At an exponential run-rate of 200 calls per day on his mobile, Chief Secretary RJM Pillai has emerged as the most sought-after 'agony aunt' in Bihar.
In an inspired showcasing of his own 24x7 version of 'Lok Shahi' (Rule of the People), Chief Minister Nitish Kumar made public the mobile numbers of the Chief Secretary and a clutch of other top officials at his 'Janata Durbar' in Khagaria last Wednesday. Since then, Pillai's cell phone hasn't stopped ringing, be it day or night.
"I have received more than 600 calls on my mobile during these three days from all kinds of people wanting to discuss every kind of matter with me. Some involved serious issues but a matching number of calls have been frivolous in nature", the Bihar Chief Secretary told HT, when reached on the same, now famous, mobile number on Saturday.
For sheer absurdity, few calls come close to one he received around 0400 hours on Friday. "The person on the line at that early hour informed me that he had called just to check whether or not I would pick up the phone", Pillai confessed, managing a small laugh. Wiser from the experience, he has started putting his mobile on 'silent' mode post-midnight.
"But I am aghast to find next morning missed calls logged at 0200 hours and 0330 hours. Even at this advanced stage of my career, this experience is proving to be quite an eye-opener", the Chief Secretary confessed.
But for someone so obviously at his wit's end in the wake of the deluge, Pillai was sufficiently magnanimous to applaud 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 publicised mobile was so shaken by the onslaught of calls from 'janata janardan' that it gave up on Saturday. Finding it unreachable, this writer placed a call on his personal mobile. And found Singh's suitably bemused wife on the line.
"My husband is receiving 2,500 calls everyday on his official mobile. Even I am finding it impossible to reach him", complained Anjani's wife Purnima Shekhar Singh. For several hours on Saturday, Bihar State Electricity Board chairman Swapan Mukherjee's mobile continued to return the message that the caller was busy.
Principal Secretary (Health) Bhanu Pratap Sharma's publicised mobile (9431009131) informed this caller "the dialled number does not exist".