It was an unusual Sunday at the Retreat in Chharabra village, 10km from Shimla, where President Pranabh Mukherjee hosted a reception for political leaders, bureaucrats and other elite of the state after a gap of three years.
The President’s office had extended invitation to as many as 270 persons, including Himachal Pradesh governor Kalyan Singh, chief minister Virbhadra Singh, ministers, chief justice and other judges of the Himachal Pradesh high court, Lokayuyukta, legislators, heads of political parties and chairman of the Himachal Pradesh Public Service Commission.
Besides the governor and CM, irrigation and public health minister Vidya Stokes, power minister Sujan Singh, rural development minister Anil Sharma, industries minister Mukesh Agnihotri, forest minister Thakur Singh Bharmuari and social justice minister Dhani Ram Shandil were present on the occasion.
Director general of police Sanjay Kumar, director general home guards Sita Ram Mardi, army officials from the Army Training Command (ARTRAC), Padma Shri awardees and various journalists were also in attendance.
Even as intermittent rain disrupted the function, the courteous President ensured he walked down to the makeshift tent to greet his guests, leaving them overwhelmed by his grace.
BABUS FOUND MISSING AGAIN
Several Indian Administrative Services (IAS) officers from the rank of chief secretary to that of secretary were also invited to the event.
But majority of them gave the reception a miss citing they were either out of station or had personal engagements.
It’s not uncommon for bureaucrats to skip government functions, as just three days back when governor Kalyan Singh hosted a banquet for the President, they were few in number.
Even last year, many of them had skipped the ‘At Home’ hosted by the then governor, Urmila Singh. Later, chief secretary P Mitra had issued an advisory suggesting officials attend important government functions. However, additional chief secretary (principal secretary) to CM VC Pharkha, additional chief secretary (public works department) Narender Chauhan, Shimla divisional commissioner Onkar Sharma, principal secretary (general administration department) Mohan Chauhan and urban development Secretary Poornima Chauhan did mark their presence.