amused some officials was the column through which the department wanted to know if the employees were using motorcars, motorcycles, horses or any other means of conveyance. “We all use cars and bikes, but haven’t seen anyone come to office galloping on a horse. Perhaps the department knows something I don’t,” chortled an IAS officer. While the department made the amendments because employees were using different property return forms, horses did not catch its attention.
Fondness for Manmohan
Akalis never hide their fondness for former prime minister Manmohan Singh. While discussing funding from the Centre for agriculture with journalists last week, Punjab agriculture minister Jathedar Tota Singh fondly remembered the former PM as a good Sikh who dealt with Akali leaders with compassion and was concerned about Punjab. “He used to work for our state rising above party lines. We dislike the Congress, but we have respect for him,” he said. On being asked about PM Narendra Modi, the agriculture minister said: “Modi is a strict disciplinarian”. Modi heads the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in which the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) is a partner.
Punjab industries minister Madan Mohan Mittal and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state unit president Kamal Sharma had a tough time facing each other when the media recently asked them about their contradictory stand on the entry tax on sugar coming from other states. While Mittal said he made the agenda note for the state cabinet meeting, Sharma claimed the party was not taken into confidence. “The party is supreme,” said the BJP state unit chief. Local bodies minister Anil Joshi, who was also present, was seen smiling at the party chief’s snub to Mittal. A few moments ago, Mittal had snubbed Joshi by saying that the issue of Tarn Taran clash in which the latter’s (Joshi’s) brother Raja was hurt was a local issue and couldn’t be discussed at the national level.
Talking scribes’ language
Industries minister Madan Mohan Mittal was caught talking like a journalist. Referring to a news report in an English newspaper about Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he remarked thokta, which means hit hard in Punjabi lingo. “After all, we guys are same. You write news and we make news, so we can pick up each other’s language,” he said, meaning that whatever he said was without any intention.
Amid reports of several IAS officers cutting short their central tenures in recent months, Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar met half-a-dozen civil servants of Haryana cadre who are currently posted in central ministries on deputation. The meeting held in Delhi triggered speculation that some of them were keen on early repatriation to the state and had expressed their desire to the CM. Khattar met each one of them separately for 10 minutes, talking about initiatives of their ministries. He even jotted down a few points. “The CM wanted to know about programmes of their ministries and how they could be implemented better in the state,” said an IAS officer. The Centre, facing shortage of civil servants, too has requested the states to encourage IAS officers to opt for central deputation. Union minister of state for personnel Jitendra Singh made the request in a meeting with senior officers of the state only last month.
Rising to the challenge
Despite being at the receiving end of public as well as their political bosses’ ire, many bureaucrats try to rise to the challenge. The recent ammonia gas leak incident at Doraha was an example. While government officials and cops risked their lives to save people, the politicians did not visit the spot to avoid “risk” and heat and only met the affected people in hospitals. Khanna additional deputy commissioner Ajay Sood, in order to provide protection against gas to his team, tore off his shirt and vest for making temporary masks, whereas deputy superintendent of police Harjinder Singh is hospitalised as he inhaled ammonia gas while rescuing people. Similarly, Payal sub-divisional magistrate Harjot Kaur, despite being affected after inhaling the gas, was back to work to try and ensure safety of the victims and their families. On the other hand, the Akali and Congress leaders were prompt in issuing statements.
Not at his candid best
Union rural development minister Birender Singh was not his usual candid self when he visited Chandigarh the other day to speak on the first-year achievements of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government. At the start, Birender made it clear to journalists that he would broadly speak on the subject while they could asks the officials accompanying him about specific statistics related to his ministries’ initiatives. “Dekhiye, mein political baat bhi karoonga, lekin pehle is subject ke bare mein baat karenge,” he said meaning that he would also give his political comments, but only later. When asked about the Manohar Lal Khattar government’s performance in Haryana, Singh said there was no corruption at the higher level. “Baki nichle level par kya hota hoga mujhe pataa nahin,” he replied meaning that he would not be able to speak about corruption at the lower level. On the question of groupism among BJP leaders on quota for Jats, the minister, who was in the Congress earlier, said though he was aware of factionalism in his erstwhile party, he was yet not aware of the groups within the BJP.
Scramble for chairs
An air of cheerfulness enveloped the hall of the Haryana Raj Bhawan the other day on the occasion of swearing-in of Kulbir Chhikara and Vandana Sharma as members of Haryana Public Service Commission by Governor Kaptan Singh Solanki. The function was attended by chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar, education minister Ram Bilas Sharma, health minister Anil Vij, member of Parliament Rattan Lal Kataria, besides senior officials of the state government and others. However, the crowds started swelling and all the seats got occupied. Several top officials and MLAs, including Gian Chand Gupta and BJP leader Banto Kataria, were seen searching for chairs. The Raj Bhawan staff had to finally bring chairs from outside the hall and place them wherever it was possible to get the function going.
Himachal Pradesh irrigation minister Vidya Stokes (87) is the oldest member in the Virbhadra Singh cabinet. The punctual minister spends a lot of her time meeting people in her office. When President Pranab Mukherjee was to arrive in Shimla at 1 pm, Stokes rushed out of her office at 11 am. When her cabinet colleague transport minister GS Bali reminded her that she was going too early to receive the President, the minister asked him what was wrong in reaching the airport early. “After all, Mukherjee is the first citizen of India,” she added.
Leaving a positive Impression
Rajasthan governor Kalyan Singh has the additional charge of Himachal Pradesh. An astute politician, he makes brief visits to the hill state and leaves an impression on the people every time. During his latest visit, the governor went to The Ridge in Shimla. He went around clicking pictures and chit-chatting with tourists, particularly those from his home state of Uttar Pradesh. Needlessly to say, tourists were pleased.
The sports bill game
The Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) took its fight over the sports bill to the Raj Bhawan. The association headed by Hamirpur member of Parliament (MP) Anurag Thakur submitted a memorandum to governor Kalyan Singh asking him to restrain the government from going further on regulating the sports bodies. While the governor is yet to give assent to the bill passed during the budget session of the state assembly, there is speculation in the corridors of power that the MP was trying to mount pressure on the governor to turn down the bill.
Congress leader and former commerce minister Anand Sharma on Sunday took a jibe at the Narendra Modi government for its decision to celebrate the World Yoga Day on June 21. Calling it a matter of personal choice, Sharma, who was in Shimla, said it was up to an individual to decide which asana (exercise) he wanted to perform. “Modi is making the country do shirshasana (headstand),” he said.
Contributed by Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Anshu Seth, Navneet Sharma, Rajesh Moudgil and Gaurav Bisht.