By Arun Pratap Singh
Dehradun, 30 Jul: District Magistrate, Udham Singh Nagar, Neeraj Khairwal, currently facing a breach of privilege allegation levelled by the BJP MLA from Kichha, Rajesh Shukla, received accolades for “good work” today from none other than Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat, who was touring the district accompanied by Cabinet Minister Madan Kaushik.
At a review meeting held in Rudrapur, Rawat praised Khairwal for the good work he was doing as DM of the district.
This review meeting was incidentally skipped by Rajesh Shukla, who continues to be angry over his “insult”. Shukla had publicly stated that he would not attend any meeting of the District Magistrate because of the insult. However, speaking to this correspondent, Shukla said he was not angry with the CM, but could not attend the meeting due to some personal reason.
Readers may recall that Khairwal had in an official meeting held on 17 July stated that Shukla’s memory had failed him. The meeting was chaired by Cabinet Minister Madan Kaushik and was attended by several MLAs from the district and senior officials. Yet, Kaushik had chosen to keep quiet instead of intervening even when Shukla, taken aback by this “insult”, suddenly left the meeting.
Just days after this incident, Shukla filed a breach of privilege against Khairwal with the Assembly Speaker Prem Aggarwal.
Kaushik, who had in the meeting chosen to remain a silent spectator to the arguments between Khairwal and Shukla, faced even worse embarrassment just days after this when a meeting called by him on the upcoming Kumbh Mela was skipped by several Secretaries in charge of various departments. The agenda of the meeting had been shared a week before the meeting with the bureaucrats concerned and yet they did not turn up. A visibly embarrassed Kaushik cancelled the meeting.
Even after such an incident, the government or the Chief Secretary, Utpal Kumar Singh, hardly appeared to be serious over such lapses. For the sake of formality, CM Trivendra Singh Rawat directed the CS to issue an order making it mandatory for the officials to attend the meetings or, else, inform the minister concerned in advance of their inability to attend for some reason. Consequently, an order was issued and the matter rested. Even Kaushik toned down his ‘anger’ and went on to claim that it was not a serious issue since the officers concerned might not have received intimation about the meeting in time.
Now returning to the issue of ‘breach of privilege’ by Khairwal, it would be prudent to remind that not only Congress MLAs but even the BJP MLAs have been complaining about the officers in the districts as well as in the state administration have not been following the protocol while dealing with them, even though CM Rawat had also asked the officials to follow the protocols in dealing with the public representatives. But the officers have not learned their lessons. Highly placed sources in the BJP claim that this is due to the fact that these officers have direct backing from the “top”. While it is true that officers posted as District Magistrates in a small state with just 13 districts like Uttarakhand are generally considered to be close to the CM, but political analysts feel that they should not start to feel privileged enough to forget protocol while dealing with elected public representatives. Khairwal’s case is not an isolated one and, speaking to this correspondent, several MLAs including those of the ruling party have admitted to being ignored by DMs or other senior level officers and have added that no action is generally taken by the government even after complaints are lodged. Not only this, even the ministers fail often to assert their authority by way of higher protocol with respect to the bureaucrats in Uttarakhand and, till this changes, the general impression that the governments are not able to rein in the bureaucracy in Uttarakhand is not going to change.
By Arun Pratap Singh