The State government’s initiative to improve public service delivery has turned out to be a blessing in disguise for officials. The much-acclaimed Sakala initiative has willy-nilly helped deputy tahsildars in the State get their long-awaited promotion in the Revenue Department.
Shalini Rajneesh, Mission Director, Sakala, discovered that there were flaws in the delivery of services in the department. There were delays in services such as change of land records, issuance of caste certificate and income certificate, pension schemes, etc. The department had the highest number of files pending (20,048). The reason for the delay was shortage of staff at all levels — from village accountants to tahsildars.
Unfazed, Ms. Rajneesh found a unique route to fill vacancies in the department. She held a meeting with the Principal Secretary and the Secretary of the Revenue Department and told them about the delays and that they need to fill vacancies through promotions.
Her efforts produced quick results. Many deputy tahsildars, who had several years of experience, were promoted as tahsildars while revenue inspectors were promoted as deputy tahsildars. Village accountants were promoted as revenue inspectors. This brought tremendous happiness to scores of staff.
After this, the deputy commissioners, who had the power conduct fresh recruitments, appointed village accountants. This meant that a number of people got jobs. No wonder all issues were resolved within no time, and disposal of files was done quickly. When asked to whom the credit should go, the answer proved to be a no-brainer — who else but Ms. Rajneesh.
Taste of Israeli security
Reporters are familiar with security restrictions. But last week, a press conference in Bangalore organised by the Israeli Embassy, took security to a level. Reporters, invited to an interaction with the outgoing Ambassador of Israel in India, Alon Ushpiz, were subjected to an unusually strict security check. Dressed in plain clothes, an Israeli security officer, who stood at the doorway of a conference room at a posh hotel, shot a volley of questions to journalists and photographers — about “weapons”.
“Are you carrying any weapons in your bag?” he asked, deadpan. “Do you have anything on you that could cause harm to others or yourself?” he persisted. “Do you have anything that resembles a weapon?” The PR personnel at this point looked apologetic and offered water to journalists. Women had some gender-specific questions to answer: “Do you have anything, you know, that women use as weapons?” the security officer asked, referring possibly to pepper spray.
One reporter asked the Ambassador if there was perhaps “a threat perception from Bangalore”. The press conference was to announce new visa services at the consulate in Bangalore. The Ambassador, however, apologised on behalf of the security.
Officials shunted out
Ahead of the elections to the posts of 18 director of Kolar-Chickballapur Milk Producers’ Cooperative Union Ltd. — scheduled for May 25 — five officials of the union have been shunted out of the head office to ensure free fair polling.
An allegedly partisan attitude and undue interference in the election process is said to be the reason for the transfer of the five officials. The Commissioner of the Co-operative Election Commission, on May 13, transferred the five officials — taluk deputy manager Chandramohan and route supervisors Prakash, Devendrappa, Venugopal and Chandrashekharraju.
The officials, who had worked in the taluk for an extended period, were accused of working for a particular candidate. Copies of CDs containing the purported conversations of these officials were submitted to the commission as proof to substantiate the allegations.
An unholy nexus between contractors and politicians seems to be the reason for people’s anger against the hike in the toll on a stretch of the Mangalore-Bangalore National Highway. Commuters have staged protests at the toll booth at Brahmarakootlu in Bantwal, a constituency represented by Minister for Forests B. Ramanath Rai. The toll for light commercial vehicles has been hiked from Rs. 25 to Rs. 30 (both ways) on the stretch between Bantwal and Mangalore. Though the Deputy Commissioner had suspended the toll hike in April citing the model code of conduct for the Lok Sabha elections, the revised rate came into effect on May 15.
Members of the Aam Aadmi Party first raised the issue and led a protest. The party claimed that the contractor had hiked the toll in violation of National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) rules. This was followed by a protest by an organisation comprising local Congress leaders. The Congress-led group, with the alleged support of party councillors of the Bantwal Town Municipal Council (TMC), vandalised two toll booths and attacked the staff. According to the police, the problem can be traced back to the alleged reluctance of the NHAI toll collection contractor, Gopalakrishna Melanta, to make the stretch toll-free for TMC members. Apparently, the move will hurt the contractor financially as he has to pay Rs. 2 lakh a day to the NHAI. The contractor claimed he has been following NHAI rules.
“I have been selected by a transparent process. I have also been funding both the Congress and the BJP,” he said.