Chief Secretary: Proposal to shift offices to North Karnataka remains on paper

‘As many as 11 offices were to be shifted to Bombay Karnataka, Kalyana Karnataka districts by 2019-end’

Two years ago, the State government announced that senior officers of some departments would be shifted to North Karnataka cities to ensure effective decentralisation. But the plans have mostly remained on paper, the Chief Secretary noted in a recent order.

“As many as 11 offices were to be shifted to Bombay Karnataka and Kalyana Karnataka districts before the end of 2019. Noting that not much work had been done on this front, Chief Secretary T.M. Vijay Bhaskar extended the date till February 17. Initial orders are being prepared,” said a senior officer in the Department of Personnel and Administrative Reforms.

The Karnataka Urban Water Supply and Drainage Board was to be divided into North Karnataka and south Karnataka units. The North Karnataka unit was to be set up in Hubballi.

One of the Upalokayuktas was to be seated in Dharwad, the Krishna Bhagya Jal Nigam was to be shifted to Alamatti dam site in Bagalkot district and Karnataka Niravari Nigam office to Davangere, The Karnataka Textile Infrastructure Development Corporation was to function from Belagavi, the sugar director and sugarcane commissioner was to function out of Belagavi, and the heritage commissionerate was to start working from Hampi. One of the information commissioner was to sit in the revenue headquarters of Kalaburgi and Belagavi, and a human rights commissioner was to set up office in Dharwad. Apart from these, a North Karnataka development board was to be set up in Hubballi.

A promise to shift some offices to northern Karnataka was made by former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah in 2017. It was renewed by former Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy in 2018. B.S. Yediyurappa, who was Opposition leader joined a team of Lingayat seers who were protesting for shifting of offices to Suvarna Soudha, and said he would shift the office when the BJP came to power.

The State Cabinet cleared the proposals in September 2019, giving a three-month window for completion of the process. But that did not happen and the last date had to be extended to February 17. However, even after the fresh orders, very little work is being done on the ground, say officers.

As for Belagavi, efforts are on to shift only two of the three offices planned earlier, say officials. What is more, they are not being shifted to Suvarna Soudha.

The sugar director and sugarcane commissioner visited the S. Nijalingappa Sugar institute earlier this week and announced that the offices would be shifted here. Junior officers and support staff would be shifted before March 31 and the office should start working from April 1, said a senior officer in the regional commissionerate.

Work on shifting the Information Commissioner’s office is also in progress. A building has been selected and a team is working on finalising the furniture and interiors. It should be shifted in a month or so, said a officer. However, there is no word on shifting the Karnataka Textile Infrastructure Development Corporation office to the Suvarna Soudha till now.

Political observers say this is not the first time such ideas have been floated. “A similar assurance was given by the S.M. Krishna government too. Nine offices were to be shifted by 2002. But that never happened. In 2006, a sugar director was posted to Belagavi, who went back to Bengaluru in a year. The post of education commissioners for Dharwad and Kalaburgi was degraded after senior officers refused to be posted. It is difficult to convince them to relocate,” says a BJP member in the legislative council.

Officers argue that announcements of shifting offices to the districts are not backed by preparations. “This needs serious cadre planning and readjustment. It is impractical to expect officers of the cadre of additional chief secretary or principal secretary to move out of Bengaluru. If the government wants decentralised offices, it should ask officers above the grade of Deputy Commissioner to spend three to five years in the districts before they head to Bengaluru. Officers of higher grade would not like to go to the districts or divisions,” said a DPAR officer. DPAR has suggested some changes to be made to the detailed orders to be issued for shifting of offices to the divisions, he informed.

The idea of shifting some offices is only symbolic, says Ashok Chandaragi, convenor of Kannada organisations in Belagavi. He felt that effective decentralisation of funds and powers to officers at village, taluk, district and division-level officers would resolve the issue, rather than shifting some offices for temporary periods to Belagavi, Dharwad or Kalaburgi.

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Printable version | Apr 2, 2020 3:40:15 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/chief-secretary-proposal-to-shift-offices-to-north-karnataka-remains-on-paper/article30883083.ece

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