Phone call deluge sinks Bihar mandarins
Bihar CM Nitish Kumar thought of a novel way of providing responsible governance: he made public the phone numbers of senior bureaucrats. Result: a deluge of calls, reports Rai Atul Krishna.patna Updated: Feb 15, 2009 11:43 IST
Bihar Chief Secretary RJM Pillai receives more than 200 calls a day on his mobile phone. There’s nothing surprising about that considering the position he holds – except that these are over and above the official calls he receives and all of them are from common citizens.
Shahi has emerged as one of Bihar’s most sought after “agony uncles” following the decision of chief minister Nitish Kumar to usher in Lok Shahi (Rule of the People), by making public the mobile phone numbers of the chief secretary and a clutch of other top officials at his Janata Durbar (People’s Parliament) in Khagaria last Wednesday. Since then, Pillai's cell phone hasn't stopped ringing day or night.
“I have received more than 600 calls during these three days. Some people had serious issues to discuss but many of the calls were frivolous,” Pillai told HT, when called on what has now become, arguably, Bihar’s most widely known phone number.
He even received a call at 4.00 am on Friday. “The caller told me he was just checking whether or not I would answer the phone,” Pillai said with a wry smile. Wiser from the experience, he now keeps his phone on silent mode after midnight.
“Later, I discovered that I had missed calls logged at 2.00 am hours and 3.30 am as well. Even at this advanced stage of my career, this experience is proving to be quite an eye-opener,” he added.
But despite being at his wit’s end at the deluge of calls he has been receiving, Pillai was still magnanimous in applauding the spirit behind idea.
“It has helped me gain a whole new insight into a range of issues that concern ordinary people. How many of these problems we will be able to attend to is another matter,” he said.
Principal Secretary, HRD, Anjani Kumar Singh’s official mobile phone finally packed up under the onslaught of calls from the janata janardan. Finding it unreachable, HT placed a call on his personal phone – and found Singh's bemused wife at the other end.
“My husband has been receiving 2,500 calls everyday on his official mobile. Now, even I am finding it impossible to reach him,” complained Singh’s wife Purnima.
Now, it would seem, even the telephone instruments are protesting against the increased workload. For several hours on Saturday, Bihar State Electricity Board chairman Swapan Mukherjee’s mobile phone returned the message that the caller was busy.
And principal secretary, Health, Bhanu Pratap Sharma's official mobile phone informed this caller that “the dialled number does not exist”.