Ministers’ desire for huge cavalcade during visits puts addl burden on exchequer

No mechanism for action on grievances being aired during camps

Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, Dec 6: Notwith-standing much emphasis on austerity measures keeping in view the poor financial condition of the State, Heads of the Departments and other officers are being regularly ‘compelled’ by several Ministers to become part of their cavalcade particularly during visit to their respective constituencies. This unwarranted practice is not only leading to unnecessary travel expenditure and subsequent burden on the State exchequer but also badly impacting the official work.
Official sources told EXCELSIOR that in all the orders pertaining to austerity measures issued by the previous dispensations in the State thrust was laid on avoiding unnecessary expenditure in any form so as to promote fiscal discipline.
Even in the latest circular issued by the Finance Department on October 25, 2017 it has been explicitly mentioned that travel expenditure of the officers should be regulated strictly so as to ensure that each department remains with the allocated budget for the same.
“However, several Ministers of the PDP-BJP Coalition Government are treating the instructions regarding austerity measures as trash particularly when it comes to regulating travel expenditure of the officers of the departments under their charge”, sources said, adding “instead of playing role in avoiding unnecessary travel expenditure of officers these Ministers are contributing a lot in putting additional burden on the State exchequer”.
They further said, “verbal instructions from the personal sections of several Ministers to the Heads of the Departments under their charge for becoming part of cavalcade of the Ministers during their visits to home constituencies or home districts is a routine affair”, adding “this is being done despite the fact that non-availability of these officers in their respective offices for days together impacts the official work badly”.
Stating that some Ministers have crossed all the limits of ‘compelling’ officers to become part of their caravan, sources said, “in the past around dozen Heads of the Departments or other officers of a particular Minister were forced to accompany him to participate in non-official function in his home constituency”, adding “in order to justify the accompanying of such a large number of officers these Ministers even convene one or two public grievances redressal camps during their visits”.
How the presence of major Heads of the Departments in the public grievances redressal camps can be justified when each and every department particularly those dealing with basic amenities have their officers in all the districts?, sources asked, adding “even in respect of those departments which don’t have district level officers the grievances of the people can be brought to the notice of Additional Deputy Commissioners, Additional District Development Commissioners, Sub-Divisional Magistrates (SDMs) or other concerned officers of the district administration for redressal at their end or through coordination with the other departments”.
“This is rather the most reliable method of resolving the grievances of the people as District Development Commissioner can conveniently call the district level officer of any department for passing necessary instruction on the grievances of the people”, sources said. However, accompanying of HoDs or other officers during review of the developmental works is unavoidable.
“We feel that accompanying Ministers is only a hassle and burden on the exchequer but it is not possible for us to ignore their directives”, said some of the Heads of the Departments when contacted by EXCELSIOR, adding “the purpose of normal visits can be achieved by deputing district level officers but the same is not encouraged by some of the Ministers”.
Moreover, no mechanism has so far been evolved to ensure timely action on the issues being brought to the notices of the Ministers during public grievances redressal camps, sources said, adding “in such camps the Ministers pass the directions to the officers in order to win the confidence of the people but thereafter no follow-up action is ensured either through the officers accompanying them or through the district level officers of the concerned departments which otherwise is imperative for achieving the objective behind holding such camps”.
“On the other side, there is a proper mechanism for ensuring follow-up action on the grievances being brought to the notice of the Chief Minister during her Public Outreach Programme”, sources said while disclosing that because of the seriousness of the Chief Minister the concerned departments are immediately acting on the problems and demands being brought to her notice.
Even Chief Minister’s Grievance Cell is conducting regular follow-up with the officers of the concerned departments for providing timely justice to the people. “The redressal of grievances being brought to the notice of Ministers during camps depends upon the seriousness of the Ministers concerned which otherwise is lacking”, sources regretted.
It may be recalled that in a written reply to a question in the Legislative Assembly early this year, the Government had admitted that majority of the grievances brought to the notice of the Ministers by the people largely remained un-redressed.
It was revealed that during first two years of the Coalition Government a total of 6261 public grievances were brought to the notice of the Ministers by the common masses either by paying visits to their offices/ residences or during the camps conducted by the Ministers in different parts of the State especially in their respective constituencies. But only 2298 (37%) were disposed of.